Origins and metamorphoses of the New Right: an interview with Pierre-Andre Taguieff
Vingtieme Siecle: Who was part of the New Right’s audience during the 1980s?
Pierre-Andre Taguieff: GRECE claimed to have 2500 full members in 1985-86. There were between 5000 and 8000 people in the movement (these figures come from Alain de Benoist and are collated with others, but they seem exaggerated). Since 1978-79 GRECE’s annual “national” colloquia have been based on particular themes. They drew from 700 to 1200 people (the proceedings were published afterwards). As for the different journals connected with GRECE, Elements has around 5000 subscribers (for a printing of 15,000), Nouvelle Ecole has about 2000 subscribers, Etudes et Recherches (the new edition, No. 1, Spring, 1983) between 500 and 600, and Panorama des Idles Actuelles (No. 1, March, 1985) between 800 and 1000 (along with Nouvelle Ecole, which went from a triquarterly to a yearly review, the latter two journals have never appeared regularly). As for Krisis, “a journal of ideas and debates” (No. 1, Summer 1988), edited by Benoist, clearly tries to distance itself from the New Right’s sphere of influence (it had 600 subscribers in 1992). Most of the texts published in it — often reprints or interviews — are written by decidedly leftist authors (Olivier Mongin, Jean-Michel Palmier, Alain Caille, Claude Julien, Dominique Wolton, Pierre Fougeyrollas, Bruno Etienne, Max Gallo, Jacques Julliard, etc.). Its declared intention is to transcend “old” splits by championing controversies that tend to make “new” ones beyond the opposition between Left and Right. It is certainly legitimate to ask about the functions of such a journal: does it play a “metapolitical” role in the context of GRECE’s strategy or does it allow Benoist, the public figure who is tired of being “ghettoized,” to regain cultural respectability? In the latter case, could one not claim that, by dint of mimicking the intellectual Left, its values are inadvertently adopted? This is the prevailing opinion within Catholic Le Pen circles about Benoist’s leftward “drift.” Before GRECE revamped its political and cultural credentials during the 1980s, Jean Madiran stigmatized the New Right as an enterprise with a Left ideology because of its anti-Christian atheism: “The radically and-Christian New Right is spiritually Left. One cannot rule out the possibility that it is a Left enterprise” But this is all too obviously a conspiracy theory.
Vingtieme Siecle: Today, can one consider Benoist a Left thinker?
Taguieff: Let us not be so hasty or naive. Benoist’s undeniable intellectual evolution, which a part of GRECE followed, did not reflect or result in an unambiguous political evolution. His credibility will only be beyond reproach when he publishes an argumentative text in which he both clearly breaks with the neo-nationalist or “revolutionary-conservative” milieu and clarifies the reasons for this break. For example, the obvious parallels between his Third World positions and those of some communist or Left groups are not in themselves certificates of pride. The wearing of the Islamic chador in schools can certainly be defended with diametrically opposed arguments, creating an ambiguous field in which racism and anti-racism turn into each other in this ideological oscillation or redistribution of opinions which is the “right to difference.” But it should be noted that, since 1990, Benoist’s published statements show that he rejects the National Front’s “theses.”
Vingtieme Siecle: These are?
Taguieff: In a 1990 interview published by Le Choc du Mois, Benoist explicitly distanced himself from the “French Right” and clearly stated his rejection of the National Front: “For nearly half a century the French Right was conspicuous by its absence from all the great debates . . . As for my position concerning the National Front, it is quite simple . . . I feel I am a stranger to this movement. I see in it no ideas which are my own and give meaning to my life. I think that the Right always ran the risk of falling into four major positions: liberalism, moral order, integralism and racism. I fear that the National Front, a basically national-populist party, is falling into all four by varying degrees.”
In a 1992 interview, Benoist was even more precise: “Personally, the ideas of the National Front dishearten me . . . Especially its ideas about immigration, because I cannot stand its scapegoat logic.” This is more than a break; it is a declaration of ideological war. But here especially, Benoist explains the reasons for his hostility toward the National Front and thus distinguishes himself with disdain and distaste from members of GRECE who went over to the Le Pen movement. Certain Machiavellian interpreters will suspect that this is the price he pays for acquiring a certain respectability. The impact of his statements remain to be judged.
Vingtieme Siecle: Did the National Front react to these statements?
