In recent months, several works have appeared that throw light on the attitudes and concerns of various rightist movements lacking the imprimatur of an established right. While it is hard to generalize about the disparate thinkers and groups featured in these books, they are alike in having no relationship to the American right.
Also characteristic of these movements is their indifference to the obsessive anticommunism typical of postwar American conservatism. Although admittedly an emotionally distraught loner with a morbid attraction to Hitler, Francis Parker Yockey, the subject of Kevin Coogan’s book, combined anti-egalitarian and anti-materialist opinions with a favorable view of the Soviet Union. For Yockey, a disaffected Catholic drawn to Spengler’s vision of a despiritualized modern civilization, the Soviets were all that stood in the way of an American empire marked by consumerism and the leveling of cultural and social distinctions. Despite the fact that Yockey, who died as an FBI prisoner in 1960, was a Soviet agent whose social criticism was laced with offensive antisemitic tirades, his comments on the American world order, although written in the 40’s and 50’s, sound entirely contemporary.
Both the English musings of Tomislav Sunic, a multilingual Croatian man of letters, and the unsettling ideas expressed by the contributors to the Standardbearers anthology exemplify other thoughts out of season, many of which could have been written by Nietzsche. Most of the views expressed by these authors, criticizing dominant political and cultural forces, lead me to conclude that circumstances are not very different in Europe from what they are here in the United States. Sunic is conspicuously upset that the American mania for global democracy has spread to Europe, and that the entire Western world, while acquiring wealth and succumbing to multiculturalism, has become morally degenerate. He has little use for either European or American culture in its present form, and his meditations emphasize the family resemblances between communist and “moribund capitalist” societies.
The Standardbearers anthology, produced by British New Right members of the Bloomsbury Forum, is a focused attempt to forge a defense of “English historical national identify.” Basing their appeal to identify politics on historical models, the contributors offer pointed biographies of great Englishmen of the past. Some names (such as Samuel Johnson, Lords Salisbury and Palmerston, Edmund Burke, Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, Benjamin Disraeli, and John Maynard Keynes) should be familiar to Chronicles readers; others (in particular, William George Penney and Sir Arnold Bax) will likely draw blank stares. What is most striking about the Standardbearers project, ably introduced by Antony Flew, is the editors’ decision to create an eclectic pedigree for their intellectual position. Being adversarial is what the contributors are about, and what unites the socialist patriots, old-fashioned Tories, unconventional playwrights, and libertarians depicted in this anthology is their hostility to the world of Tony Blair, whom Flew properly calls “the most radical Prime Minister that the United Kingdom has ever had.”
A point of reference for most contributors is Hal Colebatch’s Blair’s Britain (Claridge Press, 1999), a sketch of the present prime minister’s project for modernizing and internationalizing his country. Although Colebatch does not provide a detailed or particularly coherent treatment of his subject, he marshals compelling evidence to underscore Blair’s radical cultural and social views. He also discredits the whistling-in-the-dark that British Tories, including Margaret Thatcher, have engaged in. (Because Blair is fiscally more restrained than earlier Labour leaders, he must therefore be a closet conservative.) By contrast, Colebatch and the contributors to Standardbearers take seriously Blair’s statements that he hopes to make England multicultural, strip it of its unique national heritage, weaken further the monarchy and the House of Lords, and criminalize “insensitive” speech and thought.
Against this revolutionary attempt to dispossess a nation, the Bloomsbury Forum raises the standard of English national particularity. Whether the “standardbearers” were socialists or free-marketeers, what distinguished them from Blair’s “Cool Britannia” was their pride in belonging to a distinct nation. It is precisely the hatred of England’s identity that marks those whom these patriots would have opposed were they still alive. The general point is well taken: Despite the supposed fiscal centrism that leads American “conservative” Ben Wattenberg to characterize today’s Eurosocialists as Thatcherites and Reaganites, Blair and French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin are far more radical than were earlier generations of European left-of-center politicians. Their cultural goals, not their unwillingness to nationalize private industries, betray their hatred of their own peoples. What defines today’s radical (or, perhaps, establishment) politics is its combination of multiculturalism and thought control. Derek Turner of Right NOW! and his friends see this clearly. What is uncertain, however, is that we can turn any of this around by invoking “standardbearers.”
[Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International, by Kevin Coogan (New York: Autonomedia) 644 pp., $16.95]
[Cool Croatia, by Tomislav Sunk (Glastonbury, England: Vineyard Books) 60 pp., £2.5]
[Standardbearers: British Roots of the New Right, Jonathan Bowden, Eddy Butter, and Adrian Davies, editors (Kent, England: Bloomsbury Forum) 176 pp., £6.00]