GABlog

August 29, 2016

The Alt-Right, Nationalism and Absolute Reaction

Filed under: GA — adam @ 4:11 pm

I’ve discussed Vox Day’s declaration of principles of the Alt-Right and the theses regarding nationalism in particular, but VD’s declaration has been getting a lot of attention and may very well come to occupy some quasi-official status as representing the ideas of the Alt-Right, and some more thoughts have occurred to me regarding the below quoted theses (7, 10, 15, 16), so perhaps this is all worth a more detailed examination:

The Alt Right is anti-equalitarian. It rejects the idea of equality for the same reason it rejects the ideas of unicorns and leprechauns, noting that human equality does not exist in any observable scientific, legal, material, intellectual, sexual, or spiritual form.

The Alt Right is opposed to the rule or domination of any native ethnic group by another, particularly in the sovereign homelands of the dominated peoples. The Alt Right is opposed to any non-native ethnic group obtaining excessive influence in any society through nepotism, tribalism, or any other means.

The Alt Right does not believe in the general supremacy of any race, nation, people, or sub-species. Every race, nation, people, and human sub-species has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, and possesses the sovereign right to dwell unmolested in the native culture it prefers.

The Alt Right is a philosophy that values peace among the various nations of the world and opposes wars to impose the values of one nation upon another as well as efforts to exterminate individual nations through war, genocide, immigration, or genetic assimilation.

I pointed out in passing the paradoxical status of nationalism in all this. The Alt Right rejects the idea of equality because it simply doesn’t exist in reality. This implicitly rejects the notion of a more limited political or civic equality, which calls for treating people according to the same standard (by letting them all vote, for example). I have no objection to that, but, then, on what ground can one “oppose the rule or domination of any… group by another”? What, exactly, is wrong with such rule or domination? This point is reiterated in principle 15, where it is asserted that the Alt right does not believe in the general supremacy of any race, nation, people or sub-species.” (Sub-species? I didn’t notice that before.) But why not, once the principle of equality has been rejected? Perhaps one can always find a perspective according to which differences can always be seen as neutral, rather than conferring superiority on one group or another (one group has higher intelligence, better civic values, more martial courage, but the other group is better at basket weaving…)—but this involves a principle of interpretative generosity—the very principle of interpretative generosity involved in the idea of equality (the smart and the stupid have the same number of votes). Moreover, while VD is not clear about this, it seems likely that the rejection of the idea of equality was meant to apply at least as much on the group as on the individual level. The effect of this slippage is clear: within the context of complete separation of groups, a live and let live policy can prevail, and differences can be seen as neutral rather than invidious (so that we can “value peace among the various nations of the world…”). In the context of more than one group within a given territory, differences are given a maximally invidious reading. So, the immediate aims (and current practices) of the Alt Right are privileged over a rigorous and consistent account of the questions raised by those aims.

We see this in principle 10. The second sentence here is really all weasel words: what counts as “excessive influence”? Wouldn’t any influence that exceeds the influence of any other group be “excessive”? All means of gaining such influence are illegitimate, but the only means mentioned are nepotism and tribalism. Wouldn’t one group being more intelligent, talented, and hard-working gain them outsized influence? VD, I assume, by merely gesturing toward “any means,” doesn’t want to raise the issue of such groups (and therefore the issue of whether it might be an Alt Right principle to drive out intelligence and enterprise)—and, if the idea of equality has no reality, wouldn’t they have to exist? Unless every foreign group is kept out from the start. But that presupposes, for starters, that all national groups will at least be equal in sharing the Alt Right desire not to conquer other nations, or expand into their lands. War inevitably shifts both borders and demographics—hence the rather incongruous pacificism of the Alt Right. Who can decide where the “real” (as opposed to merely internationally recognized) borders of a country end—was the Sudetenland really part of Germany, is much or all of the Ukraine really part of Russia, etc.—other than the nations themselves, but will this not inevitably be a point of contention? Again, the surreptitious introduction of the idea of equality allows for the evasion of difficult questions.

There is probably about as much reality in the idea of a nation ruling itself (being sovereign) as there is in the idea of equality. Someone rules in the name of the nation, as the principle of non-equality would suggest (unless one wants, once again, to sneak in the notion of equality, this time within a nation). But it is those who rule in the name of the nation who invite the other groups in—in order, first of all, perhaps, to increase the wealth of the ruler but, in the case of a disciplined ruler, that of the entire people, or significant portions of it. More than nepotism and tribalism must be involved in these efforts of the middlemen minorities (or nepotism and tribalism must be productive in ways we haven’t sufficiently considered). When the imported nation has done its job, the ruler can expel them or deflect resentments on the part of the home nation toward those groups—unsecure power can be blamed on the nepotistic and tribalistic foreigners. (Of course, other approaches might be available.) This brings us to the ultimate limit of the Alt Right, at least in VD’s (fairly accurate, I think) account. The way you direct resentment toward (let’s say) the Jews is by attributing their “excessive influence” to tribalism and nepotism (there’s some redundancy here, isn’t there?). You thereby rule out, as VD doesn’t quite want to do explicitly, the possibility that they served some function, made some positive contributions, or succeeded through some of those “unique strengths” possessed by any nation—you also evade the possibility that whoever rules in the name of the nation might at any time find it necessary to bring in a middleman minority to do some intricate or dirty work—you thereby prepare yourself to oppose that minority, without ever adopting the perspective of the one who rules. You essentially announce in advance your readiness to participate in the obligatory scapegoating of the newly despised minority when the time comes. This attitude reflects a very deep desire to avoid the fundamental political question: who rules?

Deflecting the question of who rules onto, ultimately, the genetic inheritance of the native population, means one doesn’t really want to rule. This is not a criticism of the Alt Right—not every political movement has to aim at rule. Sometimes the demolition of a destructive force is enough. And very few political movements can obtain clarity regarding their own limitations. The leftists are now swinging wildly at the Alt Right, hoping to make it through this election; the conservatives are flailing, practically begging to be trolled mercilessly by the Alt Right. An absolutist reactionary can take a more measured stance—if the Alt Right can seriously damage the globalist-SJW ruling party, it will be doing God’s work. But we can listen very carefully to its many ways of avoiding the question of who rules, and be ready to pose the question whenever the opportunity arises, because the absolute reactionary has no other concern than to incessantly clarify the issue. Principle 12: “The Alt Right doesn’t care what you think about it.” But we can think about it all the same.

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