Some Notes on the European “New Right”

About Margaret Quigley

Prepared as a working paper by Margaret Quigley for Political Research Associates, January 1, 1991 for Chip Berlet and Margaret Quigley, “Theocracy and White Supremacy: Behind the Culture War to Restore Traditional Values,Public Eye Magazine, December 1992; and was collected in Chip Berlet, ed. 1995. Eye’s Right! Challenging the Right Wing Backlash. Boston, South End Press. Quigley’s research paper was also used in preparing Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons, 2000 RightWing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, New York: Guilford Press.

One New Right trait that appeals to progressives is its critique of capitalism, which is more than a shallow rejection of capitalism. The New Right condemns the cultural imperialism of the US, which is the milieu in which they call for a Gramscism of the Right.

The New Right rejects what it calls the “economism” of both capitalistic democracy and socialism, under which all transactions are reduced to their economic meaning and value (Benoist speaks of “this world of calculated thought which weighs all values to the right price”). This critique of economism is derived from Oswald Spengler, another hero of the New Right, who argued that democracies, by reducing everything to an immense economic transaction, destroyed themselves through money. One commentator argued that this economism “leads to social alienation, the obsession with privacy and individualism, and most important, to ethnic and national uprootedness or “entwurze lung. ‘ With this breakdown of ethnic ties occurs, liberal societies are left with social atomization, followed by what Othmar Spann calls ‘the battle of all against all,’ which leads directly to communist totalitarianism. ” (Sunic, p. 87) It is through this rejection of economism, in part, that the New Right arrives at its call for a New Right Gramscism: what is important to the New Right is not economic, but cultural power. In the US, Buchanan initiated the call for a kuturkampf, a struggle over culture.

The New Right critique of the neo-conservatives is based in part on the fact that the neoconservatives reject the economic system of Marxism, without recognizing the deeper problem, that it was egalitarianism itself “that led to the Gulag. ” This connects to the New Right theme of “the battle of all against all. ” New Rightists argue that in a world which aspires to egalitarianism, those who reject its precepts will always be treated with utter brutality because they have placed themselves outside the principle on which the society is organized.

This theory derives in part from Carl Schmitt, a German jurist and Nazi supporter, who the New Right claims as an intellectual forerunner. Schmitt identifies politics as the distinction bet ween friend and foe, claims it is the basis of man’s humanity, and argues that liberal and socialist societies wrongly seek to de-politicize societies. The perpetual peace they seek to impose is not just unlikely but dangerous: in the depoliticized sphere, violence in unrestrained and universal; in the political world, its imposition is limited to the enemy. For a nation to choose a politics of peace is to commit suicide. (Another favored New Right theorist is Vilfredo Pareto, who argued that force was the only language people understand. Pareto once said, “Whoever becomes a lamb will find a wolf to eat him. “)

From Schmitt as well the New Rightists take the idea that democracies are false and shallow because they claim to believe in universal egalitarianism while they in fact make distinctions between citizens and others, and exclude foreigners from positions of power and affluence.

The New Right is, in general, very critical of the role of intellectuals, although it is itself a quintessentially intellectual movement. [According to the New Right] intellectuals are not rooted in an ethnic historical context…are not committed to a mission, and thus are vulnerable to adoption of any dominant ideology. De Benoist notes that intellectuals provided the backbone of French collaborators in the forties and that intellectuals today prop up the discredited liberal and communist systems. The New Right adopts Gramsci’s notion of “organic intellectuals,” who are both popular leaders and scholars; intellectuals of the New Right are expected to be engaged in building and organizing the movement, not merely in sterile academic discussions.

The New Right argues that its embrace and use of fascist ideology does not make the movement itself fascist. It claims that the intellectual terrorists of the post-war era consigned many scholars and ideas to oblivion because they were branded fascist. Such ideas grew out of a larger milieu and it is the New Right’s goal to rehabilitate much of that thought.

Another connection in the context of the U. S. debate on multiculturalism. The European New Right introduced the term “cultural terrorists” to refer to its critics, in a usage that presaged the U. S. obsession with political correctness.

