By Daniel Williams
The Great Replacement. Not just a great sounding name for a metal band, but a nationalist/white supremacist slogan. That is the topic of a fairly recent New York Times article, addressing the term and its ‘father figure’.
Within this, we learn that the intent of the term centers around the idea that modern immigrants, especially those from African nations, do not wish to assimilate with French culture, and instead fail to integrate and would rather simply ‘replace’ French culture with their own.
Interestingly, it can be noted that Renaud Camus was originally a socialist. This is nothing new: there is a surprising pattern of many a socialist falling instead into far right patterns of thought over time. The Nouveau Droite itself played on this idea, getting radical members by playing on the divide between socilaist and new right-wing extremes.
Perhaps more interestingly is the sort of language that is used when describing the term Great Replacement. Because it’s not anything new.
South Africa has long been confronted with its own version of this concept, the idea that Afrikaner and white populations within South Africa has a history of extreme thinkers and radicals suggesting that a black takeover is inevitable. Even before the end of Apartheid, neo-fasicst and far right groups were actively propagating such ideas.
Why then is France different? What makes France’s case so unique that Camus gets the glory for coming up with this concept? Perhaps it can all be tied to a lack of historical reckoning.
France has, historically, been a colonizer. One of the best (or worst, depending on your perspective) colonizers of the world. France has, by extension, been a ‘mother country’ in the colonial context. France hasn’t been forced to reckon with this past, not entirely, and dealing with the idea that France is no longer in some cultural way ‘above’ former colonies and peoples, may be part of the way that these white supremacist notions grow to be so powerful.
Unfortunately, the idea has stuck one way or another. Whether it can be rooted out, or called out for what it is, remains to be seen.