The Faye-Benoist debate on Multiculturalism
by Michael OMeara
The article by Guillaume Faye and the interview with Alain de Benoist translated below should be of interest to our readers. Representing the alternative racialist and communitarian wings of the European New Right, the positions Faye and Benoist defend in these two pieces are emblematic not just of the divergent strategies presently dividing European nationalist ranks, as they struggle with issues of pluralism, culturalism, and globalism, but of the difficulties inherent in the anti-liberal politics of White racial survival.
As part of the recent controversy over Jacques Chirac's decision to ban the Muslim head scarf in French public schools, these pieces first appeared in the review Terre et Peuple, one of the many split-offs from the Groupement de Recherche et d'Etudes pour la Civilisation Européenne (GRECE). Founded in 1968, the anti-liberal nationalists identifying themselves as Grécistes believed the American-centric order imposed on Europe in 1945 -- with its miscegenational social practices and the capitalist 'totalitarianism of its homo dollaris uniformis' -- would never be overturned as long as its opponents appealed to the discredited political legacies of Vichy, traditional Catholicism, monarchism, or neo-fascism, all of which had failed to make the slightest impact on the postwar era. Taking a page from the Lefts playbook, the GRECE's young founders abandoned these earlier forms of anti-liberalism for a 'Gramscianism of the Right', which aimed at metapolitically subverting the liberal order at the level of culture and belief.
Given the egalitarian principles undergirding liberalism's anti-nationalist world view, the 'biological realists' of the early GRECE sought to popularize what contemporary science had to say about such claims. Their anti-egalitarian metapolitics failed, however, to influence the dominant discourse, which brooked not the slightest abridgement of this cardinal principle. Once this was evident, Grécistes began rethinking their cultural strategy and the need to pursue a less confrontational approach. As they did, they gradually downplayed, then discarded, their biological realism for the sake of an 'ethnopluralism' which endeavored to legitimate European racial identity in the name of cultural heterogeneity. This new strategy was premised on the belief that ethnopluralism, whose principle of self-determination had gained prominence in the decolonization and anti-imperialist movements of the previous decades, could be used to defend the racial/cultural integrity of European peoples, (for if Third World peoples had the right to self-determination, then, it was reasoned, so too did Europeans).
The GRECE's ethnopluralist turn took the form of two slogans: la cause des peuples and la droite à la différence, both of which translate awkwardly into English, but which imply that humanity "can only remain healthy as long as cultural diversity is safeguarded" from the homogenizing forces of the global market (the right to difference) and as long as every people is allowed to retain its distinct cultural identity (the cause of the peoples). Then, as these ideas penetrated the larger nationalist movement, Le Pen, Haider, Fini, and numerous nationalist parliamentary parties and groupuscules across the continent began employing some variant of them to justify their defense of Europe's biocultural heritage. The success of these slogans seemed, moreover, to suggest that it was wiser to promote European racial survival on the basis of agreement than on conflict, for in using slogans congruent with liberal beliefs, even if they broke with liberal goals, anti-liberal nationalists were able to turn the dominant discourse against itself.
This 'strategy of persuasion' proved, however, a bit too clever for the GRECE's own good, for in the process of defending human heterogeneity for Europe's sake, something began to change in its cultural politics, as ethnopluralism evolved into more than the 'ruse' it was intended to be. Eventually, it became the focus of its metapolitics, preparing the way for its later embrace of multiculturalism, Third World immigration, and those American communitarian principles supportive of racially Balkanized societies. Instead, then, of driving a wedge into the anti-European policies of the postwar order, the GRECEs ethnopluralism, premised as it was on the liberal belief that all peoples are of equal worth, ended up echoing the reigning blather about diversity.
This brings us to Guillaume Faye. With a pen as mighty as his former comrade, he now challenges De Benoist's claim that Third World immigration has become an undeniable, and hence uncontestable, facet of European existence and that it must be dealt with in ways recognizing it as such. Like a number of prominent early ex-Grécistes (such as Robert Steuckers, Pierre Vial, Pierre Krebs, etc.), Faye continues to write, speak, and agitate in defense not simply of Europe's cultural and communal heritage, but of the traditional racial homogeneity of its lands. He thus rejects all compromise with liberal equalitarianism, aligning himself against the GRECE's "differentialist" discourse. For in assuming the liberal postulates underpinning the politics of ethnopluralism, Faye claims the GRECE has become increasingly complicit with the governing elites, whose own variant of ethnopluralism justifies the on-going de-Europeanization that comes with open borders and free trade.
