Published on Thursday, 10 October 2013 14:16 Written by Paul Jackson
The New Right tradition
Another such fascist ‘intellectual’, or at the very least sophisticated ideologue, is Alain de Benoist. He was one of the founders of the postwar New Right in France. Broadly speaking, this intellectual strand of neo-fascism emerged in the late 1960s, as a sort of far right equivalent to the New Left of the same era – who themselves were trying to reinvent a radical ideology in the wake of it being discredited by the legacy of totalitarianism. The ideas of the New Right became influential on the French Front National as it carved out a new profile for a far right party in the 1980s and 1990s. De Benoist is still going, and is speaking at a conference in London, ‘The End of the Present World’, on 12 October this year.
(As an aside, the conference title ‘The End of the Present World’, where De Benoist is appearing alongside Alexandr Dugin and Laurent James, clearly also evokes the idea of a new era emerging. This topos of living in a period of profound transition from one era to another is a core mood found throughout the history of fascism.)
As a loose collection of intellectuals rather than street fighters, New Right ideologues developed in a number of ways since their initial origins gravitating around the French-based think-tank Groupement de recherche et d'études pour la civilisation européenne (GRECE), founded in 1968. Among other things, the ideologues who clustered around GRECE and related organisations sought to reinvent Antonio Gramsci’s Marxist theories of achieving legitimacy for a revolutionary ideology in a modern society by changing the cultural values of a community so they become favourable to radical change.
So just like New Left Marxists of the 1960s and after, the New Right also realised that culture was crucial to establishing the framework for achieving radical change in industrialised societies. But rather than reinventing revolutionary Marxism, the New Right sought to find new ways of packaging fascism, and make its core arguments for creating an ethnically pure Europe chime with postwar, western cultural values. The current crop of New Right activists seem to be gathering regularly in Britain these days too, with outlets including the IONA London Forum.
Why is this legacy important now?
Another strand of this broad movement trying to reinvent fascist traditions for the modern era includes the ‘identity movement’. This was founded in France in 2002 and has subsequently come to international prominence. The wider identity movement now drives a more coherent political group that is punching above its weight in European far right circles, Generation Identity.
Generation Identity are becoming important as they evoke a credible sense of radicalism that appeals to a younger generation of more sophisticated far right activists. Moreover, Generation Identity taps into the same aspects of reinventing fascist perspectives conceived by De Benoist and the New Right, recasting the revolutionary mythology of fascism for a new age. As a novel offshoot from the New Right tradition, Generation Identity has already made a notable impact in France and Germany. It is now also starting to develop a profile in the UK.
Impact in France
In France, publicity stunts by Generation Identity include occupying the site of a proposed mosque in Poitiers in October 2012, and storming the French Socialist Party headquarters in May 2013. At the former, activists unveiled a banner with the number 732, the year of the Battle of Tours, where Charles Martel defeated the attack by Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi’s invading Muslim army. They also produced a video of the action and tweeted during their protest. The storming the French Socialist Party headquarters was also promoted via an online video produced by the group. Using sophisticated editing and music, this styles the Generation Identity activists as dynamic, anti-establishment protesters. Clearly, this was an event they are proud of, and they are using its iconography, and new media, to develop wider appeal among Europe’s disaffected youth.
It is worth stressing that Generation Identity has a more serious, radical tenor compared to the often amorphous energies of the English Defence League, although, as the protest in Poitiers highlights, both groups clearly gravitate around the common, Islamophobic theme that now animates large sections of the contemporary far right. Generation Identity also cuts a more dynamic image when compared to the sometimes Colonel Blimpish profile of a party such as the British National Party. Rather, this far right grouping has a strong set of ideas running through it, as well as a dynamic that is likely to appeal to younger, and potentially more educated, sympathisers – an alienated generation for whom ideas as well as action are important.
The fascist ideals of Generation Identity
So what is Generation Identity all about? What are its guiding ideals? One good place to turn is a book published by one of the movement’s most prominent voices, Markus Willinger. In his highly readable short polemic, Generation Identity: A Declaration of War Against the ’68ers – also published by Arktos, who produce a vast array of intellectual material relevant to the New Right tradition – he talks of a coming nationalist revolution where multiculturalism will be no more, and where traditions forgotten by a generation of Europeans will be restored. Tellingly, this self-styled ‘declaration of war’ is available in translation both as a Kindle download as well as a paperback book. Born only in 1992, Willinger claims he is currently a student at the University of Stuttgart, yet he has produced an accomplished piece of fascist writing – one engaging with many of the tropes familiar to those who analyse such texts.
