Espousing the Cultural New Left into the New Right: A Case Study on the Nouvelle Droite in the Post-War Period

I think fundamentally it is important to start by saying that just like the Left, there are many forms and thoughts that come from the Right and their ideologies. This is what particularly stood out in this week’s reading as we investigate the ambiguous nature of the Nouvelle Droite as a school of thought that can now hold a political influence for the contemporary far right. The ND’s line was between what Roger Griffin described as a mirror of “anti-fascist fascism” that then mixes into the ideology that took influence from the New Left movement in 1968. Griffin outlined how despite looking Left, for a contemporary reader, ND was inspired by Armin Mohler’s thesis on the “Conservative Revolution” which held sympathy for non-Nazi German fascism. What separated Benoist’s New Right, however, was his understanding of the new fear of fascism in the world post-WW2. Using the wave of postmodern thinkers in 1968, and as my title alludes to, Benoist managed to couple New Left thought into his own New Right, despite its extreme right ideological disguise.

To hold ground in the new anti-fascist world, Benoist saw how the culture post-war was becoming predominantly more liberal and progressive, and he himself used Gramsci’s theory that it was “cultural hegemony in civil society,” those that control dominant values, “that promised long-term dominant power.” This was then applied to his New Right, designing a “politically-correct” form of right-wing politics by using the new cultural ideas of the Left to fuel his space. By stepping away from the negative terms of fascism, racism, and others that have been applied to Nazism or Italian fascism, and rather redesigning similar ideas into a more pan-European understanding, Benoist was able to use the new postmodern ideas like anti-colonialism, to push his still nationalist platform.  

Perhaps, his line of thinking in using New Left was brilliant. By using the liberal environment, ND became a transnational phenomenon for its methodology in use by the far right. Portugal stands as an example by agreeing to the right-wing Gramscian ideology and using this to push individual far-right ideas. In both France and Portugal, the new method of applying right-wing politics was through cultural means, especially by designing journals and news sources to define the New Right’s attempt at creating its own dominant viewpoint. In one case, it could be seen with Benoist’s Nouvelle Ecole and in Portugal, it was with Futuro Presente. Indeed, by placing themselves into the cultural world rather than just political, the New Right has made their transnational “school of thought” remain influential today.

And in a sense, this may explain the appeal to the far-right today. Le Pen’s “softening” of the National Rally may espouse the ND’s use of liberal ideas to attempt to create a new and separate cultural hegemony, one that is pan-European but allows for far-right groups to hold their nationalist values. With the ND, it has allowed groups today to avoid the words that link back to fascism but also allow the remnants of fascism to still hold within their own policies. In a horrifying and alarmist tone, maybe the ND’s Gramscian understanding has helped create a vagueness around the new far-right and has allowed the thoughts to become more mainstream now that liberal democracy continues to crack in its foundation.

References:

Tamir Bar-On, “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite.” Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 45, no. 3 (July 2011): 199–223.

Roger Griffin, “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the ‘Interregnum.’” Modern & Contemporary France, vol. 8, no. 1 (Feb. 2000): pp. 35–53.

Riccard Marchi, “The Nouvelle Droite in Portugal: A New Strategy for the Radical Right in the Transition from Authoritarianism to Democracy.” Patterns of Prejudice vol. 50, no. 3 (July 2016): 232–52.

One Reply to “Espousing the Cultural New Left into the New Right: A Case Study on the Nouvelle Droite in the Post-War Period”

  1. The change in rhetoric is definitely interesting, especially when Bar-On describes it as being a distraction, almost; the Nouvelle Droite changes its rhetoric, changes its opponents, changes its allies, but never changes its aims. One has to wonder how effective a political strategy it is: of the moderates/left-wingers it attracts when it takes on their rhetoric, how many does it retain when it switches back? Does that, and the veneer of legitimacy that change brings, make up for the far-right individuals who reject this ‘dishonesty’ or ‘inauthenticity’? It probably did, simply in terms of breaking the taboo of collaboration with these parties, as happened in Italy and Austria; and those parties are now free to revert back to their conservative stances, having burnished their CVs with stints in government.

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