I was reminded of Brenton Tarrant’s words in his manifesto, The Great Replacement:
Brenton Tarrant, you will recall, was the murderer of 51 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. He declared that he had no ill-will towards any race on earth. So long as they stayed in their “natural” borders.
Ever since I posted Strategies of Denials of Racism back in early June I have been trying to get a better handle on the subject. Islam is not a race, of course, so how does anti-Muslim sentiment get mixed up in a discussion of racism? Is it fair or just to brand as a racist someone who feels no ill-will to any other race, does not look down with loathing on another race as if they are in any sense inferior but respects them as “different but equal”?
Since early June I have read a fair amount about racism since the Second World War, and especially since the 1960s and 1970s, and had been toying with the idea of bringing a lot of that reading together for a single post. But now that the time has come I have decided to post about it an easier way. I’ll introduce one by one some of the core readings of mine and over time bring key points together into more integrated discussions.
I begin with an old one, but a good starting point nonetheless:
- Taguieff, Pierre-André. 1990. “The New Cultural Racism in France.” Translated by Russell Moore. Telos 1990 (83): 109–22. https://doi.org/10.3817/0390083109.
Taguieff surveys the way one particular part of the New Right movement in France (the Club de l’Horloge) positioned itself with new arguments that were designed to dissociate itself from the crude racist hatreds of the past (Hitler had given that sort of racism a bad name, after all), from state authoritarianism, and from fascism, and to even throw those labels back on to their left-wing, socialist and democratic opponents. In this post I focus only on the arguments relating to racism.
Traditional anti-racist groups in France were targeted by the New Right as being “anti-French, anti-Western, or anti-White” racists who supported the enemies of France, the West, and White nations. Other New Right factions (e.g. Groupement de Recherche et d’Etudes pour la Civilisation Européene, GRECE) joined with the Club de l’Horloge to reverse the traditional understanding of how racism was defined. Differences, racial and cultural differences, were eulogized.
This praise of difference was reduced to the claim that true racism is the attempt to impose a unique and general model as the best, which implies the elimination of differences. Consequenlty, true anti-racism is founded on the absolute respect of differences between ethnically and culturally heterogeneous collectives. The New Right’s “anti-racism” thus uses ideas of collective identities hypostatized as inalienable categories. (p. 111, my own bolding in all quotations)
Conversely, the racist was now defined as the one who appeared to want to “deny” or “erase” differences between the races, even allowing for a multicultural society where differences were supposedly compromised. Multiculturalism was thus, in effect, branded as “racist” — the view that genuine racial differences should (supposedly) be somehow eliminated.
In the 1970s the “right to be different” was a slogan deployed by the Left in the call for respect for minorities. In the 1980s the same slogan was appropriated by the New Right to mean something different: to claim the right for whites to be different from blacks and for those not belonging to the traditional European culture to be sent back to their ancestral homelands.
Hence in the early 1980s the French New Right presented itself as
against all forms of racism, without any bad conscience or self-hate
The tidal advance of immigrants brought a new focus to the question of racism. Racial intermingling was, at bottom, considered to be a kind of “indirect genocide and ethnocide”, so in that context the following statements by right-wing groups in France tell a notable story:
“The truth is that the people must preserve and cultivate their differences. . . . Immigration merits condemnation because it strikes a blow at the identity of the host culture as well as at the immigrants’ identity.” Robert de Herte [Alain de Benoist]. “Avec les immigrés contre le nouvel esclavage,” Eléments pour la civilisation européenne, No. 45 (Spring 1983), p. 2.
“It is because we respect ourselves and others, that we refuse to see our country transformed into a multiracial society in which each one loses one’s specificity.” Pierre Pascal, “Les vrais racistes,” Militant [Revue nationaliste populaire d’action européenne], 16, No. 156 (January 1984), p. 15.
“Peoples cannot be summarily qualified as superior or inferior, they are different, and one must keep in mind these physical or cultural differences” Jean-Marie Le Pen, “Le Pen et l’Eglise” [interview]. National Hebdo, No. 44, 19 (April 1985), p. 8.
“In our mind, the immigration question can no longer be resolved except by the radical expulsion or organized repatriation of all foreigners. This does not apply to residents who are assimilable, i.e., those from the European Community.” “Pourquoi nous combattons” Jeune Nation Solidariste [organe de Troisième Voie,] No. 10 (July-August 1986), p. 6.