Fairly typically, the theme of generations is crucial to Willinger’s framing of an alleged crisis to which Generation Identity has the answer. He argues that the generation that came before him, ‘the 68ers’ as he simplifies, were overtaken by a series of allegedly crazy, utopian and universal ideals. This ‘cultural Marxism’ (a term also employed by Anders Breivik among many others on the far right) has allowed for mass immigration, which in turn was followed by the onset of a crisis in national identity across Europe. The ’68ers themselves were driven to this misplaced idealism by their knee-jerk response to the horrors of Nazism, he continues. Trying to distance all this from sympathy with interwar fascism, he stresses that the failure of the ’68ers has now created a crisis in the present, which needs to be overcome by a new movement driven by Willinger’s generation: Generation Identity. This new movement, he claims, rejects both Nazism and postwar multiculturalism.
All this is set within a powerful language of war against the established elites, and overthrowing a corrupt generation focused on individualism, with a new generation who will put the ideals of the national community ahead of individual rights. Yet these were core themes found across the very same interwar fascist movements from which Willinger tries to distance himself.
So in reality, Willinger’s polemic calling for a cleansing of Europe, while also restoring a strong sense of ‘traditional’ national identity, is an ideal that is very reminiscent of interwar fascism. Moreover, as with all fascist ideologies, there is a powerful call for a spiritual revolution to accompany the overthrowing of a generation of corrupt individualists, one that develops a sense of societal redemption achieved through participating in radical political action and by resorting to a strong sense of identity.
To judge the tenor here, take this quote from the preface of the book arguing that a new era will emerge from the activism of Generation Identity:
A new political current is sweeping through Europe. It has one goal, one symbol, and one thought: Identity.
It is the current of our generation. It represents European youth. A youth that wants the one thing that the ideology of the ’68ers can’t give it: a future … It is taking form and proclaiming the end of the era of the ’68ers, a new epoch, the age of a new generation: generation identity.
The book is shot through with a powerful sense of urgency too. Throughout, Willinger stresses warfare is needed if this new era is to be born. So this is a fight for a new society, one that will overturn the decadent wreckage of the woolly liberalism and Marxism of the ’68ers.
Unsurprisingly given the name of the movement perhaps, the theme of identity is used to analyse a wide range of topics, from history to economics. Yet at each turn, Willinger diagnoses the same phenomenon: current elites are letting down a sense of traditional identity and need to be overturned. Injustice surrounding the recent economic disaster looms large in this analysis, suggesting that it has taken away job opportunities for the emerging generation, but has not punished an older generation who remain secure in their positions. Meanwhile, telling discussions on gender promote a return to clear male and female gender identities, and he decries the promotion of gay marriages, ‘alliances of queers and transvestites, the union of nothingness’.
So he is a homophobe but is he racist?
In a word, yes. But the language of Generation Identity also adopts the classic positioning of ‘differentialist racism’. This framing of racism claims that those who promote multiculturalism are destroying people’s true identities by blurring all cultures into one, while those who decry it are the true respecters of cultural and racial difference. Yet at bottom, such views tend to develop a sense of white victimhood and call for some form of repatriation of non-whites from Europe typical of fascist racism.
Indeed, Willinger is quick to claim that he and his movement are not racists, and can even be seen as defending the purity of other identities in a way that multiculturalism fails to do. Yet there is little original in such attempts at inverting the charge of racism to suggest that conserving the ‘purity’ of all races is not a racist perspective. So when developing such themes, he is drawing on territory already carved out by the New Right tradition, which has regularly tried to cast those who promote multiculturalism as people who do not respect authentic identities, and so are the true modern racists.
Just as with the wider the New Right discourse, Willinger stresses that he respects all identities, just so long as they are allowed to exist in their own part of the world. Thus all Chinese should live in China, all Africans should live in Africa, and so forth. As such, migrants to Europe are posing a real problem to a white identity, and so Europeans are the victims of the spread of immigrants across the continent. As he develops this sense of European victimhood:
We are more disenfranchised than they are. We don’t want Mehmed and Mustafa to become Europeans. We don’t want immigrants to take over our identities and give up their own.
They should hold on to their own identities, and let us have ours. We don’t ask more than is obvious: Europe belongs to Europeans alone. We are the rightful heirs to this continent, and we will not give up our inheritance.
So he calls for ‘ethnopluralism’ to replace multiculturalism, and stresses, ‘We oppose your credo of multiculturalism with the principle of ethnopluralism. Instead of mixing and standardisation, we want to preserve difference. We want different peoples, cultures, and identities. Our own included!’ But in reality, this just a more sophisticated way to argue a for racist position promoting the ‘purity’ of the white race, one akin to those put out by the interwar fascists.