Taguieff: The National Front’s reaction was not immediate, except for a short note. It was not until February 1993 that Roland Gaucher, editor of National-Hebdo, denounced the revival of Minute by an editorial team close to or from GRECE (J.-C. Valla etc.), and personally attacked Benoist, whom he suspected of harboring questionable sympathies for communists in France and Russia: “It was strange . . . to see him [Benoist] participate in a colloquium featuring intractable communists. The attitude of the French communists does not appear so strange if one knows that Benoist made contact . . . with Russian ‘conservatives’ . . . simply former Bolsheviks . . . and Russian nationalists like Pamiat, that anti-Semitic organization financed by the KGB under Brezhnev . . . . One of the objectives shared by both nationalists and communists is to recreate a great imperialist Russia. In this context, Benoist looks a little like a ‘guru’.” Gaucher clearly pointed out the break and the “treachery”: “There are many reasons to be disheartened today. However, some reactions, coming from people one knew in other circumstances, are surprising. Thus . . . Benoist, the New Right’s intellectual, said he was ‘disheartened’ by the National Front’s ideas in a statement made to a history review which could have come from a vulgar Jean-Pepere Bloch [sic]. And the same delicate mind does not hesitate to shake the dirty hands of Russian ‘conservatives’ [sic].”
Despite his bad faith and his intent to wound, the professional anti-communist Gaucher focused on a paradox which may reveal the permanent ambiguity in Benoist’s positions: why not claim to be “disheartened” by the ideas of the Russian nationalists who have no reason to envy the ideas French nationalists defend? This is probably a strategic ploy, as one can see in this analysis of the overcoming of old political splits in Russia: “There, as eve everywhere, new divisions came into being. On the political level, the major example of this is the rapprochement of the ‘whites’ and the ‘reds’: Russophile monarchists and ‘national Bolsheviks’ now belong to the same camp, which is simply a large group of patriots (those considered as ‘being one of us’ in Moscow) who want a future for Russia and refuse to be alienated from the West.”
Vingtieme Siecle: So has Benoist finally found in the Russian nationalists trustworthy allies in his struggle to revive a “revolutionary-conservative” movement and to define a “new kind of resistance” to the “Western order,” the “New World Order”?
Taguieff: In fact, Russian neo-nationalism points to a way of going behind “old political splits” quite close to the one advocated by the New Right “guru.” One need only cite Alexandr Prokhanov, who inspired the National Salvation Front, when he defined the Front’s anti-globalist ideology on October 24, 1992 at its founding conference in Moscow: “[The NSF embodies] the end of the old and unjust civil war between the reds and the whites. Russia’s future rests in the strong alliance between the partisans of social justice — the reds — and of national tradition –the whites. From now on both sides are united in the fight against globalization, cosmopolitanism, American capitalism, as well as the social, national and geopolitical treason of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, who serve the interests of the New World Order to the detriment of the Russian people. The common goal, beyond Left and Right, is the Third Empire.”
The positions and ideas are strikingly similar, and this alone might explain the interest most of the leaders of the West European radical Right groups have in “the new Russian resistance”: anti-Westernism (and thus anti-democratism) and anti-globalism (so anti-capitalism and anti-liberalism). On the initiative of the newspaper Dyenn (Day), Benoist and Robert Steuckers (head of the New Right in Belgium, editor of the journals Vouloir and Orientations) went to Moscow in March 1992 to participate in various public meetings run by Alexandr Dugin (the Russian translator of Rene Guenon and Julius Evola, who launched a kind of “New Right” network in Moscow). In the journals he has edited since 1990, the former neo-fascist leader Michel Schneider has said this about the trip: “This meeting proves that the cards have been reshuffled and that the divisions between Left and Right, which have dominated the world since 1945, are no longer important. Both in the West and the East, those rejected by the system as marginals will sooner or later find themselves at center-stage.” Dugin, who heads AION publications and the ARCTOGAIA association, defends a traditionalism derived from Konstantin Leontier and Rene Guenon, which sees “globalization” as the absolute enemy. Dugin advocates the creation of an alliance between orthodox and Islamic traditionalisms against “anti-traditional subyersion” — an alliance he justifies as follows: “The new phase of the ‘Beast’s’ world strategy consists in the subordination of the Russian people to global power, on the one hand, and in an attack against the most solid bastion of tradition now represented by Islam, on the other.” On March 2, 1993, a permanent anti-globalist committee was set up in Moscow.
