THE “RIGHT-WING GRAMSCIANISM” PHENOMENON: THE EXPERIENCE OF THE “NEW RIGHT”

25.11.2022

The “New Right” is an ensemble of intellectual movements that appeared in 1968 as a reaction to ideological crisis and the strengthening of liberal hegemony in Europe. By 1968, the classical “rightwing” movements were riddled with liberal ideological motives, such as the adoption of capitalism, pro-American sentiments, and statism. In turn, the “left-wing” agenda, the core of which was constituted by opposition to capitalism [1], was also affected by liberal influences. Egalitarianism, individualism, the negation of differences between cultures, and universalism were rendering “left-wing” movements allies and partners of the liberal doctrine.

The “New Right” ensemble of intellectuals engaged in studying European identity, a research which differed from contemporary analogues first and foremost because it did not consider itself to be a “left-wing” or “right-wing” movement. The movement’s main ideologists spoke about the necessity of overcoming the artificial political schism and transitioning to a new doctrine, one which would be a mix of the best ideas from the “left-wing” and “right-wing” intellectual movements. As Guillaume Faye remarked at a conference of the Research and Study Group for European Civilization (G.R.E.C.E.): “Our society is no longer inspired by the renewal of its ideology. This ideology today is at its “culmination” – and therefore at the beginning of sunset, dead ideas have become moral canons, systems of habits, ideological taboos, which do not enthuse anymore” [2].

The very title “New Right” dates back to 1979, when it was impossible not to notice the influence of the “Research and Study Group for European Civilization” (G.R.E.C.E.) on the political culture and intellectual life of France. Such a “label” appeared in the summer of 1979 first in French and later European and even American media – more than 500 publications were published in just one summer, whose main goal was quite obvious: to diminish the influence of de Benoist and his supporters’ ideas. Such a media campaign only strengthened the positions of the movement – it thereby began to appear in other European countries. The New Right has accomplished the colossal work of compiling a unified set (encyclopedia) of the best European thinkers (from Plato to Nietzsche, Lorenz to Jünger). They opened up France to the ideas of the Conservative Revolutionists, the NationalBolsheviks, the philosophers of the “New Beginning”, and other phenomenologists, sociologists, social anthropologists, and ethnologists who greatly contributed to the development of European culture. Among their inspirations were Ersnt Niekisch, Ernst Jünger, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, Oswald Spengler, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Arnold Gehlen, Jean Thiriart, Louis Dumont, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

A complex rethinking of European civilization and creating a front of “counter-hegemony” that would confront the universalism, globalism, egalitarianism carried out under the liberal agenda through an alternative and somewhat symmetric ideology, and also via reconstruction of European culture in all of its diversity, came to be the main tasks of the New Right. The movement initially took shape around the “Research and Study Group for European Civilization” (G.R.E.C.E.) and “New School” (“Nouvelle École”).

In 1973, the New Right launched the iconic magazine “Elements” (“Éléments”), which became a new platform for the meeting of intellectuals who set before themselves the task of reviving European Culture along the principles of holism, anti-liberalism, tradition, and anticapitalism. In 1988, the New Right launched the print publication “Crisis” (“Krisis”), a magazine for “ideas and debates”. Unlike many other political publications coming out of France at the time, the New Right’s print editions proclaimed themselves to be platforms where the opposition between “left and right” was overcome. As de Benoist wrote in the book “Les Idées à l’endroit”, the New Right practically “flipped the table of ideas” existing the time, leaving the field of the classic confrontation of “left” and “right”.

One important aspect of the New Right’s activity came to be the development of a theory of “right-wing Gramscianism.” Building on the works of Antonio Gramsci, Alain de Benoist criticizes the ideological and cultural hegemony of liberalism and declares the necessity of creating an alternative that would be founded on the values of European civilization – holism, tradition, a pluriversal perception of the world, Europe’s continental identity, and replacing abstract “human rights” with “peoples’ rights”. De Benoist has remarked: “In a sense, and if we stick to only methodological aspects of the culture’s power (pouvoir culturel) theory, some views of Gramsci are virtually prophetic” [3].

One of G.R.E.C.E.’s conferences (the XVI colloque national), which took place on 29 November 1981 in the Palais des Congrès in Versailles, was devoted to the topic of “right-wing Gramscianism”. At the opening of the G.R.E.C.E. conference on “right-wing Gramscianism”, Professor M. Vayof of Nancy-Université emphasized: “To be Gramscianists for us is to admit the importance of cultural power (pouvoir culturel) theory: we are not talking about preparing the rule of some political party, rather, we want to transform the mentality to support a new system of values, where the political translation [political area] does not interest us at all” [4]. Alain de Benoist, the historian of ideas and chief ideologist of G.R.E.C.E., also remarked that political processes change all the while as the “ideological majority” remains the same”: “Now we can talk about a consent, rather than a contradiction between the political, ideological and sociological majority. Such consent represents the main state of affairs” [5]. From de Benoist’s point of view, “left-wing” ideology, riddled with liberal tendencies (individualism, priority of the economic sector over all others), has created a climate in which no political development can take place. For de Benoist, it is important to highlight the fact that behind the façade of “left-wing” ideas in recent decades hides the very same liberalism (liberal ideology and culture) and “consumer society”. The goal of right-wing Gramscianism is to get out of the system of liberal hegemony through the development of alternative culture and metapolitical codes. De Benoist describes such a way out of the “universalist” culture in existential categories: “We are at midnight, we are at the prime meridian of active nihilism. <…> Participation in our enterprise does not mean choosing one clan against another. It means getting out of the trolleybus, which does nothing but drives across the opposite poles of the same ideology – with or without stops” [6]. De Benoist notes that we are talking about “changing the universe”, “giving the world its color, memory – its measures, peoples – their historical opportunity and fate of being” [7]. For the New Right, ideas become weapons. As Guillaume Faye remarked:

“Isolated intellectuals, neutral, not at war, have never marked history with their stamp. <…> G.R.E.C.E. and our entire movement does not at all intend to give ideology to liberals or conservatives, as well as to the “leftwingers”, but wants to bring into society, in all its complexity, the strength of different ideas. To execute “right-wing Gramscianism” means to spread a system of values that:

— will work for a long time;

— will contain competing formulas;

— will be brought in through a metapolitical strategy;

— will be located outside political institutions.