Generation Identity in the UK
How does Generation Identity connect with potential followers? One way is via social media. As discussed, the continental branches of Generation Identity are already savvy to making YouTube videos that may trend, publishing ebooks, and using twitter. The UK’s branch has begun to cultivate an online presence. It also has a Facebook site, which sets out some of the themes that seem to animate the movement. Telling of its bid to appear intellectual as well as radical, there is a short extract from Julius Evola, a quote from Gabor Vona of Hungary’s far right Jobbik, and a reproduction of a report suggesting the French Front National will do well in the 2014 European elections. There is even a link to a nationalist art history Facebook page, which decries the introduction of modernism into the arts at the turn of the twentieth century and celebrates earlier romantic visual styles.
Here one also finds some positing that aligns the UK’s branch of the movement with the icons of the British radical, traditional and far right. For example, a YouTube video of Enoch Powell sees him talking about the threat posed by immigration in the 1970s. Meanwhile, Margret Thatcher and the Queen are both referenced positively. And there is even a posting supporting UKIP in the May 2013 elections. There has been some real world activity, including a summer camp held in Essex, where far right ideologues including Arthur Kemp contributed to proceedings.
Nevertheless, this seems a fledgling movement in comparison with continental variants of Generation Identity. Moreover, working out the exact beliefs of the UK’s version of Generation Identity is tricky, as chatter on the white power message-board site Stormfront suggests: ‘Some of what they say I agree with but occasionally they just come over like a slightly more extreme version of UKIP. Think they are pro-Zionist too.’
Impact on the UK
So Generation Identity has developed a small presence in the UK to date – with its UK Facebook page receiving just over 1,000 likes. Nevertheless, there is some fascinating networking going on between already existing groups, and the New Right inflected ideology promoted by Generation Identity. For example, clear links have been established between the Traditional Britain Group and Generation Identity. This is revealed, for example, in the schedule for Traditional Britain’s October 2013 conference, ‘The Future of the Nation State’. This includes in its line-up a billing for Generation Identity as well as a slot for its ideological darling figure, Markus Willinger.
The Traditional Britain conference also boasts talks from some other notable figures from the more intellectual end of far right politics. For example, it includes the founder and Director of the Libertarian Alliance, Sean Gabb, as well as Richard D. Spencer and Alex Kurtagic of Alternative Right magazine, and ‘paleoconservative’ philosopher Paul Gottfried. These are not intellectual lightweights and there is a need to appreciate that such figures can muster powerful arguments. Traditional Britain’s conference is designed to appeal to students among others, as they can register at a discounted rate.
So small-scale at present, what is potentially concerning about a grouping like Generation Identity is its appeal to a smarter crowd than those attracted to the EDL or similar far right organisations that have already got a foothold in the UK. Generation Identity figures have links with various British activists who are trying to develop new groupings in the wake of the BNP and its collapse in recent years. Interestingly, this also includes the British Democratic Party – which itself emerged from the collapse of the BNP, but has yet to show a strong presence on the political scene.
It is also worth stressing that Willinger, and other radical voices from the more intellectual end of Europe’s far right, have been making themselves heard in the UK of late. Such voices include the Belgian activist Ruban Rosiers, who boasts of links with the proto-fascist Syrian Social National Party; and Laszlo Virag, a Hungarian activist linked to that country’s far right think-tank, Traditionalist School. Such figures have been addressing the IONA London forum, yet another clearing house for the New Right. In such venues, extremist ideas couched in intellectual debate allow for radical nationalist and fascist ideas to be recast, while also giving larger, more populist parties some fresh ideas.
Does Generation Identity have a future here?
With its links to organisations such as the Traditional Britain Group (who after all believe that a figure such as Doreen Lawrence ‘is a person without any merit whatsoever’ and should be deported), not to mention the still microscopic BNP follow-on group, the British Democratic Party, the UK’s branch of Generation Identity may well develop a role. In a period of flux for the British far right, there are opportunities for it to become a more significant player among the groupings offering intellectual backing and support for larger, more populist parties. It may also simply continue its current function as another small but notable conduit linking British and European far right intellectual groups, promoting the sharing of ideas and inspiration for action.
Finally, Generation Identity may even start developing its own brand more clearly, perhaps by performing direct action stunts that, as with the French branch of the movement, do seem to have a greater sense of chutzpa about them when compared to EDL media stunts. So Generation Identity is definitely one to keep an eye on.