The New Right in Europe
The European New Right (ENR) presents itself as a contradictory phenomenon. While many of its arguments sound radical and original, they owe a great deal to traditional European thought — especially Catholic organicism. Although the ENR has rejected the far Right, some questionable links remain. Despite this, it may become the ideology of choice for those intellectuals still opposed to capitalism — a possible place for that intellectually-honest part of the Left attempting to come to terms both with the collapse of “really existing socialism” and a triumphant Western consumerist society predicated on managerial-therapeutic capitalism.
The ENR cannot be understood independently of its history. As Marco Tarchi, a leader of the Italian New Right put it: “What we must do today is to illuminate the fundamental novelty of the New Right, to put the emphasis on the term ‘new’ and no longer on the term ‘Right.’ Otherwise we will still be clinging to the heritage of the decrepit and worm-eaten currents of thought of the 1950s and 1960s which, in the face of all opposition, are still churning out the same old slogans with their whole perception of reality built around bygone political divisions. The desire to restore chauvinistic nationalisms is part of this archaic way of thinking. . . . It is up to us, to our generation, definitively to surpass these outworn ideas.”
The ENR has made a major effort to break with its far Right roots. In this sense, it is misleading to call a tendency strongly opposed both to Anglo-American conservatism (with its emphasis on bourgeois individualism, capitalism, and property rights) and traditional Continental conservatism (with its emphasis on monarchy and Church) “right-wing.” The conventional notion of “right-wing” in the Anglo-American context is so different from what the ENR represents that it is almost useless when it comes to describing the latter phenomenon.
The ENR came into being in the 1960s to provide a satisfactory analysis of what ails the West and the world, and to identity possible brakes for the ineluctable logic of “progress.” It saw as the primary feature of late modernity the tendency to shatter religious, cultural, and national traditions stretching back hundreds or even thousands of years, and to replace them with banal victimologies. It is explicitly opposed to American hegemony and, in Britain, it identities with the Celtic fringe. The ENR claims that England had diverged from the continent in its Calvinism, capitalism and Whiggery, and that America then diverged still further. European intellectual lite — Left, Right, and Center, particularly in France — revolves around a knee-jerk anti-Americanism. The ENR is no exception, and has developed a Left-sounding critique of American intervention in Vietnam and around the globe, American cultural imperialism in France, the problems of poverty and homelessness in America, the Calvinistic messianism and puritanism of the US, and so forth.
The ENR has not yet worked out a precise genealogy of what it views as the Anglo-American deviation, though the outcome of the English Civil War and the later struggles which led to the exclusion of the Stuarts from the English and Scottish thrones have played a large part in determining the Anglo-American trajectory. Along with anti-Americanism, anti-capitalism is also central to the ENR. Here “capitalism” is seen as the encroaching system of US-based media/corporate oligarchy: gross materialism and the homo ceconomicus, or the homunculus of Nietzsche’s Last Man. It also implies the whole burgeoning world of technology and its attempt to manipulate human and physical nature. Through anti-capitalism, the ENR links with the Left and various ecological movements. According to Perspectives, a leading ENR organ: “The collapse of communism is not only a political victory for the American New World Order but a moral triumph for the American Way of Life. We can all now look forward to a future of unbridled consumption, in which we will all be equal and free to buy the same things. However, there are those in Europe who still value the roofed diversity of its peoples, and all the qualities which make us more than mere units of consumption. These people actually oppose the liberal-capitalist system. They want an organically rooted society instead of more Disneylands, and they flout accepted political convention by talking about transcending the old notions of Left and Right in a new synthesis of radical thought. They are active in fields of culture and metapolitics, waging a war of ideas. They seek a European renaissance. This attachment to identity is an inconvenience to the multinationals, an insult to Ronald McDonald and a direct attack on Coca-Colonization.”