G.R.E.C.E. also spreads a view of the world (which can be expressed through action in the cultural sphere, or in a purely intellectual sphere) through the construction of a theoretical corpus, which is never complete, but always developing. Such a corpus presupposes the inclusion of many disciplines in it – from biology to philosophy” [8].

Also in his speech at the G.R.E.C.E. conference on right-wing Gramscianism, he emphasized that “the ideological corpus [G.R.E.C.E.] is radically open, is in constant evolution, unites new disciplines, accepts new ideas, is in constant interaction with reality”.

“Right-wing Gramscianism” thus reveals the dominance of liberalism in the field of culture and advocates the construction of counter-hegemony. For the New Right, the positions of “right-wingers” in relation to liberal hegemony in culture are not suitable, as the “rightwing” refrains from engaging in the war for ideas. De Benoist considers the latter to be a fatal mistake (Caesarism), insofar as losing and leaving culture to liberalism leads to any politics inevitably turning into a liberal politics. But de Benoist also views the “left-wing” opposition to liberal culture as ineffective. Capitalism in both the “rightwing” and “left-wing” intellectual space becomes a kind of code which can only be resisted by an alternative code.

In positioning and describing such a “right-wing Gramscianism”, “independence from ideologies” is also important. Representatives of the “New Right” have formulated the idea that the ideologies of the Modernity which have been in strict opposition and state of struggle are a phenomenon exclusive to Western culture. The position of the right-wing Gramscianism is based on the idea of building a “territory free of ideologies.” This territory would reject “individualism”, egalitarianism and the concept of abstract human rights (which are interpreted by the “New Right” to be a forgery of liberal doctrine).

Right-wing Gramscianism is thus conceived as a territory of metapolitics beyond the influence of hegemony, that is, the authority of liberal culture with its algorithms, practices and institutions. Gramsci himself viewed communism as an alternative to hegemony or counter-hegemony, primarily in its active Leninist version, where politics is ahead of economics and culture is ahead of politics. G.R.E.C.E. however, attributes contemporary communism to hegemony, i.e., they interpret it to be an extremely “left-wing” version of liberalism itself.

And then the thesis of right-wing Gramscianism acquires all its meaning: it is an invitation to create a new version of counter-hegemony that would challenge the entire political theology of modern times. From Gramsci, however, the “New Right” took, first of all, the thesis that the source of power should be sought precisely in culture, in the historical pact that the intellectual freely concludes with this or that historical dominant.

De Benoist chooses the side of Labor against Capital (in this he is a consistent Gramscianist), but he interprets the principle of Labor (Arbeit) rather in the spirit of Ernst Jünger and his Worker (der Arbeiter). Again, here we are not talking about nationalism as another version of the same capitalist culture (and, therefore, about another version of the same hegemony), but about going beyond the borders of Modernity as a whole, into yet unknown territory – beyond “right” and “left”.

Therefore, “right-wing Gramscianism” is only a conventional name. It is not so much “right-wing” as “non-left-wing”, i.e., it does not recognize communism to be an adequate counter-hegemony. But it is also not “right-wing” in the conventional sense, since it rejects capitalism and nationalism. Later, the French sociologist Alain Soral, who continued this line, would call this counter-hegemonic synthesis “Left-wing Labor + Right-wing Values.”

This is most fully reflected in the Fourth Political Theory, to which A. de Benoist came already in the 2000s. Here, as in Gramsci, an antithesis to hegemony (including its interpretation by Gramsci himself as international – imperialist – capitalism) is posed and the primacy of culture is recognized. But Marxism – at least in its dogmatic version – is discarded and a free search begins for philosophical, sociological and anthropological studies that do not fall under the classical criteria and which can come to form the basis of a new metapolitical topology.

In 40 years, the New Right has come a long way in developing their metapolitical theory and related strategies. To date, the conceptual apparatus and theoretical algorithms developed by them are the most adequate for the interpretation of such phenomena as European populism, the crisis of globalism, and the emergence of multipolarity. This is increasingly recognized not only by the “right”, but also by the “left”, such as the Italian communist Massimo Cacciari, the French sociologists Serge Latouche and K.-M. Mishea, and the left-wing intellectual Chantal Mouffe.

References:

[1] Pour un gramscisme de droite. Acte du XVIe colloque national du GRECE. Paris: Le Labyrinthe, 1982. P. 72.

[2] A. de Benoist, Les Idées à l’endroit. Paris: Editions Libres Hallier, 1979. P. 258. [

3] Pour un gramscisme de droite. Acte du XVIe colloque national du GRECE. Paris: Le Labyrinthe, 1982. P. 7.

[4] Ibid. P. 11.

[5] Ibid. P. 21.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

Translated by Jafe Arnold

From The Theory of Hegemony and Counter-hegemony

Almanac by “Sun of the North”