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Alain de Benoist and the New Right

Première parution : Jean Yves-Camus , « Alain de Benoist and the New Right », Mark Sedgwick dir., Key Thinkers of the Radical Right.,Oxford University Press, 2019.

Alain de Benoist was born in 1943 in Saint-Symphorien, near Tours, France. He is considered the main thinker of the so-called French New Right (nouvelle droite), an intellectual movement established in France in 1968 in order to re-think European identity and challenge both then-dominant Marxism and the mainstream liberal right. Since the early 1990s, the French New Right has been influential beyond France, especially in Italy, Germany, and Belgium, and has inspired Alexander Dugin in Russia. Part of the American radical right and “Alt Right” also claims to have been inspired by de Benoist’s writings. Although this is questionable, de Benoist and Dominique Venner are also seen as the forefathers of the “Identitarian” movement in Europe. De Benoist has published one hundred and six books and more than two thousand articles, which have been translated into fourteen languages.[1] He is the editor of the annual publication Nouvelle école (New School) and the editorial writer for the monthly magazine Eléments, the two flagship publications of the French New Right. He is also the director of a quarterly publication, Krisis. The goal of de Benoist and the French New Right is similar to that of the 1930s Non-Conformists (a French group that called for a non-totalitarian “new order”)[2] and is even closer to that of the German Conservative Revolution, on which they draw heavily. De Benoist was introduced to the Conservative Revolution by Ernst Jünger’s former secretary, Armin Mohler, while the latter was a journalist in Paris.[3] True to his Conservative Revolutionary beliefs, de Benoist still sets himself the goal of having a critical approach toward the mainstream conservatism that is, in the French context, heir to the Gaullist party and to the authoritarian right of the nineteenth century.[4] He agrees with mainstream conservatives on such matters as keeping traditional Western values and having a holistic vision of society,[5] but strongly rejects free-market economics, the primacy of human rights, and the Christian heritage.

Career

De Benoist generally keeps quiet about his private life.[6] He is married to a German-born wife and has two children. His avowed passion is collecting books (and reading them), his private library containing 250,000 volumes. De Benoist, who is keen on genealogy, says his father belonged to the nobility, with roots from the Middle Ages in what is now Belgium. His mother came from the lower middle class, her ancestors being fishermen and peasants from Normandy and Brittany. Jean-Yves Le Gallou, another intellectual figure in the French New Right, writes that the reason for de Benoist’s avowed contempt for the bourgeoisie lies in this family background,[7] and de Benoist himself admits that his socially mixed family made him aware at an early age that he could not bear the upper class’s contempt for the common man.

From the age of fifteen onwards, de Benoist was attracted to the nationalist right, at first in the context of the war in Algeria and the return to power of General de Gaulle. He started work as a journalist by contributing to Henry Coston’s magazine Lectures françaises (French Readings) in 1960,[8] but always stayed away from Coston’s belief in conspiracy theories (especially involving Freemasonry and the Jews) and his strident anti-Semitism. Often using the pseudonym “Fabrice Laroche” (and later “Robert de Herte,” as well as a few others) he found a political home in activist movements such as the Fédération of Nationalist Students (Fédération des étudiants nationalistes, FEN) and Europe-Action, which fought to keep Algeria French.

After Algeria became independent in 1962, de Benoist was among those who decided to break with the useless street activism of the fringe extreme right and to focus on “metapolitics,” borrowing Antonio Gramsci’s idea that ideological hegemony is a precondition for political victory. De Benoist explains that “all the big revolutions in history did no more than transpose into facts an evolution that had already taken place in minds, in an underlying manner.”[9] Both parliamentary politics and street activism can only have short-term consequences and, if one really wants one’s ideas to shape society, one has to work on ideas first. This, and de Benoist’s belief that petty French nationalism had to be replaced by European nationalism, led him to become the main founding member of GRECE[10] (Groupement de recherche et d’études pour la civilisation européenne, Research and study group for European civilization), the intellectual think tank of the French New Right. GRECE had a political influence on conservative and liberal parties between 1975 and 1980, and later gave birth to sister movements in, among others Italy (Nuova Destra with Marco Tarchi), Germany (Neue Rechte, with Henning Eichberg and today, the weekly Junge Freiheit, to which de Benoist contributes), Flanders (with Luc Pauwels and the magazine TeKosTekste, Kommentaren en Studies) and the French-speaking part of Belgium (GRECE-Belgique with Georges Hupin and then Robert Steuckers).[11] It also has an influence in the United States, where he was introduced and published by the late Paul Piccone of the New Left magazine, Telos, starting in 1992–93.