This anti-capitalism is connected with the ENR’s opposition to Calvinism — something it shares with nearly all varieties of Catholic-derived Continental right-wing thought — but also with its opposition to Judeo-Christianity. This radical, anti-traditional aspect of the ENR is also shared by the anti-clerical Lett and Nazism. The ENR engages in biting anti-clerical polemics of an almost Voltairean style. It sees the roots of totalitarianism and persecution in European history as a result of Judeo-Christian values, notably the Old Testament, with its tales of ferocity and retribution. “The body count amassed by the servants of the God of love . . . is now incalculable . . . Had Nicolae Ceaucescu lived a few hundred years ago he would have made a not untypical prince of the Church-on frequent precedent, a saint. . . . The concept of totalitarianism, the evil seed of the Inquisition, Auschwitz and the Gulag, was brought to Europe and forced on it by the followers of Jesus Christ. . . . “
A group calling itself the “Organisation de Defense Juive” violently protested against GRECE on December 9, 1979, claiming that opposition to “Judeo-Christian totalitarianism” was disguised anti-Semitism. (They seemed to forget that the criticism of Christianity as the seed of Auschwitz is common among Jewish and Left historians). GRECE’s response to these accusations was unequivocal: “Jewish monotheism became truly totalitarian only when it ceased to be Jewish and claimed to submit people who held different religious views to the law of a single God. . . . The children of Athens and of Jerusalem, the pagan and Jewish victims of religious intolerance, suffered as a result of Christian persecutions.” However, this condemnation of Christianity and exculpation of Judaism is disingenuous. The ENR stresses the Near Eastern, alien origins of Christianity, implying that the Jews are also aliens in Europe. The tact that such views were prominent in Nazism contributes to the ENR’s ostracism from mainstream politics.
Although there is a long tradition of criticism of Judeo-Christianity from Voltaire to Nietzsche, the ENR creates problems for traditional conservatives. It is ironic to find laudatory articles on Joseph de Maistre and Nietzsche within a few pages of each other in Elements. For a school ostensibly critical of modernity and its “disenchantment of the world,” these vitriolic attacks against traditional religion may be counterproductive. Clearly not all Christians are like Ceaucescu. It the problem of late modernity is the disappearance of all rooted, truly meaningful, and relatively stable belief-systems, then even from the ENR standpoint any traditional religion, even Christianity, must be better than no religion at all.
The ENR also takes its anti-Christianism further by recycling the most traditional European religion: paganism. This is quite a trick. It may even be dishonest: a ducking of the issue of the ENR’s atheism (a more difficult position to hold for alleged “restorers of the sacred”). What can this mean, thousands of years alter paganism has disappeared? This embrace of paganism may be an attempt to re-evaluate the relation between humanity and nature along Heideggerian lines, while vindicating particularity and locality.
For the ENR the Golden Age is the primordial Indo-European past. This is lifted straight out of German Romanticism and 19th century anthropology. The immediate suspicion is that “Indo-European” is simply a polite substitution for “Aryan.” Allegedly, in this pagan, tribal Indo-European paradise, there were no fratricidal wars between different branches of European peoples, and every member of the tribe lived a meaningful lite in relative economic prosperity. The spatial and temporal boundaries of this world are not precisely drawn — it could in-dude ancient India, Greece, Germanic tribal lite at the time of Tacitus, Slavic tribal lite around the 9th century A.D., and so forth. The ethnographical work of Georges Dumezil, which identified the so-called “frifunctionality” of the Indo-European priest, warrior, and farmer, is often cited. This romanticized past is important because many of the ENR referents, such as paganism, naturalism, particularism, a sort of feminism, and ecology, are predicated on it.
This paganism fits well with Alain de Benoist’s “spherical” concept of time, according to which “(everything is in the instant) . . . the past and future consitute dimensions present in every actual moment. . . . The present actualizes all past moments and prefigures all future ones. To accept the present by joyously assuming the instant is to be able to enjoy all instants at the same time. Past, present, and future are three perspectives, equally actual now, that are given to every moment of historical becoming . . . [this] delivers to him the possibility of connecting with tradition, indeed in a cultural and ethnic sense. Tradition is not the past but is ‘beyond time’; it is ‘permanent’ and ‘within us,’ and it becomes ‘our tradition’ by being reactualized.”
