Event Date: 15 – 17 May 2019
Richmond University – The American University in London
Richmond TW10 6JP
A Century of Radical Right Extremism: New Approaches
Professor Tamir Bar-On (Tecnologico de Monterrey) – Are the Alt Right and French New Right kindred movements?
The French New Right (nouvelle droite – ND) is a cultural school of thought, which was created in 1968 and centred around the think-tank GRECE (Le Groupement de recherche et d’études pour la civilisation européenne – Group for Research and Studies in European Civilization). It had its intellectual heyday in France in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Led by the French intellectual Alain de Benoist, the ND attempted to re-think the sterile legacies of Nazism, fascism, and pro-colonialism. Yet, ND intellectuals were dogged by accusations of fascism and cultural racism because they borrowed from German inter-war era conservative revolutionaries, even as they supported worldwide ethnopluralism and dropped their open support for violence and anti-Semitism. Moreover, in attempting to outduel the liberal-left, the ND embraced Antonio Gramsci and the New Left in order to defeat liberalism and capitalism. The ND can be considered the most intellectually brilliant right-wing movement in decades.
While the ND has been around for about 50 years, the Alt Right is a more recent and largely Web-based movement with few significant intellectual works compared to the ND. The most important figure associated with the Alt Right is Richard B. Spencer, who claims to be the inventor of the term “Alt Right.” Spencer noted that he coined the term “alternative Right” in 2008 in order to differentiate himself from “mainstream American conservatism” and pass down European “ancestral traditions” to new generations. A paleoconservative named Paul Gottfried insists that both he and Spencer jointly created the Alt Right term. For Spencer, as highlighted in the “Alt-Right manifesto” (“What It Means to Be Alt-Right) written in 2017, those “ancestral traditions” are racial preference for white Europeans and anti-Semitism – both decidedly “old right” staples.
Like de Benoist, Spencer has been dubbed a “fascist,” “neo-Nazi,” “white supremacist,” and “ethnic nationalist.” Like other white nationalists such as Jared Taylor, Spencer believes that white racial consciousness and political solidarity can be attained without violence, continuing the ND’s “right-wing Gramscianism.” Yet, Spencer is more openly racialist and anti-Semitic compared to the ND leader Alain de Benoist. His movement aims to stem the tide of liberal multiculturalism, advance the interests of the white race through concrete measures such as halting non-white immigration, and ending so-called “Jewish influence” in politics. He even longs for the erection of “white homelands” in the USA and other countries where peoples of white European ancestry live.
In this paper, I attempt to answer the following question: Are the Alt Right and ND kindred movements? I suggest that both movements share a number of characteristics: They are in practice led by two charismatic intellectuals; they are viewed as fascist-like by numerous intellectuals; they focus on winning the “cultural war” against the globalist liberal-left elites and their allies; they reject liberal multiculturalism; they support homogeneous (white) European identities; and they desire a post-liberal revolutionary order. Yet, there are important differences between the two movements: The differing ideological and historical references; the significant intellectual pedigree of the ND versus a Web-constructed movement with little intellectual production; and the advantages of the ND because of the presence of openly anti-immigrant political parties in Europe compared to North America. The paper begins by tracing the diversity of right-wing currents of thought on both sides of the Atlantic. It then briefly highlights the historical and ideological origins of both the Alt Right and ND. It then examines what unites and divides the Alt Right and ND. Finally, I analyze the respective manifestos of the Alt Right and ND in order to tease out similarities and differences between the two movements.
I argue that the ND and Alt Right embody some of the most interesting permutations of the evolution of the post-World War Two radical right. They thus represent an intellectual challenge to liberal and left-wing forces. Seen from the perspective of IR theorist Stephen Gill, both the ND and Alt Right would represent “reactionary forces,” which reject liberal and perhaps modernist projects. Moreover, these forces should not be underestimated because they are more intellectually sophisticated today and they often combine ethnic appeals with concrete economic proposals that privilege “natives” above “non-natives”.