Vingtieme Siecle: Do not these contradictory. ideological interventions refute the “thesis” of GRECE’s leftist “drift”?
Taguieff: Calling “globalization” or “cosmopolitanism” the common enemy is enough to establish similarities and creates new alliances which clearly show that GRECE’s turn toward the Left does not prevent it from seeking some rapprochements with radical neo-nationalist currents (“revolutionary nationalists,” or neo-fascists) or with anti-Western traditionalist movements. This is the kind of apparent paradox one should reflect on, which is found in all “revolutionary-conservative” positions. What is new is perhaps the twofold fascination exerted by the post-communist East and the anti-Western Third World. From this point on, the light for the “liberators” of Europe comes from the South and the East. In post-communist Russia, the “revolutionary-conservative” double rejection can be carried out politically by uniting “extremes.” In 1989, Benoist could still claim that “anti-communism should not result in leading Europeans to an alliance with the US.” Now that the communist threat has vanished, only the US can embody the figure of the absolute enemy. The political landscape is simplified, but it also becomes more obscure because it is now impossible to distinguish ideological boundaries and the range of positions. Not all anti-Americanisms are the same! New ambiguities arise . . . around anti-cosmopolitanism. GRECE’s anti-cosmopolitanism is not the same as the National Front’s.
Vingtieme Siecle: Behind all the polemics, what values does the New Right defend in its publications?
Taguieff: Correction: what values does GRECE defend? First of all, its novelty lies in its break with Catholic tradition — the matrix of the conservative Right in France — and its virulent denunciation of the “Judeo-Christian” heritage. In fact, “Judeo-Christianity” tends to be reduced to Christianity, and the latter is rejected because it is the main source of universalist ideals and egalitarian values in the West. For example, “human rights” are denounced as the offspring of the modern period. The second theme — central in the 1970s — is anti-egalitarianism, the insistent denunciation of an “egalitarian utopia.” One inspiration for this is the philosopher Louis Rougier, epistemologist, historian of ideas and interpreter of the New Testament. The third theme is none other than the foundational and normative reference to our “Indo-European heritage” redefined and based, with some distortions, on Dumezil’s work. Along with this Indo-European reference and in addition to a hierarchical model of social organization (priests/sovereigns, warriors, producers), polytheism or paganism are praised and reformulated as the “real” European religion. A fourth theme, radicalized and privileged in the 1980s but already present in the 1970s, is the critique of economism, of the commodity vision of the world or liberal individualism. This critique becomes so radical that it results in turning “bourgeois (or Western) liberalism” into the “major enemy.” There is a permanent “anti-bourgeois” attitude in the “revolutionary-conservative” camp. But, as Benoist explains, “European social democracy.,” is “one of the most dangerous successors of liberalism.” Around the mid-1980s, this intransigent anti-liberalism is redefined as a result of a generalized anti-utilitarianism. This explains the debates and intellectual encounters with the creators of MAUSS (Mouvement anti-utilitariste dans les sciences sociales, headed by Alain Caille, Ahmet Insel and Serge Latouche). A fifth theme appears between 1975 and 1980; it is a radical cultural pluralism based on the right of “peoples” to remain what they are, to preserve their respective identities at all costs in the name of the “right to difference.” Inasmuch as cultural difference becomes something absolute, and the reference to a common humanity is eliminated, we can recognize in this differentialism the new ideological form of racism which we have defined as a cultural and differentialist racism. But in his recent work, Benoist reacts to criticism and seems to put forward the kind of classical cultural relativism found in Claude Levi-Strauss. This is the source of GRECE’s peculiar Third World stance, which appears to be a rhetorical way of being radically anti-American.
Vingtieme Siecle: Are there racist and eugenic tendencies in the New Right’s theses?
