Faces of the new right


This website is primarily about the strange convergence between certain forms of reactionary conspirationist thought with certain forms of radical anti-capitalism. Mostly, I have paid attention to two overlapping phenomena: first, the ways in which fascist and fascistic positions have used the language and rhetoric of the left (e.g. the so-called “national anarchists” who stalk the margins of the anarchist scene) and, second, the deep-seated antisemitic and blood-and-soil traditions within the left, today most obviously taking the form of of “anti-Zionist” and/or “anti-imperialist” ideology.These two phenomena have at times merged together, as in the intimate relationship between certain forms of ultra-left thought with Holocaust denialism. The re-emergence of the radical anti-capitalist movement is dependent on rooting out these diseases.

What I have paid insufficient attention to is the ways in which racism against Muslims and other forms of cultural racism have taken root in precisely that part of the left which has been most concerned with some of these same problems. As an extreme example of this, we have seen how the German Bahamas journal has apparently endorsed the far right English Defence League.

In this post, I want to touch on another example of that: Telos magazine. I have picked up copies of Telos here and there over the years, and have found some of the most useful and important things I have read in their pages, including the first Moishe Postone I ever read, texts by Claude Lefort and Cornelius Castoriadus, Karl Korsch, Theodor Adorno and Hans Magnus Enzensberger. A recent issue explores Adorno in America. In June 2009, their blog published a number of pieces on Iran which deserved wider circulation (see below the fold). They have published Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11, by Matthias Küntzel, other texts by Kuntzel (on Germany, Iran, and Israel, for example, on the Linkspartei, and on Iranian Holocaust denial), and related materials by Jeffrey Herf and others.

For these reasons, Telos appears on my link list. However, there are a number of disturbing elements to the political position Telos evolved towards in the 1990s, which parallel some of the developments at Bahamas. As well as a fascination with the Nazi jurist and philosopher Carl Schmitt (who has been enormously influential on the academic left, e.g. on Giorgio Agamben and Chantal Mouffe), is a more worrying interest in the maverick French new right philosopher Alain de Benoist. Benoist is a key influence on today’s far right, along with Julius Evola.

For a full account of this issue, read Danny Postel “The metamorphosis of Telos: A splintered journal pokes into its own contradictions” In These Times 1991, and Boris Frankel “Confronting Neoliberal Regimes: The Post-Marxist Embrace of Populism and Realpolitik” New Left Review 1997.*

A key figure, if I understand it correctly, who has introduced de Benoist and his ideas into this milieu is Paul Gottfried, as Danny Postel explains here. The SPLC, who I know are flawed, have a bit of material on Gottfried.

Paul Gottfried is a professor of humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa., who has spoken repeatedly at conferences put on by American Renaissance, a racist journal whose editor describes blacks as incapable of sustaining civilization. At the 2008 American Renaissance conference, Gottfried said that he was sure Obama would overwhelm McCain among those attending the conference. “Better a black who is honest about who he is than a conservative who is really delivering the liberal agenda,” Gottfried told a reporter.

His most recent endeavour is the HL Mencken Club, which seeks to realign the Republican party with the tea party movement. Gottfried’s part-Jewish background allows his far right allies to present itself as post-antisemitic, much as Gilad Atzmon’s ex-Jewishness allows his David Duke-loving followers to claim an alibi. This works in the same way that the waving of an occasional Israeli flag at an EDL march, or the odd Jewish BNP councillor does, to obscure the truly fascist nature of the discourse.

In certain ways, de Benoist’s penetration of the Telos milieu also has a similarity to the penetration of the French ultra-gauche by Robert Faurrison. As with that affair, the seduction of former radicals by new forms far right thought is worrying and revealing; the refusal to acknowledge the mistake is unforgivable. As far as I am aware, Telos has never publicly disavowed its involvement with de Benoist.

Faurison, Gottfried, De Benoist, the EDL, Nick Griffin – the new right comes in many shapes and sizes.


Telos on Iran

Matthias Küntzel The West Betrays the Iranian Protest Movement
Bernard-Henri Levy to the Young People of Iran
Russell Berman The Anatomy of Repression in Iran (and Selective Reporting in the New York Times)
Afshin Ellian Letter to Khamenei
Russell Berman Tehran/Berlin, June 17


*Thank to Radical Archives.

6 Responses to “Faces of the new right”

  1. 1 Will

    Telos mentioned here by Paul Anderson in 2004 also

  2. 2 Morbid Symptoms

    Interesting and alarming. I am glad that you have recognised that there are risks of a right/left crossover even amongst some of those who have critiqued it in other forms. A new form I have become aware is for some anarchists and socialists (see for instance the Independent Working Class Associaton) to start defending immigration controls and giving ground to the idea that immigration is to blame for low wages and housing shortages. Linked to this is a soft approach to the EDL – see for instance the debates with an ‘EDL anarchist’ at Ian Bone’s site – presumably because they are seen as being authentically working cals.

  3. 4 Mal

    Damn! I use to love Telos during the 80s when at uni – gave me a lot of interesting ideas for undergrad essays. Just don’t understand its embrace of Schmitt during the 90s, though of course many interesting thinkers of the 19th and 20th century had questionable political assumptions and alliances.

  1. 1 Vermischtes « Entdinglichung
  2. 2 The New Right and national anarchism « Anti-National Translation

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