Despite such an elaborate metaphysics, this could be interpreted simply as a call for a return to one’s ethnic and cultural roots — a staple of traditional conservative thought. At any rate, there may be a contradiction in the ENR’s embrace of paganism. Is paganism meant to be a “manly,” “heroic” warrior-creed opposing the weakness of Christianity (allegedly a masochistic “slave-morality”), or a kind of sentimental nature-worship opposed to a savagely inquisitorial Christianity, with its crusades and witch-burnings?
The ENR’s “paganism” entails a naturalism towards mores and sexuality. Unlike still traditionalists, ENR members have a relatively liberated attitude towards sexuality. Thus Benoist had no qualms about giving an interview to Gaie France, which features homoerotic images as well as cultural commentary. ENR members have no desire to impose what they consider the patently unnatural moralism of Judeo-Christianity on sexual relations. However, while relatively more tolerant in principle, they still value strong family life, fecundity, and marriage or relations within one’s own ethnic group. (Their objection to intraethnic liaisons would be that the mixture of ethnic groups diminishes a sense of identity. In a world where every marriage was mixed, cultural identity would disappear). They also criticize Anglo-American moralism and its apparent hypocrisy: ” . . . a video depicting a man and woman having sexual intercourse . . . is liable to confiscation by the [British] state. One graphically depicting teenage girls being disembowelled by razor blades affixed to the lingers of a repulsive ghoul, by contrast, tops the rental figures quite lawfully across the land, goes into tour editions, each more disgusting and genuinely obscene than the last, and is not indeed the most unpleasant revelling in blood and gore to sit lawfully on the video shops’ shelves.” In this, they are closer to a worldly Europe than to a puritanical America obsessed with violence. According to the ENR: “Our ancestral Indo-European culture . . . seems to have enjoyed a healthy natural attitude to processes and parts of the body concerned with the bringing forth of new life, the celebration of pair-bonding love, and the perpetuation of the race.”
In its desire to create a balanced psychology of sexual relations, the ENR seeks to overcome the liabilities of conventional conservative thought: the perception of conservatives as joyless prudes, and the seemingly ridiculous psychology implied in conventional Christianity. It seeks to address “flesh-and-blood men and women,” not saints. Since some of the Left’s greatest gains in the last few decades have been made as a result of their championing sexual freedom and liberation, the ENR seeks to offer its own counter-ethic of sexual joy. The hope is presumably to nourish persons of the type who can, in Nietzsche’s phrase, “make love alter reading Hegel.” This is also related to the desire for the reconciliation of the intellectual and warrior in one person: the reconciliation of vita contemplative and vita activa.
This naturalism leads the ENR to re-evaluate “the feminine” and reject what it sees as Christianity’s denigration of women. The ENR has begun developing a counter-ethic of feminism which, while respecting women and “the feminine,” rejects the US ideologization of gender by politically-correct feminism. These ideas promise to overcome the poisoned atmosphere of sexual relations and the neopuritanism of radical feminism. “In pre-Christian Europe, amongst the Celts and the Norse for example, women, without in any way renouncing their femininity or seeking to be ersatz men, enjoyed essentially equal rights.”
The ENR’s naturalism also leads it to defend the supposedly natural and normative nature of ethnic or kinship links. Thus the ENR departs from traditionalism by emphasizing the small nations and the historical regions of Europe, rather than the large and homogenizing nation-states: “The emergence of the idea of nation-state in the 18th century is a phenomenon arising not from a consciousness of identity, but, on the contrary, from the bourgeoisie’s social and political conception of the state.” Similarly,”. . . the Europe of the big states . . . is not, and never has been, a natural Europe. It is the product of rival imperialisms, of conquests, of aggressive and violent acts, both military and socioeconomic . . . . The real Europe, the natural Europe, is one of numerous small states, numerous national communities, principalities, and free cities which are united and brought together above the level of their differences and divergences by a common civilization, forged over the course of two millennia . . . . It was this natural Europe that the big imperialist states, and their conscripted supporters, destroyed and replaced with their own version. Great Britain, France, Germany and Russia were mainly to blame for this development.”