Taguieff: These are part of the ideology GRECE inherited from Europe Action — a synthesis of Aryan racism and eugenics then called “biological realism.” The young Benoist wrote the following: “Biological realism is the best weapon against idealistic chimeras.” Or, in 1970: “What allows a population to greatly improve itself qualitatively is the fact that men of value, elites, procreate and transmit their own exceptional traits and gifts according to the laws of heredity.” The rhetoric of “biological realism” can be found in GRECE’s first texts and especially in the first issues of Nouvelle Ecole. There is a fine example of this in the introductory text to a dossier on eugenics: “May 1968: the younger generation revolts, but ‘Katangais’ and drug addicts also appear . . . This can be explained by the fact that, in times of turmoil, societies are like a bottle shaken up: the impurities suddenly come to the surface . . . But one should allow history to decant the event. And the biological refuse will fall to the bottom. Contemporary social hierarchy does not conform to biological hierarchy . . . The troubled elements are most dense at the extremes: biological froth on the surface, biological dregs on the bottom. Biological froth creates the cultural soup of legal and para-legal parasites . . . Biological dregs are the cultural soup of the most primitive elements.”
A truly European nationalist revolution must be a biological one: “Real politics is biopolitics.” This biological program is based on differential and genetic (hereditary) determinism in attitudes and behaviors. In eugenics, it is supposed to permit both the elimination of “bad” bloodlines (biological “dregs”) and the creation of an elite guaranteed by its “good” heredity. The Dictionnaire du Militant claimed that “Alexis Carrel’s ideas are one of the major sources for nationalism,” and quoted the master: “To perpetuate an elite, eugenics is indispensable.” Beginning with its first issue (September-October, 1973), Elements pour la Civilisation Europeenne has celebrated Carrel and it feted his centenary. In September 1973, Benoist devoted an article to him. But Carrel would not have been able to recognize himself among such “successors.”
Vingtieme Siecle: In your work you insist that GRECE increasingly rejected biological references. Could you clarify this?
Taguieff: It should be noted that GRECE attached great importance to “biological realism” up to the mid-1970s. So numbers 8-9 of Elements announces as “soon to be published” a book by Yves Christen and Robert de Herte (one of Benoist’s pseudonyms), Introduction au Realisme Biologique (collection Etudes), where “Doctor Christen explains the most recent scientific discoveries of man’s place in biological evolution. He studies racial differences and explains why eugenics is more necessary than ever today. In the appendix thirty precursors, researchers and popularizers are named: Robert de Herte provides their biographies.” In 1977, four “researchers” (probably including Christen and Benoist) published Race et Intelligence in Copernic Press (Vol. 1 of the collection “Factuelles,” edited by Benoist) under the collective pseudonym of “Jean-Pierre Hebert.” But biological determinism is already affected by differentialism: “The authors . . . plead for the fight to difference and the flourishing of the particular genius of peoples.” The rejection of biological racism becomes increasingly dear, especially in Benoist’s work? This can be interpreted in two ways: either Benoist evolved on his own intellectually and went from bio-inegalitarian racism to ethnic pluralism or, as an excellent cultural strategist, he was content to reform racist thinking in an acceptable way by a virtuoso reversal of the contemporary cult of difference to the point where he perverted the “right to difference” anti-racists advocate. He would then have created a racism with an anti-racist component. Judging solely by what he has published, it is impossible to decide. And Benoist knows how to play on ambiguities, confusing his commentators.
Vingtieme Siecle: Has the New Right taken a position on the Historical Revisionism of Robert Faurisson and his disciples?
Taguieff: Although GRECE’s journals have never published work by revisionists, there appears to be an internal and continuing debate on the question of the Nazi genocide of Jews and the murderous gas chambers. In 1990 Georges Charbonneau wrote “The New Right has never been negationist and wants to be so less than ever. In the current polemic concerning the existence of the gas chambers, it should be stated clearly that GRECE will not support those who deny the heinous character of the industrialization of death for European Jews and other ethnic or political minorities during WWII.” This is the quasi-public position GRECE adopted at the end of the 1980s. But this position, dictated perhaps by tactical concerns, was publicly challenged by one of GRECE’s founders, J.-C. valla (born in 1944, editor of the Lettre de Magazine Hebdo and of the revived Minute) in a letter he addressed to the negationist journal edited by Henri Roques: “I do not know if Mr. Charbonneau, who is no longer a member of GRECE, has the right to speak for this association. But GRECE should not claim to speak for all those who consider themselves part of what is called the ‘New Right’, the boundaries of which are fortunately wider than those of GRECE. Having been general secretary of GRECE, editor-in-chief of Elements and editor of Copernie Press, I refuse to give anyone the right to speak for the New Right. Although this is only my opinion, I personally believe that the revisionists are right.”
