A review of Greg Johnson’s “New Right Versus Old Right”
By Keith Preston
Having been a political dissident for my entire adult life, I have been afforded plenty of opportunities to explore the outer fringes of the far left and the far right, and the many ideological undercurrents that flow within both. As lifelong avowed anarchist who favors the breakdown of states into self-determined communities, among other things, I am always interested in the ideas of others who reject the political establishment, and offer some kind of decentralist, separatist or at least oppositional alternative. The further removed from the ideological center such tendencies are located, the more interesting they often are. I always end up feeling some level of sympathy with those who dare to challenge the system, even when I disagree with the majority of their views. Unlike many of my fellow anarchists (apparently), I am not afraid to countenance those whose ideas most people find bizarre or offensive, or that are in many ways polar opposite from my own. Such has been the case during my interactions with, for example, hard line Maoists, members of Afro-centric sects, sequestered cults, and the various strands of the (white) racialist far right.
New Right Versus Old Right is a work that was self-published by Dr. Greg Johnson in 2014 through his own Counter-Currents Publishing, with a foreword by Dr. Kevin MacDonald. Johnson is also a former editor of The Occidental Quarterly and currently operates the “North American New Right” webzine. New Right Versus Old Right is Johnson’s third book. (In the interests of full disclosure, I should add that Johnson was gracious enough to host my “Attack the System” podcast series on the NANR webzine after the Voice of Reason internet radio network folded.) New Right Versus Old Right is a collection of thirty-two essays dealing with a wide variety of topics pertaining to White Nationalism as a political movement and ideological current.
I will not attempt to summarize the book’s contents as this has been ably accomplished by other reviewers, both friendly and unfriendly. For a sympathetic perspective, see the review by Michael McGregor of Radix Journal at http://www.radixjournal.com/journal/2014/5/13/new-right-versus-old-right. For a critical view, see “The ‘New Right is a Lot like the Old Right” on the But I Am a Liberal blog at http://www.butiamaliberal.com/2014/06/the-new-right-is-lot-like-old-right.html The book is a highly literate and erudite work that is nevertheless easy for the reader to follow. Johnson is certainly a superb writer. Someone who is not already well-read in the literature of White Nationalism, or the intellectual traditions of the “far right,” might find aspects Johnson’s work esoteric or unfamiliar. However, Johnson is very adept at conveying his core philosophical and political ideas.
Among Johnson’s core tasks is to differentiate his own North American New Right from both what he calls the “Old Right” (by which he means Fascism and National Socialism) and the European New Right associated with thinkers such as Alain de Benoist and Guillaume Faye. In opposition to the Old Right, Johnson specifically eschews totalitarianism, terrorism, genocide, and imperialism. He also emphatically rejects the use of political violence, and calls for white nationalists to disassociate themselves from violent, criminal, or mentally ill elements within their own ranks. However, Johnson also rejects the cultural nationalism and anti-Americanism of the European New Right, and instead endorses biological racialism. Unlike some American “race-realists” or Euro-nationalists, he also opposes any kind of relationship between white nationalists and Jewish nationalists, whether conventional Zionists or Jewish white nationalists such as Dr. Michael Hart or Dr. Michael Levin.
My willingness to explore the outer limits of the political and cultural spectrum, including the far right, has often put me at odds with many of my fellow anarchists. Apparently, they are content to remain in the ghettos of the far left. Indeed, I have likely had more brickbats thrown in my direction over this issue than any other. Their pretentious claims of free-thinking aside, many anarchists are committed tribalists for whom “the fascists” are the tribal enemy, and that’s good enough for them. Probably the most frequent question I have been asked by other anarchists concerning the white nationalists is, “What, if anything, do you think is good about these people and their ideas?”
