Alain de Benoist
|Alma mater||University of Paris|
|Modernization and secularization of Christian values, Repaganization of the West, Pensée unique, Nouvelle Droite, Ethnopluralism|
Alain de Benoist (/ /; French: [alɛ̃ də bənwa]; born 11 December 1943) – also known as Fabrice Laroche, Robert de Herte, David Barney, and other pen names – is a French journalist and political philosopher, a founding member of the Nouvelle Droite ("New Right"), and the leader of the ethno-nationalist think tank GRECE.
Principally influenced by thinkers of the German Conservative Revolution, de Benoist is opposed to Christianity, the rights of man, neoliberalism, representative democracy, egalitarianism; and what he sees as embodying and promoting those values, namely the United States. He theorized the notion of ethnopluralism, a concept which relies on preserving and mutually respecting individual and bordered ethno-cultural regions.
His work has been influential with the alt-right movement in the United States, and he presented a lecture on identity at a National Policy Institute conference hosted by Richard B. Spencer; however, he has distanced himself from the movement.
Alain de Benoist was born on 11 December 1943 in Saint-Symphorien (now part of Tours), Centre-Val de Loire, the son of a head of sales at Guerlain, also named Alain de Benoist, and Germaine de Benoist, née Langouët. He grew up in a bourgeois and Catholic family. His mother came from the lower-middle class of Normandy and Brittany, and his father belonged to the Belgian nobility. During the Second World War, his father was a member of the Resistance armed group French Forces of the Interior. He was a self-declared Gaullist, whereas his wife Germaine was rather left-leaning, and the extended de Benoist family was divided between Free France and Vichy France during the conflict.
His paternal grandmother, Yvonnes de Benoist, was the secretary of Gustave Le Bon. De Benoist is also the great-nephew of French Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau.
De Benoist was still in high school at Lycée Montaigne and Louis-le-Grand during the turmoils of the Algerian war (1954-1962), a period that shaped his political views. In 1957, he met the daughter of the antisemite journalist and conspiracy theorist Henry Coston. From the age of 15, de Benoist became interested in the nationalist right; he started his career as a journalist in 1960 by writing literary pieces and pamphlets for Coston's magazine Lectures Françaises, generally in defence of the French colonial empire and the pro-colonial paramilitary organization Organisation Armée Secrète (OAS). However, de Benoist stayed away from Coston’s conspiracy theories on the Freemasonry and the Jews.
Aged 17 in 1961, he met François d'Orcival, with whom he became the editor of France Information, an underground pro-OAS newspaper. The same year, de Benoist started to attend the University of Paris and joined the far-right student society Federation of Nationalist Students (FEN). In 1962, he became the secretary of the group's magazine, Cahiers universitaires, in which he wrote the main articles along with d'Orcival. As a student in law and literature, he began a period of political activism and developed a passion for fantastique cinema. According to philosopher Pierre-André Taguieff, de Benoist possessed an intellectual curiosity that was lacking among his elder colleagues like Dominique Venner (1935–2013) or Jean Mabire (1927–2006), and the young journalist led them to discover a conceptual universe "that they could not imagine", no more than its "possible ideological exploitations".
De Benoist met Dominique Venner in 1962. The following year, he took part in the creation of Europe-Action, a white nationalist magazine created by Venner in which de Benoist started to work as a journalist. He published at that times his first essays: Salan devant l'opinion ("Salan faces the [public] opinion", 1963) and Le courage est leur patrie ("Braveness is their motherland", 1965), defending French Algeria and the OAS.
Between 1963 and 1965, de Benoist was a member of the Rationalist Union, and he probably began to read Louis Rougier's criticism of Christianity at that time. De Benoist met Rougier, who was also a member of the organization, and his ideas deeply influenced his own anti-Christianity. "We oppose Rougier to Sartre", de Benoist wrote in 1965, "as we oppose verbal delirium to logics [...], because biological realism is the best support against those idealistic chimeras". De Benoist continued his journalistic career and became in 1964 the editor-in-chief of the weekly publication Europe-Action Hebdomaire, renamed L'Observateur Européen in October 1966. He also wrote in the neo-fascist magazine Défense de l'Occident, founded in 1952 by Maurice Bardèche.