In 1979 and 1993, two press campaigns in the French liberal media damaged de Benoist’s influence in France by alleging that he and GRECE were “closet Fascists” or even “Nazis” who hid their beliefs in a racist, anti-egalitarian Weltanschauung aimed at re-formulating völkisch ideas in a seemingly acceptable way by replacing the hierarchy of races with “ethno-differentialism.” Since that time, although still a frequent commentator on French politics and as such someone who keeps an interest in the role of the Front national (National Front), de Benoist has focused on his intellectual activity, trying to be the key thinker of a non-conventional right and a critic of globalization, postmodern society, and—above all—the “ideology of sameness.” He rejects politically correct anti-racism on the grounds that it ultimately leads to the eradication of the very same “right to be different” that it seeks to implement. His criticism of globalization and free-market economics has led him to translate and publish such non-conformist Marxists or Progressives as Costanzo Preve[12] and Danilo Zolo. Since 1988, through the quarterly magazine Krisis, he has also tried to build a bridge between the New Right and some of the academics who write in La Revue du MAUSS,[13] and has positively received the thought of Christopher Lasch, with whom he agreed on participatory democracy and the criticism of the globalized elites.[14] Another consequence of his radical stand against capitalism is that he supports “degrowth”— the ecology-oriented policy of downsizing production and consumption. This goes hand in hand with his post-2000 evolution toward advocating localism and deliberative democracy.

 

Key ideas                         

The key idea throughout de Benoist’s intellectual journey has been, through the use of metapolitics, to think the ways and means that are necessary in order for European civilization, based on the cultural values shared on the continent until the advent of globalization, to thrive and be perpetuated. De Benoist’s work and thought are not always identical to that of GRECE and the French New Right, even though he embodies both movements and sets the tone of their development. GRECE and the French New Right, because they are schools of thought, encompass a variety of beliefs and attitudes. For example, de Benoist admires the mid-twentieth-century novelist and political writer Raymond Abellio and his concept of gnosis but, unlike other French New Right figures, he is not a perennialist and (other than with regard to aesthetics) has been little influenced by Julius Evola or René Guénon. He is undoubtedly a Pagan, as can be seen in his 1981 book “Comment peut-on être païen?”[15] but his opposition to monotheism is voiced in a softer tone than that of Pierre Vial, or the late Maurice Rollet and Jean Mabire, members of GRECE who are committed to völkisch values, including a focus on Nordicism. Understanding de Benoist’s intellectual journey means accepting that he is a thinker, not a mere compiler, and that his views are his own, as is shown by his distancing himself from Guillaume Faye, who had been a member, then a top official of GRECE from 1970 until 1986, holding the title of Secretary for Studies and Research. When Faye published The Colonization of Europe: Speaking Truth about Immigration and Islam (La Colonisation de l’Europe: discours vrai sur l’immigration et l’Islam) in 2000, de Benoist disavowed Faye’s “strongly racist” ideas with regard to Muslims.[16]

This being said, de Benoist’s core values are those of the French New Right, which he embodies. His work and thought can be summed up in three key ideas. The first is the criticism of the primacy of individual rights, which he sees as a consequence of eighteenth-century humanism, later embodied in the principles of the French Revolution and of the American Founding Fathers (he is very critical of the “American dream”). However, he is no less opposed to nationalism, as he thinks both ideologies derive from the “metaphysics of subjectivity.”[17] His second core idea is that the main danger the world is now facing is the hegemony of capital, combined with the pursuit of self-interest which is typical of the postmodern era. As a result, de Benoist has told his (mostly rightist) readers that although he is not a Marxist, he sees some truth in what Karl Marx wrote in Das Kapital, both with regard to the nature of capitalism and to the reality of conflicting class interests.[18] Contrary to what his opponents from the radical right believe, there is no such thing as a “leftist” move in his thought: he stays true to the anti-capitalist tradition of the National Revolutionaries and that of the Communitarian Socialists and, furthermore, his opposition to the unlimited expansion of the free market stems from his belief that consumerism and finance contribute to the erasure of peoples’ identities. that The first and foremost distinction he makes is not between the “working class,” although he acknowledges that it does exist, and the “bourgeoisie,” but between the “haves” and the “have nots,” the “new dominating class” and the “people.”[19]

Another consequence of his cherishing ethnic and cultural identities is that de Benoist stands for the political autonomy of each and every such group. When applied to Europe, this third central idea means that he is opposed to the nation state (in the case of France, the centralized “Jacobin” state) and favors a federal Europe built on the principle of subsidiarity—that is, the recognition of the existence of communities, whether based on ethnicity, language, religion or gender. De Benoist frequently refers to the ideas of Johannes Althusius in Politics Methodically Set Forth (Politica methodice digesta, 1603), and also shows sympathy toward the idea of “national personal autonomy” (nationale Selbstbestimung) developed by Otto Bauer, Karl Renner and the interwar Austro-Marxists, who envisioned replacing the nation state with the “ethno-pluralist” concept of gathering individuals belonging to a distinct ethnic or ethno-religious group into a non-territorially-based association of persons. He has been criticized by those who see him as a (neo-)fascist for wanting to replace the nation state with a juxtaposition of homogenous ethnic entities, thereby denying rights to those who hold dual or multiple identities. This forgets that de Benoist, in We and the Others (Nous et les autres, 2006), defines identity as dialogical, in the sense of Martin Buber’s Ich-Du concept of interaction between individuals.[20] He explains that one’s identity is made of two components: an “objective part” that comes from one’s background (ethnicity, religion, family, nationality) and a “subjective part” that one can chose according to one’s personal wishes, experiences and interactions with others. Ultimately, according to de Benoist (and contrary to what ideologues of race contend), identity is not fixed once and for all, but is a process in evolution.[21]