From 1980, Valla has defended Faurisson by rhetorically associating him with Victor Kravchenko, who witnessed Stalinist crimes and was the object of a witch-hunt in 1949. There is a third, apparently “neutral” (neither one nor the other), position among those who follow GRECE, which consists in placing “exterminationists” and “negationists” back to back. This “neutral” position has a clear goal: negationists should not be supported so as to avoid fanning the flame of controversies that prevent one from leaving the “postwar” period. Charbonneau explains this clearly: “We have to put Auschwitz and the postwar logic behind us. The debate concerning the existence of the gas chambers wearily revives the legitimacy born of Auschwitz at a time when Europe is no longer divided. Auschwitz has to be left behind in the only way possible. It has to be recognized fully in order to allow it to rest. To let it rest in peace in the cemetery of genocides . . . . No genocides chosen and others neglected.” So, forgetting Auschwitz dispenses with denying it: this is the argument intended to counter an anti-racism based on the duty to remember and the painful memory of Auschwitz.
Vingtieme Siecle: Does the fact that former GRECE leaders belong to the National Front point to a doctrinal community?
Taguieff: The fact that some of GRECE’s members have belonged to the National Front since 1984-5 has been interpreted as proof of ideological similarities. Jacques Marlaud, president of GRECE, responded as follows: “Currently the differences between the far Right and the ‘New Right’ seem insurmountable. First, the National Front is impregnated with a Catholic messianism incompatible with our paganism. Second, the National Front’s identitarian doctrine can be summed up as a narrow ‘Frenchified’ nationalism whereas we are Europeans . . . before being French. Third, the National Front is opposed to mosques, chadors. . . . We stand for the imprescriptible right of peoples to remain as they are; on our soil or elsewhere. Fourth, the security-conscious and superficial identitarian attitudes of the Front’s members hide the fact that they lack a social agenda which would break with the consumer society we have denounced as a ‘system for killing people.’ Fifth, the prevailing military atmosphere in this party is irreconcilable with our libertarian and aristocratic conception . . . of excellence.” Clearly the major differences are: the Christian connection, the alternative between populism and elitism, the evaluation of liberal capitalism, the concept of Europe (or the relation to French nationalism). On these four points, GRECE and the Club de l’Horloge also diverge.
Vingtieme Siecle: How does the ideological evolution of the Club dc l’Horloge compare to GRECE?
Taguieff: Beginning in 1977, the Club de l’Horloge’s first book seemed to provide it a well-defined program: to reconcile economic liberalism and nationalism. If the Club de l’Hodoge’s first scholarly reference was to Dumezil (his model of tri-functionality), the discovery of Hayek’s neo-conservative liberalism led it to read and identify with Edmund Burke. The Club de l’Horloge’s national-liberalism was explicitly anti-Jacobin and more generally anti-constructivist. Consequently, the Club’s main enemy is the Left since, by definition, the Left has a project for social transformation derived from “constructivist utopias” and leads to the welfare state or various forms of totalitarianism (communism, fascism). When GRECE began to advocate a radical anti-liberalism (between 1977 and 1981), the Club de l’Horloge sought to develop a neo-liberal doctrine combining the concern for “roots” with respect for “national identity.” Furthermore, while GRECE dissociated itself from politics during and after the 1980s, the Club de l’Horloge provided the doctrine for all Right oppositional parties before giving the National Front the major principles for an effective argument in 1985, with a book by Jean-Yves Le Gallou. Gallou and Blot joined the National Front, in 1985 and 1988 respectively, along with other deserters from the Club de l’Horlage and CAR (Comites d’Action Rerpublicaine, started in January 1982). These deserters include Jean-Claude Bardet and Bruno Megret, respectively editor-in-chief and director of the National Front’s “theoretical” journal, Identite (“Journal of National Studies”), which was founded in 1988 and comprises most of the members of the “Conseil scientifique” of the national-populist party. They created a more or less anti-American, national-liberal pole at the heart of the National Front. It was rivalled by other poles: the populist one, with its “revolutionary-nationalist” tradition (inherited from Jean-Pierre Stirbois), and the Catholic traditionalist pole, both of which profess Masonic anti-Judaism.
Vingtieme Siecle: What are the major elements in this national-liberal doctrine?