Here then, in these pieces reflective of Benoist's communitarianism and Faye's racial nationalism, the two most prominent anti-liberal opponents of the European New Class cross swords over their once common opposition to liberalism's hybridized world order.
An Interview with Alain de Benoist
From Terre et Peuple 18 (Winter Solstice 2003)
Terre et Peuple: The present dispute [over whether Muslim females will be allowed to wear the veil in the classroom] has revived the question of communitarianism. In numerous books and articles published over the years, particularly in the columns of Eléments [the GRECEs popular trimestrial review], you have frequently taken positions at odds with your readership. I would like to begin this interview by asking if there has been any fundamental changes in our society in the years [since the Cold Wars end, when last you took a public stand on this issue], and, by contrast, if the identitarian movement is not better situated today to address this disturbing but crucial dispute.
Alain de Benoist: I've always taken positions contrary to those who don't know or understand my own. But Ill admit I have displeased some in saying that immigration is a fact, no longer an option, and that in engaging a battle, one has to fight on its specific terrain, not on the one which we might prefer to fight. . .
Whats happened in the last 14 years? The social pathologies engendered by a massive, uncontrolled immigration have gotten incontestably worse. These pathologies have made life more difficult for millions of people, who see no likely end to these difficulties. One consequence of this has been a certain shift in perspective. The comforting idea of a future Reconquista [in which Europeans will militarily recapture the lands they have lost to Third World immigrants] is no longer entertained, except by a handful of spirits who haven't a clue as to what world theyre living in. At the same time, no one (with perhaps the exception of the business class) proposes a further opening of our borders -- which, in any case, no longer stops or guarantees anything. If the question of the veil has aroused such heated discussion, its only because it provides the political class a convenient way of dealing with a problem which it has refused to address. But however it is posed, there's likely to be no end to this dispute. For my part, the position I took on the subject in Le Monde in 1989, when it was still possible to write [for Frances paper of record], has not changed.
You're right, moreover, to describe the subject as a crucial one. But because it is so, it's important not to treat it with slogans or fantasies. As to whether the identitarian movement is more mature, for that to be true, it would need to stop confusing appearance with truth and to stop attributing to ethnic factors what Karl Marx attributed to economic factors. Above all, the movement needs to rethink the notion of identity, acknowledging that it is not an eternal essence enabling its bearers to avoid change, but rather a narrative substance enabling them to remain themselves, even while changing.
T&P: The communitarian phenomenon encompasses many diverse realities (or at least the appearance of them): communities formed by non-European immigrants, communities based on religious affiliation, sexual preference, or regional identities, all of which are now experiencing a revival. . . But are these communities of comparable worth? For a communitarian, is it necessary to legitimate every community in the name of the droit à la difference?
AdB: Lets begin by clarifying our terms. First, there is the notion of community, which Ferdinand Tönnies developed in opposition to his concept of society. In distinction to a society's mechanical [or functional] relations, in which social organization is based on individuality and individual interests, community defines a mode of organic sociality. In Max Webers term, this notion is an ideal type, for every collectivity, in different proportions of course, possesses traits that are distinct to both community and society. Based on Tönnies work, but with reference to Aristotle, there has arisen a communitarian school of thought, whose principal representatives are Alasdair McIntyre, Charles Taylor, and Michael Sandal. This school highlights the fictitious character of liberal anthropology, insofar as liberalism posits an atomized individual who exists anterior to his ends, that is, an individual whose rational choices and behavior are made and motivated outside a specific sociohistorical context. For the communatarian, [by contrast, the extra-individual forces of larger social or communal ties] are what constitute and motivate the individual. Identity, thus, is that which we choose to be before we even recognize who we are, being that inherited framework which defines the horizon of our shared values and lends meaning to the things of our world. As a specific moral value, then, identity is anterior to any universal conception of justice -- although the liberal believes such a conception ought to trump every particularistic sense of the good.
Communitarianism, then, responds to liberalism's dissolution of organic ties and the crisis of the nation-state it provokes, for liberal society is no longer able to generate sustainable forms of sociality. In reaction, communities of all sorts, whether inherited or chosen, now seek to reassert themselves in public life and to break out of the private, individualistic sphere in which liberalism has sought to confine them. . .
T&P: Doesnt the communitarians systematic legitimation of difference lead to an impasse? Indeed, dont certain communities refuse difference or seek to impose their will on others once they become dominant? In the name of difference, doesnt one ultimately risk denying ones own difference?