The New Right “has also become parasitic on other movements, mostly on the far left, that preach anti-Americanism, environmentalist controls, and the demilitarization of Western Europe. The French New Right now seems to be divided between support for the right-wing National Front [Le Pen’s group] and for the leftist Greens. Its members move back and forth, without apparent embarrassment, between extolling Catholic counter- revolutionaries and calling for tighter enforcement in French Public schools of the Laic Laws of 1905.

It has become almost obligatory to refer to the insufficiency of “right” and “left” as organizing categories in political analysis. De Benoist has claimed, “Personally, I am totally indifferent to the issues of being or not being on the right. At the moment being, the ideas which it (the New Right) espouses are on the right, but they are not necessarily “of the right. ” I can easily imagine situations where these ideas could be on the left. ” (Sunic quote, p. 13).

The term “European New Right” is used here to refer to a group of thinkers centered around the organization G. R. E. C. E. : Groupement de Recherche et d’Etudes de la Civilisation Europeenne (Group for the Research and Study of European Civilization).

The New Right dates back to 1979 (it held its first press conference on September 18th of that year), although it claims intellectual roots in the French national socialist movements of 1890-1920, and the German conservative revolution of the teens, as well as other thinkers such as Nietzsche, Spengler, and Hegel. In Germany, the principal organs and individuals of the New Right are “Elemente”, “Thule Seminar”, Neue Kultur, Pierre Krebs, and Wigbert Grabert, Sigrid Hunke; in England, it is Michael Walker and his publication Scorpion, although it is possible to trace other influences with the British National Front; in France, it is Alain De Benoist, Guillaume Faye, Jean Haudry, Julien Freund GRECE, and the journals Nouvelle Ecole, Krisis, and Elements; in Belgium, Robert Steuckers and his journal Orientation; in Italy, La Destra and Elementi. Among the scholars who are identified with the New Right are Jurgen Eysenck, Julien Freund, Armin Mohler, Thomas Molnar, Tomislav Sunic, Paul Gottfried, Gorgio Locchi, and Robert Steuckers.

The European New Right bears no organizational or thematic similarity to the U. S. New Right, centered around the Reagan Revolution and such organizations as Heritage Foundation, Free Congress Foundation and the (now defunct) Moral Majority. The European New Right can be linked ideologically to what has come to be called the U. S. paleoconservative right, the result of a schism within the New Right at the time of the Gulf War over issues such as Israel, anti-Semitism and the relative importance of racial/cultural and economic issues. Neoconservatives continued to assert conservatism’s roots in classical liberalism: individualism.

Differences between the European right and the U. S. right include the latter’s generally unquestioning exception of constitutionalism, rule of law, and democracy, coupled with its distrust of untrammeled state authority. Sunic also notes that there is a deep strain of pessimism, even nihilism, on the European right, that contrasts with the Judeo-Christian values in the U. S. context.

The European New Right sees itself as a pan-European movement: the term G. R. E. C. E. is a homonym for the French word for Greece and also indicates the New Right’s desire to reject Europe’s Judeo-Christian roots for the polytheism of classical antiquity. The New Right’s embrace of polytheistic paganism at the expense of monotheistic Judeo-Christianity (which came to be known in Parisian circles as the New right’s game of mono-poly) is layered. The New Right argues that Christianity presupposed a universalistic world view (the one truth) and fostered a dualistic way of looking at the world (right vs. wrong). To the New Right, Christianity itself represents a prototype of totalitarianism, because of its beliefs in egalitarianism and universalism. The New Right also counters the Christian values of humility and fear, to paganism’s support for courage, strength, and personal honor. Under Judeo-Christianity,.

It is within the New Right’s criticism that its anti-Jewish sentiment can be seen perhaps most clearly. New Right theorists make it quite clear that Judaism is the basis of such pernicious ideas as egalitarianism and human rights. Tomislav Sonic, in a revealing turn of phrase, commented that “the New Right believes that the ideal of equality, human rights, constitutionalism, and universalism represent the secular transposition of non-European, Oriental and Judeo-Christian eschatology. ” (Sunic, p. 94.).