The ultimate goal is the Europe of a Hundred Flags — a patchwork quilt of colorful, traditional principalities. The ENR does not emphasize national uniformity — the traditional right-wing position — but difference. This is part of the ENR’s overall anti-totalitarian stand. The emphasis is on philosophical pluralism: opposition to the reduction of life to any one variable or force (e.g. the class-struggle, economy, nation, or race), in favor of multiplicity and particularity. This is complemented by an aestheticism, in the tradition of the interwar German “Conservative Revolution” — a visceral reaction of “high taste” to the vulgarized modern world of “rubbish.” ENR publications are filled with finely-rendered reproductions of heroic art from Europe’s long history. The locus is on “romantic realism” — though they are not averse to some modernist painters. This is not only a trank celebration of European art, but also a deliberate attempt to vindicate the heroic aspects of life, for European people deadened by consumerism and Americanization.
In contrast to its emphasis on mythopoeia, the ENR tends toward what Ferraresi calls its scientism: “. . . in a cultural context which privileges science as the highest form of knowledge, one of the stated goals . . . is the propagation of scientific developments which will dissipate the prejudices and ‘taboos’ of the reigning ideology, i.e., egalitarianism and democracy. The ‘hard new’ sciences like anthropology, biology, genetics, ethology, sociobiology, psychology, psychiatry, etc. are thus systematically plundered, and those results are selected that support the notions of heredity, invariance, innateness, the biological determination of social and ethical attitudes . . . . The outcome is a set of savage rules, which are then put forward by right-wing ideologues as ‘laws of nature’.” This scientistic locus was at one time very prominent, e.g., when the ENR sought to integrate the thought of the Vienna Circle and Bertrand Russell. This must be seen as intellectually jejune: it clashes with other proclivities for irrationalism and romanticism.
While the ENR’s “scientific” efforts are questionable, the accusation of lack of compassion is less plausible. Although the ENR unabashedly defends aristocracies or hierarchies, as both “natural” and organic, it also criticizes liberal-capitalist modernity as “soft in ideas, but hard in practice.” The ENR argues that liberal capitalism conceals a crashing harshness behind its soft rhetoric of freedom and equality, a real “war of all against all.” Summarizing his critique of late modernity, Benoist writes: “I am appalled by the remarkable capacity of the majority of people to adapt without complaint to a society which I estimate to be, and I mean what I say, the worst kind of society ever to have existed. The worst, because the most subjected to the tyranny of the economy; the worst, because the least organic and therefore the most inhuman.”
Although some ENR members at one time advocated technocracy, they have now embraced ecology, as one of the most hopeful tendencies on the planet today. The 1993 GRECE colloquium was dedicated to ecology. To the extent that it sets limits not only on the physical exploitation of the planet, but also on the grotesque excesses of consumerism, ecology is seen as a hopeful development. The ENR hopes that ecology will continue to evolve a paradigm seeking to preserve cultural rootedness as well as the physical integrity of nature. Its preferences are for communitarian ecology. The ecological call for sacrifices in consumption would be much more meaningful if they were sacrifices for something more local, tangible, and particular than abstract ecological principles. It would apply to this land, this countryside, this country. Communitarian ecology calls for the careful shepherding of resources and stewardship of nature for the sake of a particular community deriving its sustenance from these resources. This also implies that either all communities will accept such policies, or that particular communities must be capable of repelling possible incursions from other communities refusing to accept this model. Such an ecological program cannot be based on wholesale de-urbanization, but rather on saner and more ecological management.
