Review of New Right versus Old Right by Greg Johnson
At the micro level it is still possible to call America a democratic country — with various local officials being elected by a citizenry fortified by the right to bear arms and express their opinions. But at the macro level — that of cities, states, and the nation itself — the level at which people need to be represented in order to implement real change (or stop it happening), it is quite a different story. Here, America is a masterpiece of anti-democracy — a society controlled by oligarchic elites that agree on most things and which use their power (the media, the judiciary, and the political parties they pay for) to check any independent impulse that arises from the People.
The cunning beauty of this system is that the sheep who are controlled still think that the shepherd and the sheepdogs controlling them are just other sheep. The false political consciousness that this reveals is also bolstered by relative prosperity and material comfort, especially for the more potent and intelligent members of society.
The consequence of this is that America is a de facto political desert in a way that other countries of the West are not. Unlike France, Finland, or Hungary, or a number of other European countries, where there is a considerable variety of political options available for voters, in America there are no meaningful choices outside the false duopoly which is merely a disguised monopoly.
But the desert has always attracted its ascetics, its mad-eyed lunatics or true holy men, who revere the truth or their delusions more than their personal comforts. From the desert, as history has proved, a force can sometimes emerge to shake the world.
This is the context in which to view the North American New Right, a loose movement that embraces The Occidental Observer, Alternative Right, Radix-NPI, Arktos Publishing, The Right Stuff, Theden, the Traditionalist Youth Network, Amerika.org, and other groups and small institutions.
Perhaps the most important part of the North American New Right, in terms of intellectual firepower and wide-ranging connections, is Greg Johnson’s Counter-Currents, which manages to keep up a regular barrage of articles as well as occasionally publishing books.
Late last year, Johnson published New Right versus Old Right, a beautifully designed and produced collection of his essays. This is clearly intended to serve as an important guide and inspiring text for the North American New Right.
Although the North American New Right aspires to be a political movement, it is premature to say it is one now. Nor is there any likelihood of it becoming one in the near future. In the metaphorical sense it is still firmly in the desert, contemplating the heavens, hardening its body, and sharpening its knives for the day when it can move from the realm of philosophy and metapolitics to the grubbier world of earthly power.
This situation holds both positives and negatives. On the minus side, the North American New Right lacks the political relevance of its European counterpart, where parties and politicians are rising up who have been influenced to some degree by the New Right ideas first developed by Alain de Benoist and GRECE. But on the positive side, it faces few entanglements and therefore has no need to compromise itself in developing its ideas and approaches. In short, it breathes a freer and more rarefied air.
This environment favours a certain type of person, someone well-read who can explore ideas with precise logic, rather than the smarmy fixer and dealer of day-to-day politics. One reason why Johnson has emerged as one of the important figures in the North American New Right is because he conforms to the first type much more than the second. As long as the North American New Right remains in the desert, this is the type that will dominate the movement.
An important quality at this stage of the movement is the ability to write about ideas with great clarity and to codify arguments. Being well-read is fine, and knowing who or what to quote is impressive, but writing is the key, as it creates the rigorous mental discipline and power of reflection necessary to the creation of potent ideas and insights.
New Right versus Old Right shows exactly this, as Johnson explores complex problems with clarity and precision and reduces them to solid conclusions. Following this process is a pleasure for the reader as Johnson always puts the imperative to communicate clearly and simply above the need to mystify and impress. This is a man not afraid to use short sentences or to evoke comparisons with Ernest Hemingway.
The book starts with a complimentary and complementary introduction by Dr. Kevin MacDonald, which is then followed by 31 of Johnson’s articles. These were previously published at Counter Currents or the Occidental Observer over the last few years. These are structured into four main divisions — Politcs & Metapolitics (8 essays), Disputed Questions (12 essays), Building a Movement (5 essays), and Distractions & Dead Ends (6 essays).
