The New Right in Europe has struck the opening blows.
Against Democracy and Equality
reviewed by Thomas Jackson
Against Democracy and Equality
1990, 196 pp.,
In America today, those who see the fundamental problems the nation faces live almost in an intellectual vacuum. This is because the United States does not even recognize its most dangerous enemies: racial and cultural dispossession, growing hatred of our European heritage, and the fatal loss of nerve that has permitted this to happen.
When public discourse touches on these subjects at all, it is to celebrate them as signs of a new, better America. Thus, for those who see the road to the new America as the road to oblivion, it is easy to think that they are alone, and that their country faces a unique horror that no one else ever imagined or thought about.
Of course, this is not true. Against Democracy and Equality by Tomislav Sunic not only traces the distinguished history of â€œrevolutionary conservatismâ€ but introduces a contemporary school of European writers who are struggling to find answers to the questions that, in America, are not yet being asked. As Professor Paul Gottfried writes in the preface to this little volume, Dr. Sunic has given us the first book-length introduction in English to the European New Right.
The very title suggests how boldly the New Right is prepared to defy the most cherished liberal assumptions. If this group of thinkers can be said to have one central tenet, it is that the essential nature of man lies not in equality but in inequality. Individuals, races, cultures, and nations are different and unequal; any attempt to treat them as equals is a form of tyranny.
Thus, the thinkers of the New Right are adamantly opposed to anything that imposes a universalistic equality. For them, Communism has been the most ruthless form of egalitarian totalitarianism but, in one of their most provocative insights, they see modern Western liberalism as a form of â€œsoftâ€ totalitarianism that is achieving its goals without the violence of concentration camps and secret police. In its ultimate formâ€”which we can see developing in the United Statesâ€”there is no need for violent repression because each man becomes his own censor and his own jail keeper.
The most prominent leaders of the European New Right are Frenchmen. Alain de Benoist is the best known figure, along with such men as Guillaume Faye, and Julien Freund. They have been prominent since the 1970s, and have played a central role in dislodging Marxism as the unacknowledged religion of European intellectuals. In America, where their ideas are even more of an anathema than in Europe, they are studiously ignored.
As Dr. Sunic explains, the New Right finds inspiration in thinkers who were influential before the Second World War, but who have since been repudiated because the Nazis endorsed some of their views. As part of his introduction to the New Right, Dr. Sunic briefly outlines the thinking of Carl Schmitt (1888-1982), Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), and Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923). These men clearly saw the rush towards universal brotherhood and saw that the consequences would be that Europe would voluntarily give up its prominence and even its distinctiveness.
According to Pareto, for example, it is folly for those who rule to renounce power in the name of universal brotherhood. As Dr. Sunic paraphrases his views, â€œThe downtrodden and the weak will always appeal to the sense of justice of those who rule, but the moment they grab the reins of power they will become as oppressive as their former rulers. Moreover, if by chance some nation happens to display signs of excessive humanity, philanthropy, or equality, it is a certain symptom of its terminal illness.â€ In Pareto’s own words, â€œWhoever becomes a lamb will find a wolf to eat him.â€
For liberals, this does not matter. Let Europe be eaten by North Africa or the United States by Mexico. Since all peoples and cultures are equally valid, nothing will have been lost and resistance would be immoral.
One of the New Right’s goals has been to understand the origins of the militant, universalist egalitarianism that underlies liberalism. Though its point of view offends many traditional conservatives, it finds the source in Christianity. Unlike polytheistic religions, monotheism emphasized the equality of all men before God. By the 16th and 17th centuries, this equality was broadened to include the temporal concepts of legal and political equality.
Thomas Jefferson is a villain to the New Right because of his assertion that all men are created equal. Though Jefferson did not mean these words literally, the New Right sees Karl Marx and his insistence on economic equality as a direct heir to Jefferson.
As Dr. Sunic explains, it is because of their veneration of equality that liberals are unable to withstand the arguments of socialists and communists. Liberals cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that even though men may be politically equal, free competition will always result in inequality. Liberals can therefore raise no principled objection to the forced economic equality of Communism.
The New Right therefore sees both Communism and Nazism as reactions to the half-way equality of liberalism. Communists think it has not gone far enough, whereas National Socialists think it has gone too far.
The New Right rejects equality and takes for granted the genetic basis of inequality. So far, according to Dr. Sunic, the New Right has not made formal political proposals but it would agree with the great British geneticist J.B.S. Haldane that â€œAny satisfactory political and economic system must be based on the recognition of human inequality.â€
The other trait common to Christianity, liberalism, and Communism is their insistence on their own universal validity. In the Gospels of both Matthew and Mark, Jesus makes the staggering claim that anyone not for him is against him. Communism’s goal of world-wide revolution was always explicit, but liberalism’s projects for uplift are just as universalist. Muslims must be made into feminists; Japanese must become anti-racists; Africans must be taught democracy; Chinese must eat hamburgers.