Taguieff: One has to start from the double reality that national-liberal discourse is adapted to the ideological evolution of its adversary and that the Club de l’Horloge’s anti-Left argument is explicitly anti-socialist, especially since 1981. Here one also sees the move from anti-egalitarianism toward anti-cosmopolitanism — a move justified, according to Henry de Lesquen (the Club’s president), by the transformation of socialist discourse: “The Club’s goal is to develop a body of doctrine for the Right. . . . First we made a radical critique of egalitarianism and of the statism which follows from it. . . . (Today) one can speak of a neo-socialism. This is cosmopolitanism . . . its doctrinal core. Neo-socialism wants to dissolve the nation in the human species.” Around 1985-6, there is a positive reference in the Club’s doctrinal texts to collective identity: be it the cultural identity of the West, Europe, or national identity. “In the West,” identity “is coupled with liberty.,” and the latter implies a certain definition: “To be free is to affirm the identity of an individual or group.” The Club’s neo-conservatism is both “liberal” (against the welfare state) and identitarian, i.e., “rooted” (in community belonging and traditional values). From this the Club derives its new definition of the anti-totalitarian position: “An uprooted individual is at the mercy of totalitarian events.” To defend nationalism is to ward against totalitarianism. However, Club members who belong to the National Front often appear virulently anti-liberal.
Vingtieme Siecle: Are GRECE and the Club de l’Horloge opposed on this question of “national-liberalism”?
Taguieff. Yes. To the extent that nationalism implies liberalism only for the Club de l’Horloge. The opposition between GRECE and the Club de l’Horloge is both obvious and insurmountable on this point. For example, it is dear that Benoist’s rejection of nationalism is implied both by his cultural Europeanism and by his “regional” pluralism. To have as a goal the creation of an imperial Europe composed of an internal plurality (a “regional Europe,” or an “ethnic” Europe) logically leads to anti-nationalism. But it also leads to the denunciation of liberalism as an economic and ideological machine which results in uprooting and uniformity. From this follows a recurring theme: “Le Liberalisme Contre les peuples” — a retort to the Club de l’Horloge’s slogan: “Le Liberalisme au Service des Peuples.” Based on this Manichean vision, GRECE’s denunciation of liberalism is unconditional: “Liberalism destroys collective identities, rooted cultures, and generates uniformity, everywhere. Does it claim to be the principle of liberation and emancipation of the subject? People have never been as alienated as in their relation to commodities . . . To fight liberalism here and now is to grasp evil by its roots.” Defined as the “major enemy” by Benoist, liberalism, becomes the sole enemy, suitably demonized as in Third World literature from which the most violent denunciations of the “imperialist” West and the “Americanization of France and Europe” are borrowed. GRECE’s anti-West stance is first and foremost a radical anti-Americanism: “Now that the US has become the only world superpower, it is high time to say that it represents the height of dehumanization, vulgarity and stupidity, the negation of any inner freedom, the lowering of man to the level of an object.” This is in sharp contrast with the work of the Club de l’Horloge, which tries to “exculpate” the West by denouncing the “ideovirus” which re-suits in a bad conscience (“misdeeds of colonialism,” “racism,” capitalist exploitation,” etc.). One should add that the Club de l’Horloge defends Catholicism as the traditional religious form of France, “the Church’s elder daughter.” Christianity, well tempered by the Church — a structure of order — is part of France’s identity: this is the “traditionalist” argument that the Club opposes to the “constructivism” of GRECE, whose attempts to revive an originally indo-European paganism are denounced as unrealistic, even utopian. The Catholic religion is part of the “heritage from the past,” and this allows the Club to reject both Islam and socialism as incompatible with Franco-Christian identity. In this sense, the Club de l’Horloge retraces the path of Action Francaise: whether one is Christian or agnostic, Catholicism must be defended because France is a Catholic country.
In 1990 Benoist published a long article on Hayekian liberalism. This article resembles ones written by someone on the Left. De Lesquen responded that his club tried to “define a national liberalism distinct from utopian liberalism.” “Rhetorical hybrid,” was Benoist’s response. The differences between them could not be more clearly marked.
Vingtieme Siecle: Can one consider GRECE and the Club de l’Horloge as two spheres of influence within the intellectual New Right?