Despite being a collection of disparate essays written at different times for different reasons, the book often reads like a single, organic, stand-alone book. This is either a testament to Johnson’s editing skills in selecting and arranging the essays or to the overall consistency and rigor of his thought.
Much on the literature on the Alternative or New Right, especially that channelling the thought of Nietzsche, Heidegger, or de Benoist, can come across as abstruse, ambiguous, and confusing, and gives the impression that the ideas have not been properly digested. This is never the case with Johnson’s writing. Although he is clearly familiar with all these writers as well as others, he is always lucid and clear.
Partly this stems from his grounding in Greek philosophy, his experience as a teacher, and his particular interest in Plato. Anyone who has read Plato’s works in great depth is aware of the simple steps by which the ‘character’ of Socrates advances or deconstructs complex ideas. Johnson’s writing bears the mark of the Greek philosopher.
Politcs & Metapolitics
The first of the four sections of the book — Politics & Metapolitics (8 essays) — lays the groundwork, pointing to the obvious differences between the North American New Right and the False Right, the so-called Conservative movement. This is rightfully dismissed as the back end of an ever advancing anti-hierarchical liberalism.
Also important to Johnson’s message — in view of the title of the book — is the difference between the two forms of the True Right, which he defines as the Old Right (the Fascists and the Nazis and their present day followers in various small Neo-Nazi movements) and the New Right (the movement created in Europe from the 1960s onward by Alain de Benoist and others and which now also includes the North American New Right).
Differing attitudes on race divide the North American New Right and the European New Right. These stem from White America’s experience as a colonial nation, composed of different White ethnicities, established on the land of indigenous peoples, and with the added complications of African slavery.
Both the Old Right and the New Right are strongly traditionalist, anti-egalitarian, and racially conscious, but the main difference is one of tactics — of choosing weapons to fit the struggle, and fighting on ground that gives an advantage rather than a disadvantage.
In the title essay (from May 2012), one of the most important in the book, Johnson dwells on the need for an approach that looks to the future rather than to the albatross of the past that has damned Old Right movements to ineffectiveness.
One particular inspiration is the New Left and the way it rejected not only the tactics of the Old Left but also the battlefield of economics, where it was getting regularly drubbed by a reformed capitalism. Dropping outmoded tactics of mass mobilization through strikes, street fighting, and revolution, it instead commenced its march through the institutions and found a more promising realm:
The New Left retained the values and ultimate goals of the Old Left. They also retained elements of their philosophical framework. They then set about spreading their ideas throughout the culture by means of propaganda and institutional subversion. And they won. Aside from Cuba and North Korea, orthodox Communism is dead. Capitalism seems everywhere triumphant. And yet in the realm of culture, Leftist values are completely hegemonic. The Left lost the Cold War, but they won the peace. (p. 5)
Because of the North American New Right’s present inability to influence politics, Johnson argues that it should focus instead on metapolitics, that is, seek to influence the moral and cultural ideas of society, while also building independent networks and communities.
Other essays look at how this can be achieved. A key concept explored in “Hegemony” (August 2011) looks at the importance of framing arguments and also proposes a kind of “entryism” whereby White nationalist narratives are introduced into a wide variety of other groups and movements across the political spectrum. Johnson believes there is scope for a White nationalist environmentalism and even a White nationalist Liberalism, as liberal values, such as gay rights, feminism, and even anti-racism, are actually indigenous to Whites and are unlikely to do so well in an America where Whites are reduced to a minority.