A central premise of this critique is that late capitalism is not a rational system of resource allocation. Enormous amounts of resources are wasted in advertising to inflame demand for unnecessary products, obsolescence is “built-in” to keep consumption high, etc. The personal and psychological rewards resulting from such a decrease in consumption, for a decrease in quantity will be an increase in the quality of life, the emergence of time for pause and reflection, as well as a sense of participation in and belonging to a genuine, friendlier, and safer community.
A large sector in the ENR subscribes to what they call le Gramscisme de Droite. The ENR (like Gramsci) reverses Marx’s idea of base and superstructure. It believes that changes in the ideological superstructure among the cultural and elite opinion-forming groups determine social change. Gramsci called on intellectuals to change society in a socialist direction. The ENR adopts this approach tot their own programs. This is called metapolitics. The ENR also identifies with the appeal to populism in Gramsci, although it rejects the rest of the Marxist apparatus.
The ENR explicitly repudiates racism and searches for allies in the Third World against the US. Although the ENR is a European phenomenon, it also seeks alliances with Islam, East Asian semi-authoritarian regimes, India; etc. against the Anglo-American world. This is an extension of the idea of pluralism in international politics — a multiplicity of power centers and cultural spheres instead of one militarily, economically, and culturally hegemonic power-center. One hegemonic power severely constricts the choices available to humanity, and moves it along one predetermined path. This fits well with the ENR view of itself as a kind of laboratory of ideas. Thus it is proud of its intellectualism and its eschewing of raw political conflict. Nouvelle Ecole, one of the ENR’s main journals, refuses to endorse political candidates, and is opposed to Le Pen’s National Front. Finally, in terms of tactics, there is clearly the attempt to generate a mystique. ENR figures do not want to be perceived as stodgy, pet-it-bourgeois philistines, but as perceptive critics.
Try as it might, the ENR has not escaped Left-liberal criticism. Many routinely consider its members to be barely-disguised fascists, or part of “the eternal reactionary Right.” The definition of “reactionary” here is peculiarly wrong. Intellectually, the stand “against all totalitarianisms” clearly entails the rejection of the Nazi reductionism of race. However, the ENR has a tendency to dance on the rim of the volcano by including certain politically risque imagery in its publications (e.g., photographs of Hitler in heroic poses) and questionable announcements.
Although the ENR sees itself rooted in the 1968 revolutionary tradition, Pierre-Andre Taguieff has traced its origins to the classical French Right. But to what extent can one be held accountable for positions held decades earlier and now strenuously rejected? Similarly, the ENR cannot be held responsible for the adoption of some of its ideas by groups such as Le Pen’s National Front, or the Anglo-American or German Right.
The tendency to exaggerate in relation to the ENR is typified by Seymour Martin Lipset, who writes: “The best publicized European radical rightist tendency . . . has been the French ‘New Right.’ This movement . . . has, like the intellectual Right of pre-WWI France, focused its criticism on ‘alien’ anti-European forces, foreign immigrants, and radical and liberal forces. Supported by press lord Robert Hersant . . . once an overt anti-Semite and youthful collaborator with the Germans in WWII, the views of the New Right reach wide circles of the population, and may have helped stimulate widespread anti-Semitic violence in 1980.”
Some of the ENR’s dabbling in politics, however, is problematic, although mostly in theory. Thus some ENR members support Zhirinovsky (or similar figures), Serbia, and a putative German-Russian alliance at the expense of most East European countries — all in the name of anti-Americanism. The ENR also runs into problems with traditional religion and nationalism. Roman Catholicism is probably the only remaining serious traditional religious force (of historical duration) in Europe today. However strenuously the ENR rejects it, the similarities of some of its positions to those of traditional Catholic organicism are all too obvious (anti-capitalism, the stress on the social, and attacks on gross materialism and consumerism). It is ironic that the ideas of Rene Geunon, and especially Julius Evola (such as the “political soldier,” considered pagan and terroristic in their implications by some dogmatic liberal critics), are being taken up by a professedly Catholic tendency. As both C. G. Jung and Camille Paglia have indicated, Catholicism was clearly more “pagan” than Protestantism. One of the main Protestant accusations against Roman Catholicism was that it was a disguised paganism (with its worship of Mary and the Saints, its sumptuous churches, and its religious icons and relics). However, “the integralist French Catholic Right . . . considers the New Right as ‘Masonic adepts of the Satanic Revolution against the one true living God’. . . .”