Finally, although de Benoist believes that knowledge of one’s genealogy and local (ethnic, religious) traditions is a duty, and that such traditions need to be passed on to following generations, he also criticizes what he calls “the pathology of identity”—the political use of identity which often lead the populist right to focus exclusively on “us versus them” policies. However, he is also very critical of the moral imperative of cosmopolitanism imposed by the left and the liberal right. The French scholar Pierre-André Taguieff sees the New Right as prone to “mixophobia,” to fear of miscegenation.[22] One can challenge this, and de Benoist seems to be sincere when he writes that he stands against all forms of phobia, if that word means refusing to take into account the complexity of reality, leading to “systematically and irrationally hating” a specific group or ideology.[23] One of the most interesting aspects of his work is that while he often refers positively to Carl Schmitt’s distinction between friend and enemy as the core issue of politics,[24] and while he also emphasizes the importance of keeping alive the knowledge of pre-Christian Europe,[25] he does not scapegoat immigrants, whom he ultimately thinks are victims of globalization and the hegemony of capital over the diversity of cultural values. He is critical of non-European mass immigration because he thinks that it leads to “pathological consequences” in European societies, but he does not embrace Islamophobia, and explains that immigration is first of all a consequence of big companies being greedy for profits and preferring to import cheap labor.[26]

Finally, while some former leading figures of GRECE (such as Pierre Vial) still cling to the anti-Jewish clichés of the völkisch movement, there is no reason to believe he is an anti-Semite. Suspicion that he is one derives from the false idea that he remains committed to each and every word he previously wrote, while in fact reading his works shows that his thought is in constant evolution. When it comes to the question of biologically diverse races, for example, de Benoist said, in 1974, that “there is no superior race. All races are superior and each of them has its own genius.”[27] This implies that de Benoist believes that race is a biological reality. Nevertheless, as early as 1991, Eléments explained that among its editorial staff “the rejection of Modern Individualism… has come to the forefront, instead of too systematic a critic of egalitarianism, and too systematic anti-egalitarianism can lead to social Darwinism, which might justify free-market economy.”[28]

 

Inspirations

De Benoist’s exit from the nationalist extreme right was influenced by Dominique Venner and his seminal work For a Positive Critique (Pour une critique positive, 1964), which explained why activism was a dead-end street and called for a break with petty French nationalism, putting the defense of European civilization first. When he was a contributor to Europe-Action between 1963 and 1967, de Benoist discovered the work of the philosopher Louis Rougier, especially his rebuke of Christianity as an egalitarian and thus subversive doctrine, which he claimed was responsible for uprooting the hierarchical but tolerant social model derived from the old Pagan wisdom of Europe. At that time, de Benoist acknowledged his debt to Rougier’s rationalism, as opposed to Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialist philosophy, adding that he also drew on the French biologist Jean Rostand, with whom he shared a belief in eugenics, which he opposed to the utopia of innate equality between individuals.

There is no doubt that, at this early stage of his life, de Benoist was very much in tune with the white-supremacist ideology of Europe-Action, as shown by his 1966 book Rhodesia, Land of the Faithful Lions (Rhodésie, pays des lions fidèles), penned under his pseudonym “Fabrice Laroche” and co-authored with François d’Orcival, then a militant in the Federation of Nationalist Students and now a leading and highly respected mainstream conservative journalist. After the loss of the French empire, worldwide decolonization and the lost civil war in Algeria, de Benoist’s generation—that of young men and women born during or after the Second World War—was not attracted to white supremacy by a coherent Neo-Fascist ideology: they rather felt compelled to defend a “Western civilization” that they saw as being challenged by the rise of the Third World and by Communism. It is in this context that de Benoist, starting at the time of Europe-Action, developed his idea of promoting European identity based on ethnicity as a “third way” between the materialism of the United States and that of the communist USSR. However, unlike Jean Thiriart (who advocated a European nation with only one pan-national, centralized state), he chose to stand for building a Europe of ethnic nations, alongside the ideas disseminated within the radical right by Jean Mabire,[29] later a member of GRECE, who in turn had borrowed the idea from the novelist and former collaborator Marc Augier.[30]