Pertinent to the idea of such entryism, “Metapolitics & Occult Warfare” (December 2012) focuses on how the North American New Right can build secret societies and set up invisible networks. This essay, which invokes the traditionalist thought of Julius Evola and Rene Guenon and their view of history as moving in cycles, also provides a clue about why Johnson called his organization Counter-Currents in the first place:
Guenon’s point is that all realities are comprised of opposed forces in equilibrium. Today, Dark Age currents are dominant. But that does not mean that Golden Age counter-currents are entirely absent, for if they were absent, the world would collapse into total chaos, rather than display the evil and inverted order that exists today. . . Thus a Golden Age counter-current must exist and exert a countervailing influence to the Dark Age but in a hidden and recessive manner. (p. 28)
A good example of his views on Jewish issues is his essay “Our Fault?” (April 2012). This is well-placed at the beginning of the second section of the book — “Disputed Questions” — because the Jewish Question has been causing disputes among White nationalists for a long time. While some prefer a “three-monkey” approach (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil), others like Johnson believe in naming the Elephant in the room. In this essay Johnson takes issue with Conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan:
Buchanan, for example, knows that many of the destructive policies that he chronicles in his book [Death of a Superpower] were pushed by the organized Jewish community in order to enhance their power at the hands of whites. But Buchanan has chosen to play by Semitically correct rules, so he treats the Jews as part of ‘us’ and then claims that ‘we’ are doing it to ourselves. (p. 78)
Although the Jews seem to epitomize modernity and its deleterious effects on Whites, they are not the sole cause of it. Any analysis that suggests this has two particularly pernicious effects: (1) it absolves Whites of any blame for their own malaise, and (2) blinds them to other significant factors. To his credit, Johnson is unlikely to overlook the other important causes of White decline, but any White nationalist narrative that blames the Jews has to be carefully handled because such narratives tend to have a compulsive grip on lesser minds, as easy scapegoating can painlessly explain away a lot of difficult conundrums.
Another contentious point suitably placed in this section is over how the New Right should relate to the problematic figures of the Old Right, especially Adolf Hitler. This is one issue on which Johnson and I have clashed at great length — last year in the comment boards at Alternative Right — following the publication of the essay which is included here, “The Burden of Hitler” (2013 April).
Johnson makes the point that Hitler, although deeply flawed, was nevertheless someone who genuinely cared about the White race. I find this problematic in view of how the Nazis treated certain White populations in World War II.
Johnson’s defense of Hitler, while interesting, is an exception to the suggestion made in the title essay where he invokes Jonathan Bowden’s idea of simply “stepping over” awkward historical figures, rather as the New Left has done with the many skeletons in its ideological cupboard. On the other hand, perhaps Hitler figures too prominently in the propaganda of our enemies to simply just “step over.”
To destroy the power of the Left, it would be helpful to dismantle the guilt which stems from the Holocaust. This issue is tackled in “Dealing with the Holocaust” (July 2012) — yet another highly divisive issue for White nationalists.
But while revising the history of the Holocaust or contextualizing it as part of other mainly leftist genocides is a sound tactic, it will have less chance of success if those doing the revising are seen to (a) have an emotional animus against the Jews, and (b) have an obvious admiration for Adolf Hitler. It is a paradox, proved by Leftist anti-war movements that the most effective opposition to Jewish power seldom comes from those who identify as Jew haters.
In “White Nationalism & Jewish Nationalism” (August 2011), Johnson discusses the need for nationalists to be consistent and see beyond a particular dislike of Jews or Israel. Nationalists who despise Jews often go against their own principles when it comes to Israel, claiming that the Jews have no right to have a state in Palestine. Johnson makes the observation that supporting such ideas, while easy for the European New Right, delegitimizes the existence of White America, a nation built like Israel on land that once did not belong to it. He calls these views the “Samson option” after the Biblical figure who destroyed himself in order to destroy his enemies.
As an ethnonationalist, I do not object to Israel or Zionism per se. Yes, I object to our foreign policy toward Israel and its neighbours, which is dictated by Israeli interests rather than US interests. Yes, I object to foreign aid to Israel that does not serve US interests. But let us be perfectly clear here: These are not problems with Israel per se. They are problems with the Jewish diaspora community in the United States. (p. 110)
Another contentious issue that Johnson deals with admirably is the subject of “The Christian Question in White Nationalism” (May 2010). The main question is whether or not we should actively oppose Christianity on the Nietzschean basis that it is an alien and inherently globalist “slave religion” unworthy of traditionalist Europeans. Johnson astutely points out that Christianity has always tended to follow rather than lead the zeitgeist, and that this explains its present Liberal outlook. You could also refer to its earlier role in justifying slavery and racial distinctions. From this it follows that, if in the future White nationalism triumphs, Christianity can be expected to swing round like the weather cock it has always been.