After a visit to South Africa at the invitation of Hendrik Verwoerd's National Party government, de Benoist co-wrote with Gilles Fournier in 1965 the essay Vérité pour l'Afrique du Sud ("Truth for South Africa"), in which they endorsed apartheid. The following year, he co-wrote with D'Orcival another essay, Rhodésie, pays des lions fidèles ("Rhodesia, country of the faithful lions"), in defence of Rhodesia, a breakaway country in southern Africa that was ruled by a white-minority government. The then prime minister of the unrecognized state, Ian Smith, prefaced the book. Returning from a trip to the United States, de Benoist deplored the suppression of racial segregation and wrote as a prediction that the system would survive outside the law, thus in a more violent way.
In two essays published in 1966, Les Indo-Européens ("The Indo-Europeans") and Qu'est-ce que le nationalisme? ("What is nationalism?"), de Benoist contributed to define a new form of European nationalism in which the European civilization — to be understood as the "white race" — would be considered above its constituting ethnic groups, all united in a common empire and civilization superseding the nation states. This agenda was adopted by the European Rally for Liberty (REL) during the 1967 legislative election (de Benoist was a member of the REL national council), and later became a core idea of GRECE after 1968.
The successive failures of the far-right movements de Benoist had supported since the early 1960s — from the dissolution of OAS and the Évian Accords of 1962, to the electoral defeat of presidential candidate Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour in 1965 (in which he had participated via the grassroots movement "T.V. Committees"), to the debacle of the REL in March 1967, — led de Benoist to question his political involvement. In the fall of 1967, he decided to make a "permanent and complete break with political action" and to focus on a meta-political strategy by launching a review. During the May 1968 events, then aged 25, de Benoist worked as a journalist for the professional magazine L'Écho de la presse et de la publicité.
The Groupement de Recherche et d'Études pour la Civilisation Européenne (GRECE) was founded in January 1968 to serve as a meta-political, ethnonationalist think-tank. Although the organization was established with other former militants of the REL and FEN, de Benoist has been viewed as its leader and "most authoritative spokesman". In the 1970s, he adapted his geopolitical view-points and went from a pro-colonial attitude towards an advocacy of third-Worldism against capitalist America and communist Russia, from the defence of the "last outposts of the West" towards anti-Americanism, and from a biological to a cultural approach of the notion of alterity, an idea which he developed in his ethnopluralist theories.
De Benoist's works, along with others published by the think tank, began to attract public attention in the late 1970s, when the media coined the term "Nouvelle Droite" to label the movement. He started to write articles for mainstream right-wing magazines, namely Valeurs Actuelles and Le Spectacle du Monde from 1970 to 1982, and Le Figaro Dimanche (renamed in 1978 Le Figaro Magazine) from 1977 to 1982 – he then wrote for the 'videos' section of the Figaro Magazine until 1992. De Benoist was awarded in 1978 the prestigious Prix de l'essai by the Académie française for his book View for the Right (Vu de droite: Anthologie critique des idées contemporaines). Between 1980 and 1992, he was a regular participant in the radio program Panorama on France Culture.
Although de Benoist had announced his retirement from political parties and elections to focus on meta-politics in 1968, he ran as a candidate for the far-right Party of New Forces during the 1979 European elections. In the 1984 election to the European Parliament, de Benoist announced his intention to vote for the French Communist Party, and justified his choice by describing the party as the most credible anti-capitalist, anti-liberal, and anti-American political force then active in France.
De Benoist met Russian writer Alexandr Dugin in 1989 and the two of them soon became close collaborators. De Benoist was invited in Moscow by Dugin in 1992, and Dugin presented himself as the Moscow correspondent of GRECE for a time. The two authors eventually broke off their relationship in 1993 after a virulent campaign in French and German media against the "red and brown threat" in Russia. Whereas de Benoist acknowledged ideological differences with Dugin, especially on Eurasianism and Heidegger, they have maintained regular exchanges since then.
In 1979 and 1993, two press campaigns launched in French liberal media against de Benoist damaged his public reputation and influence in France by claiming that he was in reality a "closet Fascist" or a "Nazi". The journalists accused de Benoist of hiding his racist and anti-egalitarian beliefs in a seemingly acceptable public agenda, replacing the doomed hierarchy of races with the less suspicious concept of "ethno-pluralism". Although he still frequently comments on politics, de Benoist chose in the early 1990s to focus on his intellectual activity and to avoid media attention.
Since the 2000s onward, however, public interest for his works have re-emerged. His writings have been published in several far-right academic journals such as the Journal of Historical Review, Chronicles, the Occidental Quarterly, Tyr, or the New Left Telos. De Benoist was one of the signatories of the 2002 Manifesto Against the Death of the Spirit and the Earth, reportedly because "it seemed to [him] that it reacts against the practical materialism that is part of a dominant ideology, an ideology for which there is nothing beyond material concerns".