AdB: The recognition of difference is not necessarily angelic in its effects. It also doesnt eliminate conflict. The right to difference or to an identity is much like the right to freedom: its abuse simply discredits its usage, not its principle. In this I oppose [the feminist philosopher] Elisabeth Badinter, who, in justifying 'the right to indifference', assumes that every time we emphasize 'our differences at the expense of our common ties, we create conflict'. Common identities can, in fact, be just as conflictual as differences: think of the 'mimetic rivalry' that [the literary scholar and anthropologist] René Girard has analyzed. A recognition of differences doesn't do away with the need for a common body of laws (which, indeed, is prerequisite to it) nor is it necessarily incompatible with notions of citizenship or the common good. The state's duty is to insure public order, not to incite hatred. Similarly, a policy recognizing differences demands reciprocity. He who designates me as his enemy becomes my enemy. For whoever promotes his difference in denying mine, abrogates the principles generality. It is thus necessary to create a condition in which our reciprocal differences are recognized, which isn't possible once immigration, Islam, fundamentalism, and terrorism are lumped together.
In respect to 'the right to difference' [la droit à différence], it is necessary to dispense with certain equivocations. First, it is a question of right, not an obligation. In recognizing difference, we create the possibility of living according to those attachments we consider essential, not for the sake of enclosing ourselves in them or keeping them at a distance. Difference, moreover, is not an absolute. By definition, it exists only in relation to other differences, for we distinguish ourselves only vis-à-vis those who are different. The same goes for identity: even more than an individual, a group does not have a single identity. Every identity is constituted in relationship to another. This also holds for culture: for in creating its own world of meaning, it nevertheless does so in relationship to other cultures. Different cultures are not incomparable species, only different modalities of human nature. Lets not confuse the universal with universalism.
T&P: In your opinion, is communitarianism an effective response to the problem created by the introduction of millions of non-Europeans into Europe? Indeed, isnt community important because it is a function of its specific place and time? For instance, there exist communities that are more rather than less dynamic, especially in terms of natality. Given the failure to integrate non-Europeans, the utopia of a Reconquista, and a communitarianism cloaking a demographic time-bomb, isnt this enough to make one pessimistic?
AdB: First, let me say that whenever men fail to find a solution to their problems, history finds one for them. Second, history is always open (which doesnt mean that anything is possible). Finally, in posing a problem in a way that has no solution, it shouldnt be surprising that one is condemned to pessimism. Today, in Europe there are 52.2 [sic] million Muslims (25 million in Russia and 13.5 in Western Europe), a majority of whom are of European stock [Note: This statement is not credible to me.]. The rest, as far as I know, are neither Black nor Asian. If Europeans are less demographically dynamic, it is not the fault of those who are. If they no longer know what their identity is, again this is not the fault of those who do. In face of peoples with strong identities, those lacking such an identity might reflect on why they have lost their own. To this end, they might look to the planetary spread of market values or the nature of Western nihilism. In an era of general de territorialization, it might also be useful to think of identity in ways that no longer depend on locale. For my part, I attach more importance to what men do, than to what they presume themselves to be. . .
The Cause of the Peoples?
From Terre et Peuple 18 (Winter Solstice 2003)
The [GRECE's] cause des peuples is an ambiguous slogan. It was initially conceived in a polytheistic spirit to defend ethnocultural heterogeneity. But it has since been reclaimed by egalitarian and human rights ideologies which, while extolling a utopian, rainbow-colored world order, seek to inculpate Europeans for having 'victimized' the Third World.
Failure of a Strategy
When [GRECE-style] identitarians took up the cause des peuples in the early 1980s, it was in the name of ethnopluralism. This 'cause', however, was little more than a rhetorical ruse to justify the right of European peoples to retain their identity in face of a world system that sought to make everyone American. For in resisting the forces of deculturation, it was hoped that Europeans, like Third World peoples, would retain the right to their differences [la droit àla différence] -- and do so without having to suffer the accusation of racism. As such, the slogan assumed that every people, even European people, possessed such a right. But no sooner was this argument made than the cosmopolitan P.-A. Taguieff [a leading academic commentator on the far Right] began referring to it as a 'differentialist racism' [in which cultural difference, rather than skin color, became the criterion for exclusion].
In retrospect, the New Right's strategy seems completely contrived, for la cause des peuples, la droit à la différence, and "ethnopluralism" have all since been turned against identitarians. Moreover, its irrelevant to Europe's present condition, threatened, as it is, by a massive non-European invasion and by a conquering Islam abetted by our ethnomaschoistic elites.
Reclaimed by the dominant ideology, turned against identitarians, and tangential to current concerns, the GRECE's ethnopluralist strategy is a metapolitical disaster. It also retains something of the old Marxist and Christian-Left prejudice about Europes 'exploitation' of the Third World. As [the French Africanist] Bernard Lugan shows in respect to Black Africa, this prejudice is based on little more than economic ignorance. The cause des peuples is nevertheless associated with a Christian-like altruism that demonizes our civilization, accuses it of having destroyed all the others, and does so at the very moment when these others are busily preparing the destruction of our own civilization.