The New right’s critique of socialism and liberalism (both of which it sees as the secular descendants of the “alien” philosophy of Judeo-Christianity) starts from a belief that both movements advocate similar ideals of egalitarianism, globalism and economism, and both want to impose on all nations concepts about equality, human rights, democracy and economic policy. As between, socialism and liberalism, the New Right has rather more respect for the former. De Benoist believes that the U. S. is itself a totalitarian system, as is the USSR, and that of the two, the U. S. version, which “air-conditions hell and kills the soul,” is the more dangerous. The New Right’s belief in democrat ic totalitarianism is facilitated by its belief that totalitarianism cannot be defined by its methods, such as gas chambers or police terror.

Michael Walker, editor of the English New Rightist magazine, Scorpion, argues, “There exists a totalitarian liberal ism. If this expression appears to be an oxymoron, it goes to show how far we have been trained to disassociate liberalism from any whiff of totalitarianism. Our criteria for judging what is totalitarian (extreme ideas, concentration camps, secret police, the cult of masculinity, the veneration of the state) are, as though by chance, the criteria which nicely exclude all possible liberal methods of exercising power. ” (Sunic, p. 133) .

While other thinkers, including a number of progressives, have pointed out that the exercise of power in the liberal state may also be [repressive], the assumption of the moral equivalency of the concentration camp and the ad campaign is unique to the New Right. That this train of thought results is apologia for fascism is obvious, as this comment from De Benoist’s?? indicates, “For the New Right, the secular results of Judeo-Christianity were egalitarianism, economism, and individualism, which in turn merged into “soft” liberal totalitarianism, “continued” into communist totalitarianism, and triggered a “defense” against them by the rise of Nazi totalitarianism. (Sunic, p. 136).

Democracy, by professing an ideology of equality, and then limiting its enforcement to the sphere of political rights, is felt to contain the seeds of its own destruction. Socialism may enforce an equality of poverty, but at least it is consistent with its ideals by insisting on both factual and political equality.

The New Right is opposed to U. S. dominance in the world.

The New Right’s recapitulation of anti-Jewish themes should be clear: Appeals to anti-Jewish bigotry have a long history in French progressive circles: significant numbers of leftists were pro-fascist and pro-Nazi during the Occupation, while French leftists during the 1920’s argued that heroic anti-Semitism was quintessentially French.

In lieu of the liberal belief in egalitarianism, individual ism, and human rights, the New Right puts forward its belief in the importance of the ethnic, national and historical identities of people. The New Right believes that people are born with different degrees of ability which correspond in large measure to racial and ethnic differences.

The New Right’s turn away from concern with economistic factors for cultural factors was as much ideological as practical: in addition to believing that people will support issues of culture and race, the New Right itself believes that such issues are more important than the nature of a nation’s government. The New Right is a firm supporter of the eugenics movement, which explores purported racial differences in ability and genetic heritage. [See for example Hans Eyesenk and Roger Pearson].

The New Right believes that multi-ethnic societies are untenable. Some ethnic groups will not be able to adapt to the larger group’s identity, or will not wish to. This failure to join together in an organic national mission will lead the majority to feel uprooted, and will result in turn in racism and violent nationalism.

The New Right critique of human rights grows out of its nationalism, both in its specific arguments for national rights in the place of human rights, and in its support of organicism. The New Right wants national rights in lieu of human rights, and it fears that the individualism presupposed by a notion of human rights will contradict the idea of an organic society, led by a powerful organic leader toward its own destiny. The New Right does not just argue that human rights provisions or advocates may be mistaken in specific cases, it argues that human rights are bad in themselves: human rights ideology “arose as a protest against love of fatherland,” it generally emerges when a nation is “plagued by hyper individualism” and undergoing “rapid disintegration. ”