By the mid-1970s, de Benoist had set himself the goal of leaving fringe politics and making his voice heard among right-leaning intellectuals, who were in the minority in academia, and felt the urge to reshape the political landscape during the presidential term of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (1974–1981) in favor of a more organic, holistic and elitist democracy. De Benoist’s magnum opus is often thought to be his 1978 prize-winning book Seen from the Right (Vu de droite),[31] which aimed at being an anthology of contemporary rightist thinking, with a slant toward the behavioral sciences, in line with the then scientistic and positivist orientation of GRECE. In this mammoth book, one can already see the major influences on de Benoist’s thought. He started by distancing himself from other parts of the right, writing that “at the time of publishing, the ideas supported in this book stand on the Right. They do not necessarily belong to the Right. I can even imagine a situation when they would stand on the Left.”[32] He then undertook to map the intellectual landscape of the postmodern era as seen from the Right, but in strong opposition to the free-marketers and proponents of laissez-faire who, like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, were to become beacons of mainstream conservative thought. The key sentence in this book, which gives an in-depth insight into de Benoist’s worldview, is: “I hereby define the Right, by pure convention, as a positive thing; and the progressive homogenization of the world, extolled and effected by two thousand years of egalitarian ideology, as a negative thing.”[33]

First and foremost, de Benoist is inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche, whom he discovered around 1959 while still in high school.[34] He says his encounter with Nietzsche was a “revelation” that lasted until the late 1970s, when he became familiar with the philosophy of Martin Heidegger and undertook to re-read Nietzsche in this light. De Benoist sees those two authors as complementary one to each other. Initially, he was attracted to Nietzsche’s idea of the “death of God,” as well as to his call for the advent of “the men with the longest memory.” After having also been influenced by Nietzsche’s idea of the Will to Power (der Wille zur Macht), he came to think (with Heidegger) that the Will to Power can degenerate into “the will to will,” a form of impotency. Also, he first adhered to the idea explained in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Also sprach Zarathustra) that one value system is no more worthy than another, but later decided that Heidegger was right in saying that Nietzsche clung too much to the realm of values, and that the only way to escape from nihilism is not to change values, but to go beyond them. De Benoist also reflected on the notion of truth in Nietzsche and Heidegger’s philosophy, eventually finding more depth in Heidegger’s distinction, in Being and Time (Sein und Zeit), between truth and aletheia (“disclosure”).

Other major influences on de Benoist’s thought are the writings of the French philosopher Georges Sorel on violence and action, as well as his anti-bourgeois stand and his call to the general strike as a myth that would awaken the instinct of fighting in a decaying society. This leads us to mention three other authors, Oswald Spengler, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, and Ernst Jünger, who are associated with the Conservative Revolution.[35] From Spengler’s The Decline of the West, de Benoist borrows elitism, skepticism about the role of reason in history, cultural pessimism and the fear that technical progress may annihilate man. Tomislav Sunić emphasizes that the New Right heavily relies on Spengler’s assumption that mankind does not exist as such, that “each culture passes through various cycles” and that there is no universal history, just “the plurality of histories and their unequal distribution in time and space.”[36] In Moeller van den Bruck, de Benoist loves the young conservative rebel and the man who believes he lives in times of transition (or in an interregnum) when new cleavages will take place and bring along something which stands above socialism and conservatism, which will enable “new peoples” (as opposed to “old peoples”) to shape the world.

Finally, Jünger, whom de Benoist knew personally, is certainly the influence who was closest to him. De Benoist describes Jünger as a man with four lives who was in succession “the soldier on the front, the worker, the rebel, and the Anarch.”[37] He sees him as a model man who embodies heroism in wartime action and also the sense of honor. He thinks Jünger was right in his criticism of technology, which draws the warrior away from fighting in a chivalrous way, and he shares his belief that the experience of war can give birth to a new kind of man who will overthrow the old order of society. Undoubtedly, de Benoist agrees with Jünger’s claim that the First World War had produced a sense of community between soldiers at the front belonging to all classes of society. He also supports his aesthetic and voluntarist conception of productivity and, last but not least, he might even identity himself with the one who resorts to “the forest passage” (the title of one of Jünger’s major works, Der Waldgang): de Benoist writes that Jünger’s rebel is a man who “cannot be identified with one system or another, even the one for which he fights.” He adds that “he is not at ease in any of them,”[38] and that seems very much to be a reliable self-description, up to the point where de Benoist seems to see himself as Jünger’s archetypal Anarch—that is, the man who has reached the point of not even needing to walk the forest passage, because he “is content to have broken all ties [with power]. ” His praise of the Anarch reflects his fear that we are heading toward an Orwellian society in which individuals will be under the control of the Big Brother state.