The New Right could point to “hard data” to justify their views. Skin colour differences were visible to all. Different accents were audible to all. Differences could not be denied. Differences were not just biological, either, but cultural.
The new racism was therefore
portrayed as the defense of cultural identities and the champion of genuine anti-racism.
Paradoxically, racism can be articulated in terms of race or of culture, mindsets, traditions and religions, i.e., in the vocabulary of “specificities or of “collective identities.” Racism does not just biologize the cultural, it acculturates the biological.
Racism is no longer about inequalities and domination or about superior-inferior notions of races. It is about
the need to preserve the community as is, or to purify it.
The priority is to protect what is characteristic of the group’s identity. The imperative is to
[preserve] the group’s identity, whose “purity” it sanctifies. It stigmatizes the mixing of cultures as the supreme mistake, and it vacillates between a system of exclusion (separate development/rejection) and a system of extermination (apartheid and genocide).
It is difference — and the “right to be different” — that is of paramount importance. Racism takes on the appearance of something positive, constructive, cultural respect and preservation for all. In praise of difference it is able to substitute “cultures” for “races”. It can claim to stand up for human rights, the right to be different. Perversely, it
has helped to make the obsession of contact and the phobia of mixing, which is at the heart of racism, respectable, even honorable.
Racism and Nationalism
Exclusionary racism has been respectably introduced [as] the generalized right to be different.
The messages of Trump and Tarrant at the opening of this post were being set out by Le Pen in 1987:
“I love North Africans, but their place is in the Maghreb. … I am not a racist, but a national. . . . For a nation to be harmonious, it must have a certain ethnic and spiritual homogeneity.” It is therefore necessary “to resolve, to France’s benefit, the immigration problem, by the peaceful, organized return of immigrants.”
What this means in actual fact becomes clear when the euphemistic language is stripped away:
“We consider that a nation rests, above al, on the ancestral values of blood and soil. We indicated — as a prerequisite to any detailed notion of a nationalist doctrine — that inassimilable foreign immigration threatened the very substance of our people, and that it was necessary to resolve this serious problem. We think, however, that this situation is a result of a general decadence of values of blood and soil — a situation threatened by the corruption of capitalist gold and the law of numbers.” “Pourquoi nous combattons” Jeune Nation Solidariste [organe de Troisième Voie,] No. 10 (July-August 1986), p. 14.
The races are “inassimilable”. The neo-racist now speaks of “respect for all peoples”:
“One must respect the specificity of all the peoples of the world, that is to say, their traditions, their outlook on things, which are only the result of their genetic heritage.” Militant, 15th year, No. 144, 1982, Dossier immigration, p. 14.
So the nationalist racist fears the loss of cultural identity, especially as that is threatened by interracial mixing. The foreigner cannot be assimilated and to have the foreigner intrude into one’s nation poses a life and death threat to that nation.
It is in the interests of the immigrants themselves that they return to their own homeland.
The undesirables must themselves be convinced of their undesirability outside of their nation of origin.
The “Arabo-Islamic immigrant” is a threat to the Catholic heritage, or more fundamentally to the original Indo-European heritage going back to pre-Christian eras.
Behind the facade of human rights, respect for human differences, a “genuinely anti-racist” defence of all cultures, we have the “will to keep everyone in their place.”
Behind the rejection of the multiracial or multicultural society there is a hidden postulate: the inevitability of racial struggle, as if there is a threat of conflict when different populations come in contact with one another.
That’s a point I will explore more deeply in future posts — the belief in the inevitability of conflict when different races live together.
From a defense of oppressed minorities and their “cultural rights,” the “right to be different” has been transformed into an instrument of legitimation for exacerbated calls to defend a “threatened” national (and/or European) identity.
Xenophobia, even what amounts (I think) to ethnic cleansing, becomes “respectable”. We have the rise of xenophobic nationalism. Right-wing nationalism becomes national racism. It is a return to the racism of the 1940s but it wears a mask of “cultural dialogue” and “respect for differences”.
That was an analysis of the development of a new form of racism in France not many decades ago. But I think we can see beginnings here of an age that has brought us Trump and Tarrant.
Other posts in this series: Symbolic Racism;
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