The New Right Movements

Emma C

After this week’s readings about 1968 and the new right, I really enjoyed reading about countries that I am less familiar with, such as France. I hadn’t learned much about France in my earlier historical studies but reading the Bar-On article opened my eyes that a country that is today seen as very liberal, had such a strong support for the idea of the “white man.” I think it is key to acknowledge that although France is seen as a liberal country today, influences from past beliefs and movements in France can be seen today through racially targeted laws.

From the Bar-On article, what I was reminded of was how transnational many of the ideologies and beliefs of these new right groups were and how they wanted their messages to be spread beyond France’s borders, “Benoist’s website provides translations of his works in eight European languages: French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Polish and Czech.” (211). Prior to the postwar and the emergence of the new right before technology advanced, I think these far-right ideologies typically, stayed contained or travelled small distances. With beliefs that their messages and movements are important the way in which these types of groups operated changed. Rather than operating one group in France, with the ability to share information and people looking for change and something to believe in/belong to groups are able to mobilize supporters in other countries, making them more powerful. We can see how the transnationality of far-right groups has continued to evolve today with how easily we can communicate and share ideas internationally.

As is demonstrated in the Griffin reading there becomes almost a sense of identity crisis, “The man of the Tradition now has no legitimate structures or causes to which to belong.” (41). People who believe in the traditional values and don’t want to move forward with the way the country is progressing may feel forgotten and left behind. A person who was once a prominent member of society know feels their voice isn’t being heard. This thinking can be seen today as the world moves forward and progresses older generations whose voice once held power, feel that they are being left behind. This can cause tension in countries between generation, and it becomes traditional against progressive. Things that were being done 50 years ago, aren’t proper to be doing today. It becomes a balancing act of how to acknowledge a generation and make them feel heard, while also being progressive to keep with the times.

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.

The Right as International and Flexible

D.Khaznadji

Can I just start by saying how fascinating the reading on the Evolian imagination was? The attribution of mythical origins for the Aryans and of an early struggle in order to legitimize racist/fascist ideologies is, though familiar, nevertheless put in a particular light here. I feel like this is more “exotic” than your usual right-wing European movement. As Tobin asserts, Evola did not hesitate in flirting with Islam in his quest for Traditionalism. The interest in paganism also marks a difference with something like the great replacement theory, who vows to protect a Christian idea of Europe. I guess the conclusion here is that though the various right-wing groups in Europe have several similar themes, it would be wrong to consider them part of a uniform movement.

The reading on the French Nouvelle Droite (ND) was also interesting. It shows once again the capacity of right-wing ideas to adapt to the current times. The article points out that Benoist was willing to open dialogue with leftists to cultivate a “tolerant” image. In fact, the various sources of influence for the ND was what allowed them to have such a large audience; not just in France but much beyond. This relates to one of our earlier readings about the right depending on internationalism. Regardless of how much one claims to hate supra-national institutions, any movement will have to gain some sort of support abroad. That was true a century ago and it is true today. 

Indeed, the ND aims at building a “pan-national European Empire” who will supposedly serve as wall for the north-African and sub-Saharan “invaders”. It is honestly crazy how open French right leaning talk shows are about this. Various commentators and essayist like Eric Zemmour come and talk about how France and Europe needs to save themselves from those immigrants. The case of Zemmour is very ironic since he himself has Algerian origins. 

I am a little uncertain about the ND’s agenda to stand against the European Union in order to present a strong opposition to the US. Considering the EU has been struggling to achieve strategic autonomy — in other words be able to defend itself and launch missions without US support —, I am curious to see how the Right will adapt this time. 

Appropriating the Narratives of the Second World War for a Contemporary Context

By Ali Yasin

Our readings this week focused on the ideological transformation undertaken by the subversive right, and left, during the transnational student protest movements of the late 1960’s. Although each article emphasized the characteristics which distinguished post-war revolutionary ideologies from their pre-war counterparts, an enduring tendency which appears in the politics of both the “New Right” and the “New Left”, is the appropriation of the Second World War’s historical narratives for a contemporary context. Both ideologies present a distinctly Manichean worldview in which modern society is holistically dominated by corrupting influences and undergoing a phase of terminal decline.