Relations to traditional nation-states are also problematic. To what extent should the regionalization and break-up of nation-states be encouraged? Is this not an invitation to community dissolution? What about countries such as Poland that will clearly not let go of their national identity? What about the threat of a Greater German),, perhaps lurking behind this proposed “regionalization,” possibly involving the reconstruction of a German-dominated East Prussia, Silesia, and Western Pomerania, as well as the weakening (or disintegration) of France by the secessions of Brittany, Provence, Normandy, etc.? What about relations with the US? Does the ENR realize that some of its most cherished ideas, i.e. ecology and even neopaganism, are very popular in the US, especially in California? Does it intend to expand its activities to the US, presumably among the libertarian Left or ecological and New Age circles?
The ENR has an extremely simplistic vision of the US — reducing it to Disneyland, Coca-Cola, etc. Clearly the US is more than New York, L.A., and San Francisco, more than “rap, crack et Big Mac.” It is a huge country of diverse regions and towns. Is the ENR more critical of “narrow-minded small–town America” (which American conservatives consider “the heartland”), or “big-city America” (which most American conservatives consider nightmarish, but Left-liberals defend as centers of progress)? Is it America’s Puritanism (of which little seems to be left in actual family mores), or a burgeoning decadence which is their target? At any rate, the center of anti-Americanism today is the US itself. Considering the fact that the US is being consumed by self-hatred and anti-Americanism, the ENR will have to rethink its position vis a vis the moral residues of contemporary American society. Because of the ENR’s violent anti-Americanism, it has hardly any relations with American paleoconservatives. The emphasis on federalism, cultural particularity and local autonomy, however, may pave the way for a new dialogue.
Two problems with ENR theory are rather obvious. First, there is the tension between elitism and populism. On the one hand, it identifies with the Olympian elitism of figures such as Nietzsche and Evola, harboring contempt for the masses. On the other, it wants to embrace an “organic democracy” rooted in Herder, German romanticism, the German Conservative Revolution and, to a certain extent, Carl Schmitt. Second, there is its over-reliance on the ancient Greek heritage, as reflected in the name of one of its main groups, GRECE. Even a superficial reading of Nietzsche betrays his condemnation of the influence of the Greek heritage in the development of Europe. Although “the gifts of the Greeks” can be considered multivalent, clearly traditions of both political democracy and science had their origins in Athens. Is it legitimate to trace the errors of contemporary Europe only to the Judeo-Christian heritage? Should not the classical heritage also come in for some careful scrutiny?
At any rate, the obsessive search for the origins of present European decline leads the ENR astray. One of the most obvious reasons for its adoption of a “metapolitical” position may be due to the fact that ideas such as neopaganism are difficult to relate to today’s sociopolitical realities. Consequently, the ENR is often accused of being a typical French salon phenomenon focused on German thinkers, in line with the old WWII “collaborationist” tradition (the ENR has sought to rehabilitate some of those figures), practising “Biedermaier” politics.
It is all too easy to overemphasize the ENR’s radicalism. In some sense it may be nothing more than an esoteric version of de Gaulle’s political program and an expression of Gallicism, with all of its cultural pride, joie-de-vivre, intellectual flashiness, and unabashed eroticism. After all, de Gaulle’s political genius has been consistently underestimated in the Anglo-American world. An anti-Nazi, anti-Communist, and anti-American (he led the Free French, dealt with Communist terror after the Liberation, and continued to oppose les deux hegemonies to the end of his life); a compassionate but strong nationalist, as well as a decolonizer; a champion of the unity of a “Europe of fatherlands” full of respect for tradition and the Catholic Church, while suspicious of progressivism, liberalism, and democracy, he is someone with whom the ENR could easily identity.
