Reflection on Transnational Reaction to 1968

By Alex Wittmann

The 1960s was a time of social change globally. There were student demonstrations and massive protests in the United States as part of a backlash to Vietnam. In Europe there were was the creation of a new left as a response to traditional establishment governments, as shown in the article Not Narrating the History of the Federal Republic, there were leftist demonstrations against the conservative West German establishment. The article Transnational Reaction to 1968: Neo-Fascist Fronts and Political Cultures in France and Italy highlights the fact that there were right wing movements in Italy and France culminating in 1968 that were related. The article shows that right wing cultural activism and historical movements such as the rise of right wing militants are not always regulated to a country’s borders. The right wing reactionary movements creating the Movimento Sociale Italiano heavily influenced the creation of the National Front in France as an example. The article identifies that in the late 1960s, there existed a hegemony of leftism in Europe. Culminating from student movements to the communist governments in place in Eastern Europe. The question was, where did the right fit in. The article mentions how right wing movements in France and Italy, as a backlash to leftism defended traditional principles of colonialism. The 1960s was a time of rapid decolonization and the French right articulated whatever it could in order to hold onto its traditional empire. The anti immigrant rhetoric used by the far right movements in both France and Italy is also not dissimilar to the populist playbook that is articulated from Europe’s right today. This anti immigrant rhetoric was shared between right wing movements in both France and Italy. In this sense we can equate the events of 1968 to today when right wing populist movements across Europe are interconnected in their fear and resentment of immigration. It is interesting to see how European right wing movements were interconnected in 1968 much to the same way they are interconnected today.

Source Cited:

Andrea Mammon, “The Transnational Reaction to 1968: Neo-Fascist Fronts and Political Cultures in France and Italy.” Contemporary European History, vol. 17, no. 2 (May 2008): 213–236.

Metapolitical Chimerism of the Nouvelle Droite

By Absalom Sink

The protests of 1968 are often held up as the apotheosis of the New Left—to borrow from Hunter Thompson, the “high water mark[…] where the wave finally broke and rolled back”—as the student activism that undergirded them generally failed to meet their revolutionary aims. But as this week’s readings make clear, 1968 also served as a critical inflection point in the trajectory of the ultranationalist right: the French protests of May ’68 provided a crucial impetus for the genesis of a French, and later transnational, “New Right.”

Tamir Bar-On’s “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite” examines the ideological influences Alain de Benoist’s ‘Nouvelle Droite’ (ND), and the factors that allowed it to transcend national boundaries and become a transnational cultural and metapolitical movement. Bar-On predicates the ND’s success on the prolific output of its ideological architect, de Benoist, on the movement’s ability to metamorphose following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and its adoption of Gramscian hegemonic theory. The latter stems from de Benoist and his fellow travelers’ “hatred and envy for the [left] 1968ers”: the mass-mobilization of leftist activists and students had shown the radical right the extent to which left-wing politics had captured “hearts and minds”. The goal of the ND, then, was to “regain cultural power from the liberal left by regaining the ‘laboratories of thought,’” that is, through the creation of a web of think-tanks, journals, conferences, and by carving out spaces in universities sympathetic to ND discourse.1

Key to this right-wing neo-Gramscianism was a necessity for transmission and adoption of ND ideology and ethos beyond France. After all, communism, egalitarianism, socialism, liberalism all would continue to exist outside France even if ‘defeated’ within France, and thus might reenter the French cultural discourse. The fight would need to be transnational in order to succeed.2 The attempt to export ND abroad met with varying levels of success; Richard Marchi’s “The Nouvelle Droite in Portugal” argues that Portugal’s Nova Direita “seemed influenced less by the content and more by the methods of the French ND,” and adopted ND tactics like Gramscianism, while eschewing aspects like the ND’s anti-Christianism.

With all that said, it is crucial to recognize that even the French ND is not a static entity; rather, it is a metapolitical chameleon, changing its colours to camouflage its ideological underpinnings within the broader politico-cultural discourse. At core, the New Right is a “transnational ideological cocktail,” a chimera born from disparate parts, and everchanging to match the prevailing political conditions in such a way that it can always be tugging the discourse to the right.

1This right-wing Gramscianism has been reflected again in recent years in alt-right and far-right discourse about shifting the “Overton Window”

2 Similarities to Italy’s attempt to export fascism in the interwar years is not coincidental; as both Bar-On and Roger Griffin make plain, the self-described ‘superfascist’ Julius Evola was a key ideological influence on the French ND.