It is a question that needs to be rejoined. Most anarchists hold to the far left paradigm that understands Western society as a manifestation of white, male, Christian, heterosexual hegemony, and the corresponding exploitation and subjugation of non-whites, women, homosexuals, transsexuals, immigrants, workers, the disabled, and an ever growing list of others who have been classified as officially oppressed. No rational person would deny that there is a great deal of truth to these claims. However, variations of this theme have been the norm in most places and at most times throughout history. Virtually all historic societies practiced slavery, for example, along with religious persecution or the cultural subordination of women. There is no evidence that white Christian Westerners are any special category of sinners in this area.
Further, despite all of their implicit absorption of Marx, many leftists fail to recognize a key insight of conflict theory, i.e. the general principle that former out-groups or oppressed groups that become powerful will frequently become just as abusive and tyrannical as the former in-groups they replaced. The oppressed will often plead their case before humanity in the name of universal principles of justice, but this supposed commitment to abstract or impartial justice often disappears once the oppressed ascend to the top of the pyramid of power. A generation ago, homosexuals were considered to be felonious criminals. The gay rights movement advanced its cause with appeals to freedom and liberation. Today, gay rights groups seek to bring legal action of their own for the purpose of silencing their critics.
The strongest argument that white nationalists make is the argument from demographics. By the middle part of the twenty-first century, ethnic Europeans will be a minority like everyone else. Whether one thinks this is a wonderful thing or a horrible thing is beside the point. It’s a done deal. The question then becomes a matter of when it is legitimate for ethnic Europeans to engage in political advocacy on behalf of their own perceived interests. Of course, not all whites perceive their interests to be the same, and many whites are certainly repulsed by the idea that white nationalists could ever speak for them. But such sentiments do not answer the question.
At present, there are organizations advocating for the interests of all kinds of groups, from bicyclists to animal-lovers to homeowners associations to death row inmates. An increasingly vast array of groups presenting credentials of having been oppressed continues to establish an ever wider assortment of political factions. For the most part, this is uncontroversial. When, if ever, would it become appropriate or acceptable for alleged hegemonic groups or groups that are offensive to leftists (whites, conservative blacks, men, non-feminist women, ex-gays, gun owners, business owners, smokers, meat eaters, adherents of traditional religion) to engage in political action on their own behalf? When whites finally achieve minority status? When whites are twenty percent? Five percent? Never?
I find much of the rhetoric among white nationalists to be overblown, fanatical, and unduly alarmist at best, and often venturing into the realm of the cultic and pathological (that’s not to say that many of my fellow anarchists do not exhibit comparable tendencies). However, it is possible to envision a North America of the late twenty-first century where whites have not only become a minority, but are a despised out-group subject to persecution by other ethnic groups with long standing historical grudges. Plenty of historical examples can be found where a formerly privileged group falls from political grace, and suffers from severe repercussions as a result.
Greg Johnson’s stated ambition in New Right Versus Old Right is the establishment of a white homeland or collection of homelands in North America. Such ideas have been common in white nationalist circles for quite some time. Probably the most articulate work advocating this position was The Ethnostate by the late Wilmot Robertson. It is certainly possible that North America at the beginning of the twenty-second century could be a collection of city-states or micronations that have emerged as a result of the federal governments of the United States, Canada, and Mexico simply being unable to maintain control over increasingly fractious and diverse societies. Within such a context a white ethnostate need not be modeled on the Third Reich. For example, culturally leftist Iceland and comparatively conservative Japan both maintain very restrictive immigration policies and ethnically homogenous societies without becoming dystopias. I also think it is highly doubtful that white nationalists will ever claim the sympathy of anything more than a minority of whites. After all, most blacks do not belong to black separatist or Afro-centric groups, and it is improbable that explicitly racialist ideologies would ever appeal to most whites, either.
However, white nationalists need not be dismissed as psychopaths who keep busy manufacturing Zyklon B in their basements, illiterate rednecks, or as mere shallow apologists for “white privilege.” Certainly, highly educated, congenial, and well-spoken men such as Greg Johnson, Jared Taylor, and Richard Spencer do not display these characteristics. Instead, let’s have an open marketplace of ideas and recognize the right of those with the most taboo or controversial ideas to have their seat at the table.