The 'right to difference' . . . What right? Haven't we had enough Kantian snivelling [about abstract rights]. There exists only a capacity to be different. In the selective process of History and Life, everyone has to make it on his own. There are no benevolent protectors. This right, moreover, is reserved for everyone but Europeans, who, [in the name of multiculturalism or some other cosmopolitan fashion], are summoned to discard their own biological and cultural identity.
This slogan poses another danger: it threatens to degenerate into a doctrine -- an ethnic communitarianism -- sanctioning the existence of non-European enclaves in our own lands. For in the Europe it envisages, communities of foreigners, particularly Muslim ones, will, for obvious demographic reasons, play an ever-greater role in our lives. This affront to our identity is accompanied by sophistic arguments that ridicule the 'fantasy' of a [possible White] reconquista. In this spirit, we are told that we will have to make do [with a multiracial Europe]. But I, for one, refuse to make do. Nor am I prepared to retreat before an alleged historical determinism [which aims at making Europe a Third World colony].
Life Is Perpetual Struggle
The cause des peuples has now become part of the human rights vulgate. By contrast, the neo Darwinian thesis of conflict and competition, which assumes that only the fittest survive, seems to our bleeding-heart communitarians a vestige of barbarism -- even if this vestige corresponds with lifes organic laws. This thesis, though, in recognizing the forces of selection and competition, is alone able to guarantee the diversity of life's varied forms.
The cause des peuples is collectivist, homogenizing, and egalitarian, while the 'combat of peoples' is subjectivist and heterogeneous, conforming to life's entropic properties. In this sense, only nationalism and clashing wills-to-power are capable of sustaining the life affirming principle of subjectivity. Given its egalitarian assumption that every people has a 'right to live', the cause des peuples prefers to ignore obvious historical realities for an objectivism that seeks to transform the worlds peoples into objects suitable for a museum display. As such, it implies the equivalence of all peoples and civilizations.
This sort of egalitarianism takes two basic forms: one is expressed in a homogenizing but metissé concept of what it means to be human (the 'human race'), the other endeavors to preserve people and cultures in a way a curator might. Both forms refuse to accept that peoples and civilizations are qualitatively different. Hence, the absurd idea that one has to save endangered peoples and civilizations (at least if they are Third World) in the same way one might save an endangered seal. Historys turbulent selection process has, though, no room for preservation -- only for competing subjectivities. In its tribunal, salvationist doctrines are simply inadmissible.
The cause des peuples also assumes an underlying solidarity between European and Third World peoples. Again, this is nothing but a dubious ideological construct, which Grécistes invented in the early Eighties to avoid the accusation of racism. I dont have the space here to expose the myth of Third World 'exploitation'. However, to explain its misfortunes in crude, neo-Marxist terms, as if it were due to the machinations of the IMF, the Trilaterals, the Bilderberg group, or some other Beelzebub, is hardly worthy of a response.
According to media or academic pundits, the 'culture of the other' is now under siege in France -- even though 'Afromania' is all the rage. I, on the other hand, think it is not at all exaggerated to claim that America's deculturating influences no longer threaten Europe, for its dangers have been surpassed by another.
I respect the destiny of the sometimes afflicted Inuits, Tibetans, Amazonians, Pygmies, Kanaks, Aborigines, Berbers, Saharians, Indians, Nubians, the inevitable Palestinians, and the little green men from outer space. But dont expect crocodile tears from me. When the flooding threatens my own house, I can think only of my own predicament and haven't time to help or plead for others. Besides, when have these others ever cared about us? In any case, the dangers threatening them are greatly exaggerated, especially in view of their demographic vigor, which, incidentally, is owed to Western medicine and material aid -- for the same Western forces that have allegedly exploited them also seems to have made them prosper (or, at least, to reproduce in unprecedented numbers).
If our communitarians really want to defend the cause des peuples, they might start with Europeans, who are now under assault by the demographic, migratory, and cultural forces of an overpopulated Third World. In face of these threats, you won't find us sniveling (like a priest) or fleeing (like an intellectual) to the 'other's' cause. 'Ourselves alone' will suffice.
Michael O'Meara, Ph.D., the translator of these pieces, studied social thought at the Ecole des Etudes Sociales en Sciences Sociales and modern European history at the University of California. His most recent book is New Culture, New Right: Anti-Liberalism in Postmodern Europe.