The “New Left”, as represented by the West German student movement of 1968, regarded the liberal states of post-war Europe as not being post-fascist democracies, but pre-fascist societies like the Weimar Republic, undergoing a transitionary period which would inevitably end in authoritarianism. From this assumption they argued that the Federal German Republic was fundamentally unreformable and that the revolutionary abolishment of its existing institution was the only alternative to the re-emergence of fascism in Europe. This dichotomy is best captured by the revolutionary slogans of the era “freedom or barbarism” and “revolution or authoritarianism”. Accepting the inevitability and necessity of revolution, proponents of the New Left in Germany largely favored the tactic of revolutionary vanguardism, arguing that the urgency of the situation necessitated the leadership of a small core of predominantly male revolutionary activists. An argument extremely similar to those made by Bolshevik leaning leftists during the pre-war era, but with student activists substituting the urban proletariat as the revolutionary minority charged with leading/commanding the inherently reactionary masses.

By contrast, supporters of the New Right instead claim that the democratic states of post-war Europe, represent the victory of liberal and communist imperialism over the organic revolution of the far-right. Rather than characterizing modern society as being dominated by intrinsically authoritarian influences and on a trajectory towards fascism, the New Right depicts contemporary culture as pervasively nihilistic and decadent, and on a trajectory towards spiritual decline, much like their pre-war counterparts. They also, however, reject the possibility of immediate revolutionary action, particularly in the form of fascist paramilitarism, arguing that the role of far-right activists in modern politics is to prepare the ground for a cultural transformation which will precede the political accession of the far-right.

While the objectives and tactics of the New Right differ substantially from those of the New Left, both have clearly maintained the dominant narrative of the Second World War, that of a declining society faced with a violent crossroads between two diametrically opposed alternatives, into a post-war political context. Both ideologies present themselves as the only possible alternatives to the corrosive hegemonic order which currently exists. Furthermore, they claim that if the current status quo is not actively subverted, it will inevitably decline into a state which both emotionally portray as “barbarism”, suggesting that it is a condition that is to be avoided with absolutely any, including violent, measures.

Works Cited:

Frank Biess, “Revolutionary Angst” German Angst: Fear and Democracy in the Federal Republic of Germany (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2020), 195-241

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.

Norimitsu Onishi, “The Great Replacement and Renaud Camus” New York Times (September 20, 2019)

Normally Radical

By: M. Nagy

Radical is the conception of an abrupt and far reaching re-work of an established paradigm; mainstream on the other hand is that of an idea or attitude that is regarded as a conventional norm. These two should be viewed as traditionally opposing views set against one another. When they group together in a synonymous form, there is something uniquely wrong with their conceptualizations. In this sense, there is an disconnect which has been established between what is thought should be the general consensus, and what is the actual general consensus on the norms and values of societies’. Evolian philosophy promotes a method of fascism based on, “the primacy of Tradition, which he (Evola) understood to be a set of archaic truths revealed in the most ancient human documents”1. It suggests that the leaders of a future radical change will be a unified and steadfast group who can usher civilization back into a more traditional era of society. In such a designed reality, there is a mainstream liberal worldview to push back against by a select few individuals who are capable of bending societies to their wills.

This conceptualization however exists before, during, and after the Second World War. They are neither constrained nor maintained by the conflict, in effect they exist in conjunction with it. They also are not disciplined to any designed borders (one of the true travesties of ideas is that they are not bound to territory the way people can be). The development of the Nouvelle Droite is one such example of this. A ‘New’ right wing movement based on the ideas of Alain de Benoist, an movement which challenges ideas of globalism through the use of regionalist and heavily identitarian ideology.2 It was birthed from the philosphies of Evola, but grew into a far more utilitarian and global-anti-globalist creation under de Benoist. The Nouvelle Droite is as much a part of history as it is a part of modernity. In such it exists in a space of both of the traditional and the new; a hybridized form which can call for radical change and embrace a mainstream conception of the past.

This leads me to questions on a nature of the newness that these movements claim to be, but further in how they are regarded by the general public. Should radical movements, based in century old foundations, be regarded as something new? In doing so, is there not a claim of legitimacy being made to their arguments. Further, are they not being given the spotlight in doing so for them to grow larger than they would have otherwise? Or is it best to expose and shame these anti-social philosophies back into the recesses which they were born?