Works Cited

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

Tamir Bar-On, “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite,” Patterns of Prejudice 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 8, no. 1 (Feb. 2000): pp. 35–53.

Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (New York: Random House, 1972)

The Nouvelle Droit and Online Discourse – Andrew Devenish

As a political movement and “cultural school of thought” formed in France in 1968, the Nouvelle Droit (or ND) gave a new paradigm for the right in Europe, allowing the right to take inspiration from CR thinkers who supported fascism. While Bor-an says the ND is not a fascist movement, it has connections and roots in fascism. When he was accused of covert racism and fascism by Roger Griffin, Alain de Benoist ardently denied these claims, instead calling himself an “anti-fascist” and “anti-racist”. Benoist does not believe that the way forward for Europe is in socialism or liberalism, and that electoral politics or violence is not the way to power. Instead, Benoist wants to implement a vision of a pan-European “Europe of a Hundred Flags” in which every regional ethnicity would have sovereignty, and the way to achieve this is through a cultural hegemony in which the ND comes to control the dominant values in society.

Bor-an argues that the ND and Benoist, with their “politically correct” language and the CR legacy of an “anti-fascist fascism” have influenced many movements on the right since the 1970s, and I would argue that these ideas continue to influence the right to this day, specifically prominently in online discourse. You can see much of the ND in political discourse online today, with many people using the “politically correct” language of the ND, with less innocuous political ideas hiding behind that language, just like with the ND itself. Specifically, the idea of the “Europe of a Hundred Flags”, is similar to the ideas that are featured prominently in right-wing political discussions online today. This is the idea that every ethnic group deserves its own sovereign identity and political organization, and that immigrants should be expelled so that each country in Europe can be its own homogenous society, with Europe as a continent being “regionally diverse”. However, there is one major difference between the ND and this online political discourse – Christianity. Since the ND is a pagan movement and much of the online right that espouses ND-esque language and views, this is one area where the two groups would have major disagreements, and as Bor-an notes, this pagan orientation is a major reason why the ND has struggled to find allies in the past. However, it hasn’t fully stopped the ND from making alliances in the past, and whether the ND and online right have any actual direct connections or not, they have many similarities in their tactics and strategies.

Reconciling nationalism with transnationalism: The Nouvelle Droite and perceived oppression

By: PSjoberg

Populism, and particularly modern right-wing populism, has developed a reputation for being somewhat inward-looking. Right-wing populist movements, after all, often create an oversimplified “Other” against which “the people” of that given nation, culture, or ethnicity feel the need to defend themselves. In this way, many brands of right-wing populism appear similar to the fascist movements of the 1930s. Also like those fascist movements, the history of modern right-wing populism appears to contain elements of transnationalism.

In Tamir Bar-On’s article “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite,” and in Riccard Marchi’s article, “The Nouvelle Droite in Portugal: A New Strategy for the Radical Right in the Transition from Authoritarianism to Democracy,” the authors discuss in detail the transnational foundations of modern populist right-wing movements. While it may seem counterintuitive for right-wing populist movements to be somewhat transnational in their behaviour – as it is shocking for 1930s fascist movements to have behaved in this way – Roger Griffin, in his article, “Between Metapolitics and Apoliteia: The Nouvelle Droite’s Strategy for Conserving the Fascist Vision in the ‘Interregnum’,” produces the key to this puzzle.

Griffin’s examination of the intertwining themes of metapolitics and apoliteia in the Nouvelle Droite approaches the answer: right-wing populist movements are, in essence, a combination of two different political components, (1) right-wing political ideology and (2) populist political strategy. Griffin’s discussion the concept of apoliteia describes the heavily nationalistic nature of most right-wing populist movements. Moreover, Griffin is correct in the importance he places on the Nouvelle Droite’s metapolitics and the concept of a populist Weltanschauung. Populism being more of a political strategy than an ideology is therefore prone to transnational tendencies, for the purpose of exchanging lessons and tactics across national boundaries.

This dichotomy between metapolitics and apoliteia ties in well with the concept of right-wing Gramscianism, as discussed in the Bar-On reading. While seeming like a contrarian term itself, right-wing Gramscianism perfectly describes the combination of strong identity-formation of the Nouvelle Droite (as is important in all populist and nationalist movements) with the guiding principle of anti-elitism, which transcends national boundaries.

These three discussed readings are successful at demonstrating the complex nature of right-wing identity formation in the rapidly liberalizing West European landscape in the latter half of the twentieth century, through their analysis of the dichotomy between staunch exclusive identity formation and transnational tendencies.

Sources:

Marchi, Riccard. “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.

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

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.