The language of the New Right resounds with a demagogic appeal to mythic, heroic values that are curiously empty of content other than opposition. Alain de Benoist, for instance, says, “That which we feel ourselves strangers from, it is not a particular political formation, it is to the world in which these political formations are discussed. To participate in our enterprise, it is not to choose one group against another. It is to change the universe. It is to give the world again its colors: to the memory, its dimensions; to the people, a historical possibility. It is to be at the listening post of history and to feel there again the call of the gods gone by and the gods to come.” (Alain de Benoist, “Les Causes Culturelle du Changement Politique,” “Pour un Gramscisme de Droite” {Paris: Le Labyrinthe, 1982}, pp. 9-21; translation by Margaret Quigley).

Christianity, that slave religion, insists that people are spiritually equal, are equal before God. The French Revolutionaries and democracy in general moves further to argue that people should be politically equal, equal before the law. Bolshevism goes beyond both to put forth the specious argument that people are equal in fact, equal in the eyes of science.

The main thing that makes Patrick Buchanan’s views fundamentally different from the European New Right is his fervent Catholicism. But this is not without precedent among the pagans of the New Right. In France, the New Right often praises Catholic theorists, such as the distributionism of G. K. Chesterton and the anti-egalitarian philosophy of Joseph de Maistre.

The New Right argues that its philosophy is something more than a recycled fascism. De Benoist, for example, “insists on the sui generis character of “his” right. ” Without such a caveat, it might be difficult to see how the positions of the New Right differ from classical fascism: both despise democracy.

The New Right, like fascism, rejects reason as a guide for human behavior, embracing the mystical and irrational. The Neue Kultur manifesto, published in Germany by Thule Seminar, states: “Our school stresses the primacy of life over all transmitted world views, the primacy of soul over spirit, the primacy of feelings over intellect, and finally of character over reason. ” (Sunic wrote, p. 160.)

In 1984, I. R. Barnes wrote in Mainstream, published by a Jewish organization, that “The New Right culturally transmits Fascist and neo-Fascist ideas, thereby normalizing Fascism within an intellectual elite. ” (Sunic, p. 25; [cited again in Sunic and Benoist, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right].

The New Right says that its anti-egalitarianism is its starting point. Because it opposes egalitarianism in any form, it opposes Marxism and liberalism, both universalist and egalitarian systems. Any political system the New Right institutes must start from an understanding that people are not equal–not spiritually, politically or factually equal.

One commentator sympathetic to the New Right has claimed that the essence of the German conservative revolution movement was “the absolute subordination of individuals to the collectivity and the negation of individual autonomy. ” (Sunic, p. 41) This subordination is the basis on any concept of an organic society and is closely related to the New Right’s critique of egalitarianism, a political doctrine based on the primacy of the individual.

The New Right’s political positions are difficult to summarize. It is opposed to egalitarianism, democracy, capitalism, U. S. multi-nationals and U. S. cultural, diplomatic and military presence in Europe and the third World, and the modern mass society, economism, liberalism, communism, socialism, modernism, universalism, individualism, Christianity, monotheism, belief in the inevitability of human progress, parliamentary procedures and the rule of law, excessive technology and the loosening of social ties brought about by the Industrial Revolution.

The New Right favors organicism, paganism, pantheism, strong government, strong leaders, and the fostering of a sense of a community’s spirit and sense of its historical destiny. That sense of historical destiny is derived from Hegel’s concept of community world spirit, Nietzsche’s will to power, and Spengler, who argued that each person was born into a specific time, people, religion, culture, etc., and that all attempts at changing one’s destiny were helpless.

The New Right urges a repudiation of any sense of responsibility or guilt for the racist and imperialistic actions of the countries of Europe in the Third World. Such concerns, they argue, paralyze Europeans, and leave them defenseless against the new conquerors.



Tomislav Sunic, The European New Right and the Crisis of Modern Polity (doctoral thesis, University of California, Santa Barbara).

Tomislav Sunic and Alain De Benoist, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right.

The late Margaret Quigley was, until her untimely death in 1993, an analyst at Political Research Associates.