Saturday, June 17, 2017

The European New Right Doesn't Get It Right

I've been making an attempt to educate myself a bit about the European New Right, and decided to read Tomislav Sunic's 1988 dissertation Against Democracy and Equality republished by Arktos and much praised in rightwing milieus as a reliable introduction. Ironically though, the ENR's central representative Alain de Benoist in his Preface (p. 18) points out that the very title of that book is completely wrong: it shouldn't be about equality but egalitarianism. However, Sunic doesn't seem to understand such basic distinctions and make an utter mess of it. First, on pp. 132-135 he gives a quite adequate summary of what the liberal concept of equality actually means, with reference to the Declaration of Independence: ""At bottom the democratic faith is a moral affirmation: men are not to be used merely as means to an end, as tools [etc.]" Each human being "has an equal right to pursue happiness; life liberty and the pursuit of happiness are his simply by virtue of the fact that he is a human being" (Milton Konvitz, quoted on p. 132). Clear enough, isn't it? One might think that Sunic understands it too: "When liberal authors maintain that all men are equal, it is not to say that men must be identical ... and liberalism has nothing to do with uniformity. To assert that all men are equal, in liberal theory, means that all men should be first and foremost treated fairly and their differences acknowledged" (p. 135). Bravo, well said. So it would seem that Sunic gets it. But then he launches into a chapter (pp. 141) riddled with so many non sequiturs and sheer nonsense that it made my head spin. Instead of attacking the actual liberal notion of equality that he has just been describing, conservative authors and ENR sympathizers such as Hans J. Eysenck, Konrad Lorenz, Pierre Krebs and others are endorsed for attacking a bizarre straw man that is actually the opposite of what equality means. Suddenly the Declaration of Independence is supposed to say "that all human beings are absolutely identical" (Lorenz, quoted on p. 145), i.e. "that all people at birth are endowed with the same talents, and that all peoples possess the same energies" (Krebs, quoted on p. 146). What is so hard about seeing the difference between human rights (which should be equal) and human talents, abilities, or cultures (which obviously aren't all the same)? Why not have the honesty of acknowledging what was actually meant, i.e. that all human beings should have equal rights to life, liberty & happiness, regardless of whether they are smart or dumb, talented or untalented, and of course regardless of their race, gender, culture, beliefs and so on? But no, that's clearly not what Sunic wants to say, so to hell with logic: from here on the argument degenerates into a claim that defending the equal right of all human beings to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" (Decl. of Ind.) means justifying "genocidal crusades" (BĂ©rard, quoted on p. 150) and ultimately "state terror, deportations, and the imprisonment of dissidents in psychiatric hospitals in the name of higher goals, democracy, and human rights" (p. 157). Ehm, am I missing something here?? Did it ever occur to Sunic and his sympathizers that these horrors mean what they obviously mean, i.e. that - far from exemplifying an ideology of "human rights" - the sad realities of (neo)"liberal" politics and global domination keep betraying and making a mockery of the basic human values that they should be defending? In other words, Sunic should be attacking the practices of (neo)liberalism in the name of equality and human rights instead of conflating the two. But I'm afraid all of this is not about logic or clear thinking; it's about pursuing an agenda inspired by emotional resentment, regardless of arguments or evidence. If this is the intellectual level on which the ENR is attacking "liberalism" and equality, then they have a long way to go.

2 comments:

  1. I've spotted a few Facebook conversations you've had with John Morgan which were very interesting and enlightening to me. I think it would be great if you had a full conversation with John or one of the other New Right folks about what kind of Europe or West they would want to see, and what sort of lives would be lived and conversations would be had there. This is not altogether apparent to me from Arktos' books, nor from the writers at Counter-Currents. Of course, I struggle to think about what medium would be willing to publish that kind of interview.

    In contrast, if you talk to a Muslim, South Asian Buddhist, or Eastern Christian, it is very quickly apparent what kind of society they want to live in, how it is different from the West, what level of pluralism it would tolerate and why, what people would be talking about and thinking about in that society, and so on.

    Apologies for being the first commenter again. The questions you are asking are good ones.

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  2. Thanks Avery. I would be interested in such a conversation, but it could become a long an difficult one. With respect to Arktos and Counter-Currents, I must confess that there is a certain point at which I find it difficult or even impossible and unethical to remain objective (for instance, when I come across articles on Counter-Currents that praise Hitler or Anders Breivik: there is such a thing as evil, and I'm not prepared to concede even an inch of legitimacy to people who defend hatred and condone the murder of innocent people). I believe in the importance of arguments and dialogue, but I'm also forced to acknowledge that some participants in these debates are more interested in power and dominance than in knowledge and understanding.

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