Sea and Earth

‘Swaying between atomic and spiritual disintegration.’

Miri Davidson in Sidecar: The far right wants to decolonize. In France, far-right intellectuals routinely cast Europe as indigenous victim of an ‘immigrant colonization’ orchestrated by globalist elites. Renaud Camus, theorist of the Great Replacement, has praised the anticolonial canon – ‘all the major texts in the fight against decolonization apply admirably to France, especially those of Frantz Fanon’ – and claimed that indigenous Europe needs its own FLN. A similar style of reasoning is evident among Hindu supremacists, who employ the ideas of Latin American decolonial theorists to present ethnonationalism as a form of radical indigenous critique; the lawyer and writer Sai Deepak did this so successfully that he managed to persuade decolonial theorist Walter Mignolo to write an endorsement. Meanwhile in Russia, Putin proclaims Russia’s leading role in an ‘anti-colonial movement against unipolar hegemony’, with his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov promising to stand ‘in solidarity with the African demands to complete the process of decolonization’.

Separating the inseparable does not seem to pose a problem for reactionary thought. Indeed, it may be crucial to it. For once an imaginary antinomy has been constructed, one can disavow the hated side of it, and in this way seem to gain mastery over one’s own riven interior.

Frantz Omar Fanon

The phenomenon goes beyond the kinds of reversal common to reactionary discourse. A decolonial perspective is championed by the two foremost intellectuals of the European New Right: Alain de Benoist and Alexander Dugin. In the case of de Benoist, this involved a major departure from his earlier colonialist allegiances. Coming to political consciousness during the Algerian War, he found his calling among white nationalist youth organizations seeking to prevent the collapse of the French empire. He praised the OAS for its bravery and dedicated two early two books to the implementation of white nationalism in South Africa and Rhodesia, describing South Africa under apartheid as ‘the last stronghold of the West from which we came’. Yet by the 1980s, de Benoist had shifted course. Having adopted a pagan imaginary and dropped explicit references to white nationalism, he began to orient his thought around a defense of cultural diversity.

Against the onslaught of liberal multiculturalism and mass consumerism, de Benoist now argued that the Nouvelle Droite should struggle to uphold the ‘right to difference’. From here, it was a short distance to claiming a belated kinship with the plight of Third World nations. ‘Undertaken under the aegis of missionaries, armies, and merchants, the Westernization of the planet has represented an imperialist movement fed by the desire to erase all otherness’, he wrote with Charles Champetier in their Manifesto for a European Renaissance (2012). The authors insisted that the Nouvelle Droite ‘upholds equally ethnic groups, languages, and regional cultures under the threat of extinction’ and ‘supports peoples struggling against Western imperialism’. Today, the preservation of anthropological difference and a sense of indigenous fragility are common tropes on the European far right. ‘We refuse to become the Indians of Europe’, proclaims the manifesto of the neo-fascist youth group Génération Identitaire.

Dugin, a close associate of de Benoist, has integrated this decolonial spirit into his worldview even more deeply. His system of thought ­– what he calls neo-Eurasianism or The Fourth Political Theory – is underpinned by a critique of Eurocentrism derived from anthropologists such as Lévi-Strauss. Russia, he claims, shares much with the postcolonial world: it, too, is a victim of the assimilating drive inherent to Western liberalism, which forces a world of ontological diversity into a flat, homogeneous, de-particularized mass (we can think of Renaud Camus’s ‘Undifferentiated Human Matter’ or what Marine le Pen called ‘the flavorless mush’ of globalism). Contra this universalizing agenda, Dugin asserts, we live in a ‘pluriverse’ of distinct civilizations, each moving according to its own rhythm. ‘There is no unified historical process. Every people has its own historical model that moves in a different rhythm and sometimes in different directions.’ The parallels with the decolonial school of Mignolo and Anibal Quijano are hard to miss. Each civilization blossoms out of a unique epistemological framework, but such efflorescence has been stunted by the ‘unitary episteme of Modernity’ (Dugin’s words, but they could be Mignolo’s).

Modernization, Westernization and colonization are ‘a synonymous series’: each involves imposing an exogenous developmental model upon plural civilizations. That the ethnonational identities Dugin defends are artifacts of the colonial production of difference – the racial regimes through which it differentiates, categorizes, and organizes exploitation and extraction – is not considered. Nor, for that matter, is the quintessentially modern character of many anticolonial movements, which sought not to return to a traditional culture but rather to remake the world system. As Fanon put it, decolonization could neither renounce ‘the present and the future in favor of a mystical past’ nor base itself on ‘sterile litanies and nauseating mimicry’ of a debased Europe that was, at the time he was writing, ‘swaying between atomic and spiritual disintegration.’

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