 

Early reception in France

Until the beginning of the 1970s, de Benoist’s intellectual activity was known only in France and only to those with an interest in GRECE, a rather small and limited group of senior civil servants, professionals and mostly non-academic intellectuals. It was launched in January 1968, before the student riots of May 1968. The first mention of GRECE appeared in the French left-wing satirical weekly Le Canard enchaîné in December 1972, asking quite seriously whether the group was neo-Nazi. In 1974, another attack on GRECE and de Benoist came from the monarchist New Royalist Action (Nouvelle action royaliste) and a group of Catholic traditionalists who wrote a far-fetched investigative work denouncing the New Right and its thinkers as dangerous promoters of anti-Christian principles, namely eugenics, paganism and white supremacism (as opposed to the universalism of Christianity).[39] Ultimately, the authors linked de Benoist and the New Right to the ideology of the Third Reich.

The New Right and its major thinker were subject to a much bigger and hotter controversy in France during the summer of 1979, after de Benoist and other key members of GRECE succeeded in gaining access to the editorial board of Le Figaro Magazine and Valeurs actuelles (Current values), two standard-bearer magazines of the mainstream conservative right, reaching a combined readership of over one million. The strategy of the New Right was then to influence the mainstream conservative parties—that is, the neo-Gaullist Rassemblement pour la République and the moderate, right-of-center Union pour la Démocratie française—by providing their leadership with a set of concepts that, if adopted, would ultimately have make the mainstream conservative right drop its commitment to key values such as equality, human rights, the welfare state and Judeo-Christian culture.

Liberal intellectuals tried to counter the rise of de Benoist and the New Right in the political debate with an impressive campaign launched in June 1979 by the daily Le Monde, and followed by more than five hundred articles claiming that GRECE and its leader had connections with racist movements such as the (British) Northern League, quoting some crude quotes on race from early issues of Eléments and trying to show that de Benoist’s interest in the history of the Indo-European peoples was in the intellectual tradition of Nazi archeologists such as Hans F. K. Günther.[40] Since the press campaign of 1979, de Benoist continues to be suspected in France of being a “closet racialist” and many on the left still cling to the belief that, despite his repeated criticism of racism and his many writings and explanation of how and why he has changed his mind on this and other topics, he has remained a devoted white supremacist. This misses the point. By the time of the 1979 campaign, de Benoist had already left behind his Nietzchean philosophy of man and the kind of racism which implies a hierarchy of ethnic groups in favor of what Pierre-André Taguieff calls the “differentialist” approach,[41] that is, the idea that each and every ethnic group has its own culture which is worth preserving, so much that the best way to preserve it is by avoiding different cultures on the same soil.

This ideological move explains how de Benoist and GRECE were received positively by a segment of the French conservative right in 1978–81. After General de Gaulle left power in 1969 and died one year later, the Gaullist ideology, born out of the wartime Resistance, was also about to die. With less general acceptance that the state had to play a role in the economy (for example by redistributing wealth as a reward for constant growth), and with mass non-European immigration becoming a political issue, the emergence of the New Right under de Benoist’s aegis was seen by several prominent conservative politicians as an unique opportunity to promote a nativist, pro-market, identitarian agenda which would appeal to the most right-leaning voters, who were not yet attracted National Front, which was founded in 1972, and was until 1983–84 a tiny group of extremists tainted by their connection with the collaboration with the Nazi occupiers of France. When thinking this way, the likes of Michel Poniatowski, Alain Griotteray, Philippe Malaud and other stalwart leaders of President Giscard’s center-right party made a double mistake. First, they wrongly presumed that de Benoist and GRECE were in tune with the libertarian agenda of Club de l’Horloge, a think tank founded in 1974 by senior civil servants originating from GRECE such as Yvan Blot, Henry de Lesquen and Jean-Yves Le Gallou. This proved to be wrong, as de Benoist was then at the stage when he put an emphasis on the criticism of the free-market economy. The second mistake that the staunch supporters of the Europe-United States axis working with Giscard made is that they failed to foresee that de Benoist, being preoccupied with the decadence of Europe and the dream of his continent becoming an empire-superpower, was very unlikely to become the “organic intellectual” of those very same parties that were pushing for more European integration and closer ties with NATO.

Later reception

At the end of 1982, de Benoist and other contributors to Figaro Magazine who were close to GRECE were forced to leave it and, although de Benoist kept on contributing to the now-defunct monthly magazine Spectacle du monde (World spectacle), his link with the mainstream political right was broken, and he chose to live as an independent writer. If there is an “earlier” and a “later” reception of his thought in France, the breakpoint was first the 1979 press campaign, then the hegemony of free-market economics and social conservative thought within the post-Gaullist right, and only marginally because of the coming to power of the left in 1981. In fact, de Benoist and GRECE were never really acceptable in mainstream French conservative politics, except when some conservatives used them as ghost-writers in order to give an intellectual backbone to their anti-egalitarian agenda.