Furthermore, because personal religious beliefs tend to be deeply rooted, and because Christianity itself has been an integral part of Western identity for around 1500 years, it would be no easy feat to de-Christianize the West, no matter how desirable it may be. Such efforts are more likely to lead to divisive squabbling. Johnson sagely points out:
It is a basic principle of political struggle that one should always work to preserve the unity of one’s ranks while sowing division among the enemy. (p.118)
Building a Movement
It may be a slightly ominous that the shortest of the four divisions of the book is entitled “Building a Movement.” This could be taken to mean that there is more work to be done here, or perhaps that much of what we need to know is already implicit in the material covered in other chapters.
Considering the plight that Whites now face in their traditional homelands, it is surprising that more fanaticism in defence of Whites is not generated. In “Learning from the Left” (June 2010) Johnson considers Dedication and Leadership (1966) by Douglas Hyde, a British communist activist. He contrasts the high degree of support that individual Left wingers gave their movements, with the sometimes lukewarm support that White nationalism gets:
I was particularly impressed by one example of the dedication and self-sacrifice that was routine in Communist circles. Hyde and his fellow party employees took eight-fourteenths of their income — more than 50% — and tithed it back to the party. They did this every payday, not just on special occasions.” (p. 159)
Many people may be sympathetic with our mission, but the question that has to be asked, as with a soccer team trailing by three goals at half-time in a cup match: “How much do you really want it?”
Other problems dealt with in this section are the phenomenon of White nationalists reneging on their beliefs (“The Psychology of Apostasy,” July 2013), and the need to avoid doing harm to the movement, through misplaced enthusiasms or ego issues (“First, Do No Harm,” September 2010). This is a vital principle because, as Johnson points out, White nationalism tends to attract a variety of people acting out certain personality disorders.
Personality disorders like narcissism and mental illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder are over-represented in our ranks. … Even though White nationalism is anti-egalitarian and elitist in theory, in practice White Nationalists tend to coddle and even promote people who are mentally and physically botched and unhealthy. (p. 183)
Distractions and Dead Ends
The fourth and final section is also not particularly long. In “White Nationalists and the Political Mainstream” (November 2010) Johnson argues against dissipating energies by becoming involved in mainstream organizations, like the Tea Party, even if they seem promising. As with so many things, however, it’s all a question of balance as some degree of entryism or participation in these movements can help serve the cause:
I am all for creating front groups and publications controlled by bona fide White Nationalists that intersect with the outer edge of the mainstream. These fronts allow us to recruit and radicalize people, moving them in the right direction. … But no purpose is served by persuading White Nationalists to move toward the mainstream: to shut up, blend in, and devote our scarce money and time to promoting the success of marginally better system politicians. (p.190)
Similar ideas are covered in “Why Conservatives STILL Can’t Win” (December 2010), while “Status Competition, Jews, & Racialist Mainstreaming” (August 2011) looks at these issues in a more focused way, with regard to the interests of White elites, a group that is being politically short-changed by its continuing interest in mainstream conservative movement that does little to conserve or protect its interests.
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The main strength of this book is that it deals with a lot of important issues in a clear and accessible way. It can also provide additional insights on rereading. White Nationalists and followers of the New Right should definitely have a copy on their bookshelves.
But while his ideas are important and profound, the greatest praise I can offer is stylistic: Johnson’s prose is rigorous, well-proportioned, lithe and athletic. It has a certain puritan beauty that brings to mind the aesthetic figure introduced at the beginning of this review — the figure who sits in the desert and contemplates the heavens and the future.