Despite its constant preachments about â€œtolerance,â€ liberalism is therefore as harshly intolerant as any religious inquisition and would gladly remake the entire world in the image of a leftist American university.Â
Alain de Benoist has a completely different view of society: â€œA people is not a transitory sum of individuals. It is not a chance aggregate. It is a reunion of inheritors of a specific fraction of human history, who, on the basis of the sense of common adherence, develop the will to pursue their own history and give themselves a common destiny.â€
As Dr. Sunic paraphrases him: â€œReal â€˜organicâ€™ democracy can only exist in a society in which people have developed a firm sense of historical and spiritual commitment to their community. In such an organic polity . . . the law must not derive from some abstract preconceived principles, but rather from the genius of the people and its unique historical character. In such a democracy, the sense of community must invariably preside over individualistic and economic self-interests.â€
Economism and Individualism
This leads to the two other great flaws of liberalism: its emphasis on economics and its tendency to strip away a man’s traditional, organic ties, and leave him a solitary individual. Once all people are seen as equal and equivalent, parochial loyalties are pure prejudice.
Common markets, currency unions, and supra-national organizations like the European Parliament are symptoms of both the attack on particularism and the victory of pure economics. If local loyalties no longer matter, only economic efficiency is left. The Deutsche Mark, the Pound Sterling, and the traditions and sovereignties they represent can all be brushed aside if a single European currency would be more efficient.
The primacy of economics also explains the relentless ugliness of modern lifeâ€”stores like warehouses, office buildings like boxes, middle class people who dress like tramps, the obliteration of good mannersâ€”because the esthetic and the cultural have no economic value.
In such societies politics is no longer a battle of competing world views but a form of commerce. As Dr. Sunic paraphrases Carl Schmitt: â€œDifferent opinions are no longer debated; instead, social, financial, and economic pressure groups calculate their interests, and on the basis of these interests they make compromises and coalitions.â€ Politicians become rug merchants. An assertion of genuine philosophical differences is a nuisance that hampers trade.
A man with no particularist culture is extremely vulnerable. In a society of pure individualism only wealth gives identity, so the poor have nothing and the middle classes face the threat of nothing.
In a healthy society the individual, whatever his economic status, can be concerned with the greater good because it is his society and unlike any other. He may even regret, as Nathan Hale did, that he has but one life to give for his country. The healthy culture thrives on what may appear to be the sacrifices of individuals, but it gives them meaning, history, confidence, and identity, be they rich or poor.
The individualism of liberalism is therefore fragmentation rather than strength. In the view of the New Right, it leaves men open to the â€œsoftâ€ totalitarianism that has made such headway in the United States. Even without police-state techniques, liberalism has so successfully enforced its orthodoxies that men fear to say what they believe about race, immigration, welfare, eugenics, mass democracy, culture, or even foreign aid. The New Right is correct in fearing this form of totalitarianism as the most dangerous and insidious.
Now that Marxism is dead there should be a free-wheeling debate about the validity of its assumptions about equality, universalism, and the primacy of economics. In America there is no such debate. As Alain de Benoist says, â€œIt is always easy [for liberals] to avoid the debate. It suffices to disqualify the adversary. . . . One attacks the persons rather than what they write.â€ Here, too, the New Right finds the legacy of Christianity: Disagreement with liberalism is wicked, and the non-believer is condemned to eternal damnation.
The spokesmen of the New Right are not generally optimistic about being able to overthrow soft totalitarianism, but they are willing to fight it to the end. As Dr. Sunic puts it: â€œNo matter how dismal and decadent the modern polity appears to be, no matter what the outcome of the struggle is, or how threatened Europe appears, the New Right insists that it is still worth dying for Europe as an honorable warrior.â€Â
Of course, no one will lay down his life for a currency union. The New Right fears that a denatured Europe could eventually be overthrown by vigorous non-whites who still have cultural and racial memories they are willing to die for. Sadly, the non-white nations will also have suffered heavy losses because of the contamination of their own cultures by the missionaries of liberalism.
The Battlefield of Ideas
The New Right has chosen to fight on the battlefield of ideas because it believes that the course of Europe is ultimately governed by the prevailing intellectual climate.Â
As Dr. Sunic explains, â€œThe real force that sustains liberalism and socialism is the cultural consensus which reigns more or less undisturbed in the higher echelons of education and legal systems.â€ The left has always understood the importance of capturing the culture. Thus every movie, school book, art show, television program, and court decision promotes the doctrine of universal equality. Â
Marx believed that the economic structure determines the culture but the New Right argues that it is the other way around: Liberty can be achieved only by creating a counter-culture that is vigorous enough to break liberalism’s monopoly on the mind. This is a process that has hardly begun in the United States, where the more education a man has the more unthinkingly he has absorbed liberal dogmas.
Dr. Sunic has given us an important book. This review can only begin to summarize the richness of thought that he has found in scores of books and journals that are not even available in English. Dr. Sunic has opened the door to a great but little-known body of learning that directly addresses our current crises.Â
Against Democracy and Equality is still in print and can be ordered directly from Peter Lang, 62 West 45th Street, New York, NY 10036.
[American Renaissance, December, 1992]