From the start, the social democratic left and the Communists opposed de Benoist and GRECE because they saw them as continuing in the tradition of fascism. However, the real problem is that several of the core ideas which are still at the heart of de Benoist’s Weltanschauung are totally alien to the issues which are the key to electoral success. A gap between de Benoist and the mainstream right that cannot be bridged results from the belief that today’s European peoples are all offshoots of the same stock (that is, the Indo-European people), and from the contention that the monotheistic religions are totally alien to European culture and the opposition to Christianity.

Since the mid-1980s, the ideology of GRECE has been interpreted in France in opposite ways. Most liberals from the left and right have refused to engage in intellectual debate with de Benoist: following the celebrated leftist philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, they contend that his anti-egalitarian ideology disqualifies him as a thinker, and accusations of anti-Semitism in a “hidden form” are still commonplace. The first mainstream intellectual academic who agreed to debate with de Benoist was Pierre-André Taguieff, the foremost scholar of the New Right, and this caused such an uproar that in 1993 a manifesto was published in the daily Le Monde warning his fellow (left-leaning) academics against the pernicious influence of GRECE and the danger of “normalizing” de Benoist.[42] De Benoist was more successful in persuading contributors from the other side of the spectrum to contribute articles to Krisis, among them Jean Baudrillard, Raymond Boudon, Sebastian Budgen, Massimo Cacciari, the left-wing economist André Grjebine, columnist Jean-François Kahn and Jean-Pierre Laurent, a scholar of perennialism. In addition, de Benoist publicly met in 1992 with prominent cadres of the Communist Party’s think tank, the Institut de Recherches Marxistes (Institute for Marxist Research), who were consequently disavowed by the Party’s official organ, L’Humanité-Dimanche.[43]

The launch of a newly-designed edition of Eléments in 2015 seems to have diminished the isolation of the French New Right. Together with de Benoist’s flagship editorial, respected academics from the Catholic conservative right such as Pierre Manent, social democrats such as Jacques Julliard, and philosophers such as Marcel Gauchet (he co-editor of the influential quarterly Le débat) agreed to be interviewed, and although they have been criticized for having done so, the harshness of the attacks against the magazine and its inspirer is not as great as it once was.

De Benoist has been extensively translated into Italian and German since the early 1980s. After he was discovered by young militants belonging to the oppositional faction of Giorgio Almirante’s then neo-fascist party, the Movimento Sociale Italiano (Italian Social Movement, MSI), they used his thought, among other things by launching Elementi in 1978 to rejuvenate the party’s doctrine by escaping narrow-minded reference to the Fascist past, albeit without repudiating it in its entirety. Later on, the Italian New Right (Nuova destra) was able, because of the very specific local culture of dialog between radicals from both left and right, to infuse some of its ideas into the Alternative Left and the post-fascist Aleanza Nazionale (National Allaince), a partner in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from 1993 onwards. In Germany, his ideas were disseminated by the magazine Elemente from 1987, and then, on a much wider basis, by Junge Freiheit, a bridge between the national-conservatives and the nationalist, anti-multiculturalism party, Alternative für Detuschland (Alternative for Germany, AfD). The reception of de Benoist has been marginal in the United Kingdom, where historian Roger Griffin has argued that the New Right was aimed at preserving fascist culture under the claim of metapolitics.[44]

One controversial topic is de Benoist’s reception in Russia, especially by the Eurasianist writer Alexander Dugin. De Benoist met Dugin, then a member of the nationalist Patriotic Front Pamyat, in 1989, and traveled to post-communist Russia in 1992, meeting with Dugin again, and with the nationalist right and the communist opposition to President Yeltsin.[45] De Benoist has since published a book with Dugin,[46] who was a speaker at the convention of GRECE for the first time in 1991, and for the last time in 2016.[47] De Benoist and Dugin share a common opposition to American influence in Europe and a belief in the role of Russia’s “heartland” in geopolitics, but Dugin is more attracted to Guénon and Evola than is de Benoist.

It is striking that in France, the New Right has failed in its goal of promoting an economic and social organicist doctrine opposed to individualism and globalization, despite the short period when, with Bruno Mégret in an influential position during the late 1980s, the National Front drew on its ideas. Under Marine Le Pen, this influence remains so far as the criticism of the global ruling class, the condemnation of financial capitalism and the support for a multipolar world are concerned, but the National Front has taken a very different direction from de Benoist in promoting the republican model of assimilating minorities to the Leitkultur (hegemonic common culture) as a solution to the multicultural society. De Benoist’s writings are aimed at an intellectual readership and cannot easily be translated into the populist language of Le Pen.