In a 2002, in a republication of his book View from the Right, de Benoist reiterated what he wrote in 1977: the "greatest" danger in the world today was the "progressive disappearance of diversity from the world," including biodiversity of animals, cultures and peoples. De Benoist is now the editor of two magazines: the yearly Nouvelle École(since 1968) and the quarterly Krisis (since 1988).
Although the extent of the relationship is debated by scholars, de Benoist and the Nouvelle Droite are generally viewed as influential on the ideological and political structure of the Identitarian Movement. Part of the alt-right has also claimed to have been inspired by de Benoist's writings.
In his early writings, de Benoist was close to pro-colonial movements and followed an ethno-biological approach of social science, endorsing apartheid as the "last outpost of the West" at a time of "decolonization and international negrification". From the 1970s onward, he has gradually moved towards the defence of the Third-World against American imperialism, and has adopted a cultural definition of "difference", theorized in his concept of ethnopluralism. Scholars have questioned whether this evolution should be regarded as a sincere ideological detachment from a far-right activist youth, or rather as a meta-political strategy set up to disguise non-egalitarian ideas behind more acceptable concepts. De Benoist is also an ardent critic of globalization, unrestricted mass immigration, liberalism, postmodern society, and denounces what he calls the "ideology of sameness".
Political scientist Jean-Yves Camus describes the key idea of de Benoist in those terms: "through the use of meta-politics, to think the ways and means that are necessary in order for European civilization, based on the cultural values shared on the continent until the advent of globalization, to thrive and be perpetuated." Although de Benoist embodies the core values of GRECE and the Nouvelle Droite, his works are not always identical to those of other thinkers of the movements. He is opposed in particular to political violence, and he has declared that he had been building "a school of thought, not a political movement." In 2000, he disavowed Guillaume Faye's "strongly racist" ideas regarding Muslims after the publication of The Colonization of Europe: Speaking Truth about Immigration and Islam.
In 2006, de Benoist defined "identity" as a "dialogical" phenomenon, inspired by Martin Buber's philosophy of dialogue and Ich und Du concept. According to him, one's identity is made of two components: the "objective part" coming from one's background (ethnicity, religion, family, nationality), and the "subjective part" freely chosen by the individual. Identity is therefore a perpetual evolution rather than a definitive notion. In 1992, de Benoist dismissed the Front National's use of ethnopluralism on the grounds that it portrayed "difference as an absolute, whereas, by definition, it exists only relationally." In 1966 however, he had written: "Race is the only real unit encompassing individual variations. The objective study of history shows that only the European race (white race, caucasian) has continued to progress since its appearance on the rising path of the evolution of the living, unlike races stagnant in their development, therefore in virtual regression."
If scholars like Pierre-André Taguieff have characterized the Nouvelle Droite as a form of "mixophobia" due to its focus on the notion of "difference", de Benoist has also criticized what he calls "the pathology of identity", that is to say the political use of identity by the populist Right in order to push an "us versus them" debate escorted by "[systematic] and [irrational] hating". The difficulty of understanding de Benoist’s views on identity rests upon the fact that his writings have experienced multiple re-synthesis since the 1960s. In 1974, he said: "there is no superior race. All races are superior and each of them has its own genius". However, in 1966 he had written: "The European race does not have absolute superiority. It is only the most capable of progressing in the direction of evolution [...] Racial factors being statistically hereditary, each race has its own psychology. All psychology generates value." Suspicions have thus arisen of a subtle meta-political strategy set up to disguise fascism and racism around an acceptable framework. De Benoist has been influenced by Carl Schmitt's distinction between friend and enemy as the core issue of politics. However, he sees immigrants as eventually victims of globalization and has argued that immigration was first of all a consequence of multinational companies being greedy for profits and preferring to import cheap labor.
De Benoist rejects the nation state and nationalism on the grounds that both liberalism and nationalism eventually derive from the same metaphysics of subjectivity, and that the centralized and "Jacobin" state French Republic had destroyed regional identities in the project of "one and indivisible" France. He stands instead for the political autonomy of each and every group, favouring an integral federalism built on the principle of subsidiarity that would transcend the nation state and give way for both regional and Europe identities to thrive. De Benoist believes that knowledge of ethnic and religious traditions is a duty which must be passed on to following generations, and he has been critical of the idea of a moral imperative to cosmopolitanism.