1Robert Deam Tobin, “The Evolian Imagination: Gender, Race, and Class from Fascism to the New Right” Journal of Holocaust Research vol. 35, Issue2 (Confronting Hatred; Neo-Nazim, Antisemitism, and Holocaust Studies): 75-90.

2Tamir Bar-On, “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite.” Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 45, no. 3 (July 2011): 199–223.

Regaining Legitimacy –  The Far-Right Rebrands Itself:

Wesley M.

After the fascist powers were defeated by the Allied forces in 1945, the far-right were regarded politically as responsible for the war by the victorious powers. The result of this viewpoint was that the majority of fascist parties were outlawed in many European as well as American countries in the hopes of allowing for a lasting peace. The ideology of fascism did not in fact die with the many outlawed parties, rather the political ideology survived and thrived, though the shadow of WWII’s devastation loomed heavily over society’s perception of far-right politics making it extremely difficult for them to appear legitimate. So, how did the far-right get around this issue of appearing illegitimate in the eyes of the country’s citizens and how in fact were they able to re-grow themselves into the political power they represent today?

The answer is quite simple and lies within a conscious decision by far-right ideologists to rebrand themselves into seeming more acceptable by society while continuing to spread their ideology throughout various countries in hopes of eventually returning to power. As Roger Griffin explains how post-war fascism had splintered into “three basic constituents: ‘respectable’ right-wing democratic parties with an anti-democratic, illiberal subtext; minute associations of violent activists and self-styled cadres harbouring and sometimes carrying out revolutionary fantasies; dispersed intellectuals and artists who spurn activism and confine themselves to a ‘purely’ cultural or theoretical role as contributor’s to study circles and periodicals.”[1] This resurgence would be helped by their established transnational network exploiting the weaknesses within the democratic structure. For example, Professor Tamir Bar-On explores how the French Nouvelle Droite (ND) used the idea of cultural hegemony and multiculturalism as a major talking point: specifically focused around a “pan-national European framework in order to promote a ‘multiculturalism of the right’, aimed at publicly recognizing differences in order to preserve the ‘authentic’ regions of Europe against the onslaught of non-European immigrants.”[2] Griffin points out how the ND used ideas from fascist theorists Moehler and Evola to assist the rebranding: Mohler by creating new discourse for fascists, while Evola’s Apoliteia allowed for criticizing democracy while permitting them to deny being labelled as fascists.[3] Robert Deam Tobin argues that the Evolian belief in tradition has been used by the far-right in their portrayal of traditionalists versus globalists to gain support.[4] Though the far-right, with the ND serving as example, claims to not be fascist, the similar language used by them makes this claim appear hollow and rather self-serving.[5] It shows that rebranding aside, the similarities are too many to comfortably ignore. In an era where mass immigration is taking place, many are reacting quite negatively to this influx of different cultures, with the far-right capitalizing on this fear of excessive immigration causing a loss of “cultural identity through multiculturalism.”[6] This focus has allowed them to re-legitimize themselves in an era where traditional political parties are viewed with scepticism.


[1] 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): 38.

[2] Tamir Bar-On, “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite.” Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 45, no. 3 (July 2011): 208.

[3] Griffin, “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia:”: 38-48.

[4] Robert Deam Tobin, “The Evolian Imagination: Gender, Race, and Class from Fascism to the New Right” Journal of Holocaust Research vol. 35, Issue 2 (Confronting Hatred; Neo-Nazim, Antisemitism, and Holocaust Studies): 88-89.

[5] Bar-On, “Transnationalism”: 222.

[6] Norimitsu Onishi, “The Great Replacement and Renaud Camus” New York Times (September 20, 2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/world/europe/renaud-camus-great-replacement.html.

Bibliography:

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

Deam Tobin, Robert. “The Evolian Imagination: Gender, Race, and Class from Fascism to the New Right” Journal of Holocaust Research vol. 35, Issue2 (Confronting Hatred; Neo-Nazim, Antisemitism, and Holocaust Studies): 75-90.