Taguieff: That would amount to taking journalistic labels literally. The Club de l’Horloge is clearly a right-wing political club working for the Right. As for GRECE, its position on the Left/Right axis has become indeterminate. And the work of its major intellectual does not provide the necessary clarification. In his “responses” to “questions” asked by Alain Caille, director of the Revue du MAUSS, Benoist reiterates that he cannot be defined in terms of the Left/ Right split and rejects both. This allows him to “justify” his voyages in ideological and political space and, finally, to transform his ambiguities into marks of ineffable particularity. He is beyond “Left or Right,” “liberalism or socialism,” etc.: “On the current political landscape, I see that the Right’s old devils (moral order, liberalism, nationalism, racism) are added to the old problems with the Left (economism, moralism, globalism, abstraction). In particular, I see the same theoretical poverty; more or less everywhere, the same conformity with respect to trends, the same reverence towards money. . . I note that the Right generally accuses me of having Left ideas and on the Left I am accused of having Right ideas. This is not really said to upset me.” Neither Left nor Right: Benoist’s definition of himself has become routine and opaque. Is it a rejection of so-called “political” politics, of spectacular politics? Or is it the ideological safety belt for a radical Right waiting for its chance? If one looked for a clear answer about Benoist’s philosophical references and the ideological and political preferences in his work, one would more than likely be disappointed, even baffled. After challenging the “Left/ Right dichotomy” in the Revue du MAUSS, Benoist responded in this aesthete and deliberately provocative way to his interviewer (Caille): “If I have to have one, my filiations would be: Rousseau, the commune, French socialism (especially Sorel and Pierre Leroux), the non-conformists of the 1930s, the German Conservative Revolution, Italian revolutionary syndicalism and situationism. Draw whatever conclusions you want.” Anything can follow from this.
Vingtieme Siecle: Can one still speak of the New Right today?
Taguieff: today “New Right” is an empty label, a name without a clear reference. It is therefore deceptive. But the name has characterological value in that it designates the move to recreate ideologically the “European nationalism” which GRECE started and has kept going since its inception at the end of the 1960s. Until 1980, GRECE spread the fundamentals of its doctrine among various right-wing groups in France. Between 1981 and 1989-90, it lost its “metapolitical” role; and the Right did not owe its triumphant return to power to GRECE’s diffuse influence. But, along with its “spiritual guide” Benoist, GRECE simultaneously found an unexpected and unforeseen place on the French intellectual scene in 1983-4. The changes in GRECE’s positions between 1968 and 1993 are striking: from the defence of”Western civilization” to the denunciation of “Westernism,” from the praise of inequality to the cult of difference and the imperative to “defend the basic values of our civilization” to the “new alliance” between Europe and the Third World.
Radical anti-Americanism is the political result of cultural differentialism. In 1991, Jean-Edern Hallier denounced America as “the public enemy of the world.” At the end of a long article published in the same journal, Benoist took a similarly anti-imperialist position and claimed: “The future is staked on the preservation of diversity in the world. In other words: the cause of peoples, of all peoples against the American homo economics.” In the Manichean vision of the “pro-Third World right-wing,” America embodies the image of the “Great Satan.” It is as difficult to avoid demonizing as it is to remain on the Right when one thinks on both the Left and the Right and accepts the ambiguity (Krisis claims to be both “Left and Right”). Closer to L’Idiot international or to Le Monde Diplomatique than to Figaro-Magazine or Valeurs Actuelles because of his anti-Americanism and anti-liberalism, Benoist might appear to be one of the last French leftists if his past and his ambiguities did not rule out such a naive reading! This is why he upsets people who like clear distinctions. The trajectory of this strange turncoat should be studied without blinders. And with an eve to comparison: of the two young nationalist militants in the 1960s, “Francois d’Orcival” and “Fabrice Laroche,” one became a defender of a “liberal” West under American tutelage, while the other ended up in the camp of the enemies of the “messianism of the ‘Bible and business’.” This is a politically heterogeneous camp, inhabited by all those who defend identities and forms of “rootedness” on many mutually exclusive levels (national, ethnic, regional, etc.). At the end of a conference on November 24, 1985, Benoist defined his movement’s highest value as follows: “Some call for SOS Racism. We answer: SOS Roots.” Roots, identities: these are the new absolutes.
* Originally published as part of a longer interview in Vingtieme Siecle, No. 40 (October-December 1993), pp. 10-21. Translated by Deborah Cook.
[Telos, Winter93/Spring94, Issue 98-99]