 

Conclusion

Drawing from Antonio Gramsci’s works has proved to be a mixed success for de Benoist and GRECE, although on a theoretical level they were able to refresh both the radical and the mainstream right with their anti-egalitarian thought. De Benoist was instrumental in lessening the influence on the French right of Action française (French Action) and its interwar leader Charles Maurras, whose reactionary and often Catholic fundamentalist followers he saw as blocking the adaptation of the right to the contemporary world.[48] Alain de Benoist has planted seeds as a philosopher which will eventually take roots later on, most probably contributing to critical thinking on both sides of the political spectrum than in the mainstream, and even the populist right.

 

Notes

[1] Alain de Benoist : Bibliographie 1960–2010 (Paris: éditions Les amis d’Alain de Benoist, 2009). Most of his later works are available on the internet: see http://www.alaindebenoist.com/textes/.

[2] Inspired by Alexandre Marc, Robert Aron, Arnaud Dandieu and Emmanuel Mounier, the non-Conformists rejected totalitarian ideologies as an answer to the crisis of the 1930s and called instead for a “new order” going beyond individualism and liberalism.

[3] Mohler’s 1949 dissertation on this topic was published in France as La révolution conservatrice en Allemagne: 1918–1932 (Puiseaux: Editions Pardès, 1993). Mohler spoke at GRECE conventions as early as 1975.

[4] In the December 2017 edition of Eléments, he speaks in favor of a “Revolutionary-Conservative solution” to the contradiction between mainstream conservative values and the political impotence of conservatives because of their alliance with the liberal right.

[5] In the sense of Louis Dumont’s Essais sur l’individualisme (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1983). Dumont makes a distinction between egalitarian individualism, whose roots can be found in Christianity, and “individualism of the singular,” which is specific to traditional societies.

[6] He has however published an account of his life (Mémoire vive, Paris: Editions de Fallois, 2012) and a sort of diary (Dernière Année. Notes pour conclure le siècle, Lausanne: L’age d’homme, 2001).

[7] Jean-Yves Le Gallou, “’Mémoire vive’ de Alain de Benoist” (17 August 2013), available https://www.polemia.com/memoire-vive-de-alain-de-benoist/.

[8] Coston was one of the most strident prewar Anti-Semites, then a collaborationist. He was obsessed with the Jewish-Freemason conspiracy theory, to which he devoted his postwar writings as well.

[9] Alain de Benoist, Les idées à l’endroit (Paris : Hallier, 1979), p. 62.

[10] Together with, among others, the Italian journalist, Giorgio Locchi, his fellow countryman Antonio Lombardo, French students to become academics Jean-Claude Rivière, Pierre Bérard, Pierre Vial and journalist Jean-Claude Valla. Nouvelle école, August-September 1968, p.86.

[11] Steuckers was once de Benoist’s assistant before breaking away and launching his own movement, Synergies européennes (European Synergies).

[12] Costanzo Preve, Eloge du communautarisme : Aristote—Hegel—Marx (Paris: Editions Krisis, 2012).

[13]The review of the Anti-Utilitarian Social Science Movement, Mouvement anti-utilitariste en sciences sociales, MAUSS) of the academic economists Serge Latouche and Alain Caillé.

[14][14] C. Lasch: The Revolt of the Elites: And the Betrayal of Democracy. W. W. Norton & Co, New-York City, 1995

[15] First published in Paris by éditions Albin Michel in 1981, it was translated into English as On being a Pagan, (Atlanta: Ultra, 2004) with a foreword by Stephen Flowers, also known as Edred Thorsson, an Odinist writer.

[16] In an interview with the Italian monthly Area, close to Aleanza Nazionale, March 2000.

[17] Alan de Benoist, interview with Nietzsche Académie, 14 October 2013. Available http://nietzscheacademie.over-blog.com/article-alain-de-benoist-120592080.html.

[18] See his most exhaustive critic of capitalism in Alain de Benoist, Critiques, Théoriques (Paris: L’Age d’Homme, 2002).

[19] Alain de Benoist, Le moment populiste (Paris : PGDR, 2017). This book was written “in memory of Paul Piccone and Costanzo Preve.”

[20] See Martin Buber : I and Thou. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New-York, 1937

[21] In a conference held in Barcelona, and available on the Krisis website (http://www.revue-krisis.com/2017/08/identites-alain-de-benoist.html), De Benoist contends that “We are first and foremost what we have become, and it is on this basis that we can project ourselves into the future. There is no identity without transformation and the important thing is to look at those two concepts in a non-contradictory way.”

[22] Pierre-André Taguieff, La force du préjugé (Paris: La Découverte, 1988), p. 337.

[23] Alain de Benoist, “Phobies en tous genres et point Godwin: l’Etat se defend comme il peut,” 3 March 2014, available http://www.bvoltaire.fr/phobies-en-genre-points-godwin-letat-se-defend-il-peut/.

[24] See Carl Schmitt, Der Begriff des Politischen (Berlin: Duncker und Humblot, 1932). De Benoist was introduced to Schmitt’s thought by Julien Freund, a French sociologist who had sympathy for the New Right.