Griffin, Roger. “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.

Onishi, Norimitsu. “The Great Replacement and Renaud Camus” New York Times (September 20, 2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/world/europe/renaud-camus-great-replacement.html.

Alison Miller

One of the things I liked about this weeks readings was the shifting of focus to France, and how France and specifically French thinkers, interacted with and inspired the far right both within Europe, and internationally.

Of particular interest was this belief in needing to bring in and create a set of academic writings for the right, as the left had a tremendous head start on the right in this regard. Despite the search for the rational, there is a lot of esoteric and conspiracy thought that found its way into a lot of these writings, especially in the case of Julius Evola’s works.

To me, Bar-On’s article was the most interesting article this week, very much highlighting the development of French “New Right” thinking and the give and take it had with other countries, as well as the emphasis on a culture hegemony (and unspoken a “culture war” that needed to be won, a concept still in use today). The irony of drawing on a lot of ideas from Gramsci is not lost on me.

On the flip side however, an emphasis on academic superiority undermined a lot of the 68s movement in Germany. Over and over again, Biess discusses how leadership in the student movement often isolated other members of the movement. While certainly not the sole reason for failure, the almost bourgeois condescension of much of the leadership isolated them from possibly forming stronger bonds with labour, who may have entertained some of the New Left’s belief system.

Fear of the Unknown Post-War

Kathleen McKinnon

I think something particularly interesting about this week’s readings is that they look at far-right movements in countries that are different from Italy and Germany, for example. France in particular is a country that is known for its liberalism and move to “freedom.” It is then an interesting case to look at in the Bar-On article since it shows a history of support for apartheid and “the white man” which help perpetuate anti-west influence by some French thinkers (pg. 202).

The fact that after WWII there was a conservative revolution in Germany for example, is interesting and it makes sense as the country moved to Western values, decadence would look overwhelming. (Griffin, 40). This caused a backlash to what was new vs. was known and what was that nation’s identity to their knowledge after two wartime periods and an interwar period that was rather harsh. This also occurred in Italy and concerned the older generation about what would happen to the kids if this continued (Griffin, 41).

I think that it is interesting that the two very often cited cases for fascism in the 20th century (Italy and Germany) are also the ones that had this “Conservative Revolution” and it possibly points to the fear of the unknown and the over-blown reports of what was happening elsewhere. If a country reads the news of another country what they will find can often be negative but that does not mean modernization is bad just because the problems become different or at least more known/publicized.

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.

The Transnational Culture Wars of the Late 1900s

Declan Da Barp

            As discussed in previous weeks, the post-war context inextricably changed how fascists characterized and expressed their beliefs. As studied through the works by Frank Biess, Tamir Bar-On, and Roger Griffin these descriptions of the New Right and New Left were heavily informed by the memory of the inter-war fascist regimes and the context of the Cold War. At the centre of the political upheaval of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s were questions of democracy and the erosion of institutions. As seen in the case of the German Student Movement of the late 1960s, the new emergency laws acted as a catalyst for protest. Much like the New Right, the Third World was of major concern for the New Left and sought to combat the Authoritarians regimes that they saw as Western pawns, as was the case with the Shah (Biess, 197), while also defending the Vietnamese citizens using language that directly connected to the Holocaust (211-212). In so doing, the New Left defined itself against the crimes of the Nazi past and perceived the West German state backsliding into fascism.

            What was central to both the New Left and New Right was the cultural wars of the age. On the Left, this took the form of childrearing where on the Right this came in the form of anti-liberalism, anti-egalitarian, and anti-multiculturalism. To these new political movements, convincing the populous and select elites of their worldview was the key to power. As stated in Griffin’s article, the New Right saw the period as one in which to “prepare the ground” through words rather than action, for the future realization of their beliefs (39). This took the form of Journals, Think-Tanks, and periodicals which internationalized these ideas (Bar-On, 212). Similar to the French writer Renaud Camus, who spread the idea of the “Great Replacement” through his writing so too was the idea of the Nouvelle Droite and the Conservative Revolution.

Works Cited

Frank Biess, “Revolutionary Angst” German Angst: Fear and Democracy in the Federal Republic of Germany (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2020), 195-241.

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.