- Beachhead or Refugium? The Rise and Dilemma of New Right Counterculture
Today’s intellectual far right loves rebellion. In calculated acts of public provocation, right-wing writers and thinkers present themselves as outsiders and nonconformists, bravely breaking the taboos of a “politically correct” mainstream culture. This is particularly the case for the far right’s most important intellectual movement, the loose assortment of writers and publications known as the European New Right. It is not for nothing that one of the New Right’s premier publications in Germany is called Sezession (Secession) and carries as its motto the Latin inscription etiam si omnes—ego non (“even if everyone, not I”).1 Louder and less refined are the so-called “Identitarians,” a youth-oriented offshoot of the New Right that began as the Identitarian Bloc in France in 2003 and is today an energetic (and growing) international movement of right-wing activists. With branches in at least ten European countries, the Identitarians style themselves an “extra-parliamentary avant-garde” of activists opposed to immigration. “Resistance—Networking—Counterculture,” proclaimed the billing for the German Identitarians’ “Europa Nostra” protest in Dresden in August 2018.2 Such right-wing cultural revolt is not restricted to Europe. In the United States, white nationalist websites with intellectual [End Page 29] pretensions and dreams of importing New Right ideology to American shores adopt names like Counter Currents and seek hip rebranding as the alternative right, or Alt Right.3 Writing in February 2017 on Breitbart, Milo Yiannopoulos captured this renegade mood when he claimed that “being right-wing is the new counterculture, the new punk, an act of rebellion in an era of political correctness, safe spaces, multiculturalism and globalism.”4
The New Right’s embrace of the “counterculture” label is no accident. It represents an effort to wrest the mantle of transgression and bold emancipation away from the leftist counterculture of the 1960s. The student movements and youth revolts of the 1960s’ New Left counterculture were marked by an international solidarity that stemmed not primarily from sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but from commitment to a handful of morally urgent causes célèbres: university reform, free speech and civil rights, hostility to capitalism and authoritarianism, and an impassioned anticolonialism, expressed in denunciations of the Vietnam War and the veneration of Mao Zedong and Che Guevara as patron saints of Third World liberation.5 The international cohesion of today’s New Right counterculture (including its Identitarian update) is likewise driven by zeal for what it holds to be the defining causes of our time. Chief among these is opposition to the supposed “Great Replacement” of white natives and their indigenous European cultures by a relentless tide of immigrants. Joined to this fear is suspicion of “liberal elites,” who engineer globalization and demolish national sovereignty in distant places like Davos and Brussels. Such concerns have grown increasingly mainstream since 2000, propelled not only by events—Islamist terrorism and the 2015 migrant crisis, above all—but by bestselling books with Spenglerian titles like Éric Zemmour’s Le suicide français (The French Suicide, 2014) and Thilo Sarrazin’s Deutschland schafft sich ab (German Abolishes Itself, 2010).6
In the eyes of the New Right, the radicals who took to the streets of West Berlin or Paris in the spring of 1968, and then undertook their “long march through the institutions” in the decades that followed, paved the way not for freedom, but chaos. The 68ers’ demands for authenticity and autonomy, New Righters argue, led to the plummeting birthrates and hedonistic individualism of today’s moribund West, where citizens robbed of their roots no longer defend their cultural identities. “Islamization” and “white genocide,” so the charge goes, are the inevitable telos of dogmas such as multiculturalism, preached by “cultural Marxists” whose creeds stretch back to the revolutionary [End Page 30] social movements of the 1960s, and to the theories of New Left thinkers like Herbert Marcuse and Guy Debord. Typical of this contempt is the character of Clément Dio, the mixed-race editor of a lefty newspaper in Jean Raspail’s anti-immigrant novel The Camp of the Saints (1973). Raspail presents Dio as...