The ENR’s hopes for the future can be summarized as follows: 1) A return to meaningful politics (aiming at a restoration of the public sphere) against an apolitical, juridically-determined, economically-focused liberalism and formally egalitarian democracy. This politics would have to be both erotic and aesthetic, and predicated on “organic democracy.” 2) A restoration of community spirit. The ENR would like to see the dissolution of the US into regional and ethnic states. It prefigures a genuinely pluralistic global framework in opposition to American liberal universalism. (Pluralism of cultures across the planet requires some exclusivity of cultures in given areas and regions). 3) A braking of tendencies towards consumerism, commodification, commodity-fetishism, consumer-tribes, technologization, etc., by means of a “rooted radicalism” and “communitarian ecology.”
Following the recent victory in Italy of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, today a more dynamic Right seems to have some chance of succeeding in Europe. Although Berlusconi’s victory has little to do with the ENR, the Northern League’s regionalism is fully in line with ENR ideas, while the softening of doctrinaire positions which made possible the victory of the National Alliance in the South may also have something to do with ENR influence. Yet Berlusconi and many sectors of the conventional Right have placed a born-again capitalism at the center of their program. This leads to a harshness toward social problems and a contempt for anyone who cannot compete. This conventional Right ignores the fact that humanistically-trained, aristocratically-minded people who could lead a genuine cultural Right are probably the least able to prosper in the projected brave new capitalist world. The obsessive focus on “the discipline of the market” is antithetical to the rooted popular culture and ENR’s “high culture.”
The circulation of ENR journals is rather small, but intellectual influence can rarely be measured by circulation figures. By pursuing its “metapolitical” strategy, the ENR has created a new climate where some Right ideas can be voiced more freely and with less opprobrium. What makes the ENR arguments attractive is that often they are simply good, persuasive arguments. After all, the substitution of a particularistic “right to be different” for a belief in an innate, absolutistic white and European supremacy was a much-needed shift. The ENR has also understood that the orthodox Christian approach to sexual and family morality, in an extremely permissive and sexually-obsessed age, was untenable. The ENR has also renewed much of the criticism of capitalism from an organicist-aristocratic context at a time when the Left seems to have fallen silent on this matter in its uncritical and opportunistic embrace of liberalism. Only in today’s dessicated political landscape are people shocked by these positions, as the organic and Catholic Right — partially linked to various pre-Marxian socialisms as well as syndicalism and anarcho-syndicalism — had traditionally been in the forefront of the critique of capitalism. (In the 19th century, John Ruskin could readily claim: “I am a Tory of the sternest sort, a socialist, a communist”). ENR ideas are also intimately intertwined with central aspects of French identity and national character. Thus the ENR is divided concerning European unification, perhaps because it sees it as a possible vehicle for the continuation of French hegemony through such archetypically French figures as Jacques Delors.
At any rate, under no circumstances can the ENR be characterized as a “neo-fascist” residue destined to play only a very limited role in the future of Europe. Despite certain obvious problems and inconsistencies, the ENR has clearly transcended its origins in the far Right. Its formulations on certain issues have been pioneering, though often, and ironically, coming out of nothing more than a reactivation of half-forgotten arguments in the great store of non-fascist organicist thought. The ENR today is very much in the forefront of key debates concerning personal and cultural identities, and “the sources of the self” The intellectually-honest Left could benefit by appropriating some of these ideas. On the whole, the ENR represents the most intellectual, sophisticated, least dogmatic and most positive element “on the Right,” engaged in the reconfiguration of the political landscape alter the collapse of communism and the terminal crisis of liberalism have rendered traditional categories hopelessly obsolete.
[Telos, Winter93/Spring94, Issue 98-99]