De Benoist is a critic of the primacy of individual rights, an ideology that he sees embodied in humanism, the French Revolution, and the Founding Fathers of the United States. While not a Marxist, de Benoist has been influenced by the communist analysis of the nature of capitalism and conflicting class interests developed by Karl Marx in Das Kapital. As a result, another of his core ideas is that the world is facing the "hegemony of capital" and the "pursuit of self-interest", two typical trends of the postmodern era.
According to Jean-Yves Camus, if de Benoist can share anti-capitalist analysis with leftists, the nature of his goal is indeed different since de Benoist considers the unlimited expansion of the free market and consumerism as key contributors to the erasure of peoples' identities. Furthermore, de Benoist acknowledges the existence of the "working class" and the "bourgeoise" but does not make an essential distinction between the two of them. He rather divides society between the "new dominant class" and the "people". In 1991, the editorial staff of his magazine Eléments described the danger of adopting a "systematic anti-egalitarianism [that could] lead to social Darwinism, which might justify free-market economy".
De Benoist is opposed to the American modern liberal idea of a melting pot. A critic of the United States, he has been quoted as saying: "Some people do not accept the thought of one day having to wear the Red Army cap. In fact, it is a terrible prospect. However, this is not a reason to tolerate the idea of one day having to spend what we have left to live on by eating hamburgers in Brooklyn." In 1991, he described European supporters of the first Gulf War as "collaborators of the American order."
De Benoist has supported ties with Islamic culture in the 1980s, on the grounds that the relationship would be distinct from what he saw as the consumerism and materialism of the American society and from the bureaucracy and repression of the Soviet Union alike. He also opposes Christianity as inherently intolerant, theocratic and bent on persecution.
De Benoist's influences include: Antonio Gramsci, Ernst Jünger, Martin Buber, Jean Baudrillard, Georges Dumézil, Ernest Renan, José Ortega y Gasset, Vilfredo Pareto, Karl Marx, Guy Debord, Arnold Gehlen, Stéphane Lupasco, Helmut Schelsky, Konrad Lorenz, the Conservative Revolutionaries – including Carl Schmitt and Oswald Spengler –, the non-conformists of the 1930s, Johann Gottfried Herder, Johannes Althusius, interwar Austro-Marxists, and communitarian philosophers such as Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor.
Critics of de Benoist like Thomas Sheehan argue he has developed a novel restatement of fascism. Roger Griffin, using an ideal type definition of fascism which includes "populist ultra-nationalism" and "palingenesis" (heroic rebirth), argues that the Nouvelle Droite draws on such fascist ideologues as Armin Mohler in a way that allows Nouvelle Droite ideologues such as de Benoist to claim a "metapolitical" stance, but which nonetheless has residual fascist ideological elements. De Benoist's critics also claim his views recall Nazi attempts to replace German Christianity with its own paganism. They note that de Benoist's rejection of the French Revolution's legacy and the allegedly "abstract" Rights of Man ties him to the same Counter-Enlightenment right-wing tradition as counter-revolutionary Legitimists, fascists, Vichyites and integral nationalists.
A neo-pagan, de Benoist married Doris Christians, a German citizen, on 21 June 1972. They have two children. He is a member of the high IQ society Mensa, whose former president of the French branch was a member of the patronage committee of Nouvelle École. De Benoist owns the largest private library in France, with an estimate of 150,000 to 250,000 books.
Certains ne se résignent pas à la pensée d’avoir un jour à porter la casquette de l’Armée rouge. De fait, c’est une perspective affreuse. Nous ne pouvons pas, pour autant, supporter l’idée d’avoir un jour à passer ce qui nous reste à vivre en mangeant des hamburgers du côté de Brooklyn.
Pages 66–67: To summarize: De Benoist's fascism is at odds with Evola's metaphysics but agrees with his social and political philosophy.... [F]or de Benoist, the organic State is an ideal that men can set for themselves and perhaps, with force, establish.
In the age that is heavily laced with the Biblical message, many modern pagan thinkers, for their criticism of biblical monotheism, have been attacked and stigmatized either as unrepentant atheists or as spiritual standard-bearers of fascism. Particularly Nietzsche, Heidegger, and more recently Alain de Benoist came under attack for allegedly espousing the philosophy which, for their contemporary detractors, recalled the earlier national socialist attempts to "dechristianize" and "repaganize" Germany. See notably the works by Alfred Rosenberg, Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts(München: Hoheneichen Verlag, 1933). Also worth noting is the name of Wilhelm Hauer, Deutscher Gottschau (Stuttgart: Karl Gutbrod, 1934), who significantly popularized Indo-European mythology among national socialists: on pages 240–54 Hauer discusses the difference between Judeo-Christian Semitic beliefs and European paganism.