[25] See his book Les traditions d’Europe (Arpajon: éditions du Labyrinthe, 1996), a compendium of articles published in the bulletin of GRECE.

[26] On immigration leading to “social pathologies” and on his condemnation of Islamophobia, see his interview with Dugin’s website Katehon (26 August 2016), at http://katehon.com/fr/article/alain-de-benoist-burkini-il-faut-aborder-frontalement-la-question-de-limmigration. On the link between immigration and capitalism, see Alain de Benoist, Survivre à la pensée unique (Paris: Krisis, Paris, 2015), pp.140–143.

[27] See his interview in Eléments 8–9 (1974).

[28] Eléments 72 (Winter 1991), p. 23.

[29]Benoit Marpeau, “Le rêve nordique de Jean Mabire,” Annales de Normandie 43, no. 3 (1993), pp. 215–241. De Benoist later published a bibliography of Mabire, who is considered an iconic figure of the identitarian and far-right Neo-Pagan movements, Alain de Benoist, Bibliographie de Jean Mabire (Pont-Authou [Normandie]: Editions Héligoland, 2008).

[30] Mabire notes his debt to Augier (who wrote as “Saint-Loup”) in Jean Mabire, “Ils ont rêvé l’Europe des patries charnelles,” Réfléchir et Agir 17 (2006). Available http://www.terreetpeuple.com/les-eveilleurs-de-peuples-memoire-15/156-jean-mabire/422-ils-ont-reve-leurope-des-patries-charnelles-par-jean-mabire.html.

[31] In the fifth edition, published in 2001, the author claims sales of 25,000, a huge figure for a 590-page volume conveying ideas that were against the tide of post-1968 liberal ideology.

[32] Alain de Benoist, Vu de droite (Arpajon: Editions du Labyrinthe, 2001), p. xii.

[33] De Benoist, Vu de droite, p. xii. English translation by Robert A. Linndgren, taken from View from the Right (NP: Arktos, 2017).

[34] De Benoist, interview with Nietzsche Académie.

[35] Alain de Benoist, Quatre figures de la Révolution Conservatrice allemande—Werner Sombart—Arthur Moeller van den Bruck—Ernst Niekisch—Oswald Spengler (Paris : Editions Les amis d’Alain de Benoist, 2014).

[36] Tomislav Sunic, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right (NP: Arktos Media, 2011), p. 95. The title of this work implies that the New Right rebukes democracy and the fact that de Benoist wrote the foreword seems to acknowledge that he shares Sunic’s own anti-democratic worldview. Instead, one can say he opposes modern, representative democracy and stands for direct democracy, on the ground that participation is more fundamental than representation.

[37] Alain de Benoist, “Types et figures dans l’oeuvre d’Ernst Junger: Le Soldat du

front, le Travailleur, le Rebelle et l’Anarque,” lecture in Rome, May 1997. Available https://www.centrostudilaruna.it/types-et-figures-dans-loeuvre-dernst-junger-le-soldat-du-front-le-travailleur-le-rebelle-et-lanarque.html.

[38] Alain de Benoist, “An introduction to Ernst Jünger,” The Occidental Quarterly 8, no. 3 (Fall 2008), p. 53.

[39] Georges Naughton ; Le choc du passé : Avortement, Néo-Nazisme, Nouvelle morale (La Celle Saint-Cloud: GARAH, 1974).

[40] Before the start of GRECE, De Benoist had authored a small book, Les Indo-Européens (Paris: G.E.D., 1965), devoted to the Indo-European roots of Western civilization and Günther, an academic who had been involved in Nazi “race research,” was briefly on the academic board of Nouvelle école, the first issue of which was published in 1968, the same year he died.

[41] See his seminal book, La Force du préjugé. Essai sur le racisme et ses doubles (Paris: La Découverte, 1988).

[42] Pierre-André Taguieff, “Appel à une Europe de la vigilance contre l’extrême droite,” Le Monde 13 July 1993.

[43] Martine Bulard, “Le refus de l’amalgame,” L’Humanité-Dimanche 15 July 1993.

[44] Roger Griffin, “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the ‘Interregnum’“ Modern & Contemporary France. 8 (2000), pp. 35–53.

[45] Anton Shekhovtsov, “Alexander Dugin and the European New Right, 1989–1994,” in Marlene Laruelle, ed., Eurasianism and the European Far Right: Reshaping the EuropeRussia Relationship (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015), pp. 35–53.

[46] Alexandre Douguine, L’appel de l’Eurasie : Conversation avec Alain de Benoist (NP : Avatar éditions, 2013).

[47] Being under sanctions from the United States, but not from the European Union, because of his involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, Dugin was obliged to speak via a satellite link from Moscow.

[48] In “Maurras écrivain, artiste, poète,” Bulletin Charles Maurras April 2001, de Benoist writes that Maurras was a man of the nineteenth century.

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