This is the transcript by V. S. of Greg Johnson’s interview with Laura Raim on the Alternative Right. To listen in a player, click here. To download the mp3, right-click here and choose “save target or link as.”
Greg Johnson: Hello?
Laura Raim: Hello! Hi. Can you hear me well?
GJ: Hi! I can hear you well. Thank you.
LR: OK. I put on the video, but it may be not necessary.
GJ: I can see you. I can see you very clearly.
GJ: I’m trying to see the titles of the books on the shelves behind you, but they’re not that clear.
LR: You’re not going to like them!
GJ: Yeah, the first thing I do — it’s a very bad habit — but the first thing I do if there’s a bookshelf I try to see what’s on the shelf.
LR: I do the same. But I’d say it’s mostly Leftist propaganda, mostly.
GJ: OK. I have a bit of that myself actually.
LR: Oh, OK. Really? What kind?
GJ: Well, practically anything written in the 20th century. But I have about a half of a shelf of Marx and the Frankfurt School. I was just re-shelving all my books, and so I found that recently.
LR: OK. So, as I was writing in my email, the first question is “What are the intellectual roots and references of the Alt Right?” I’ve read that some people think it’s Samuel Francis or James Burnham before that, but what would you say would be the most important intellectual roots and references?
GJ: Well, the term Alt Right was coined, I believe, around 2008 by Paul Gottfried. He gave a lecture where he basically declared the paleo-conservative movement dead, and I think in the same lecture he also called for the creation of an “alternative Right.” So, I see the Alternative Right as primarily emerging from the paleocon movement in American political thought and the paleo-conservatives would be people like Samuel Francis and Joseph Sobran and Patrick Buchanan.
Now, Richard Spencer was working for The American Conservative which was founded by Patrick Buchanan and Taki and a couple of other people to be a kind of flagship for paleo-conservatism. Paleo-conservatism defined itself in contradistinction to neo-conservatism, which they were trying to combat.
The paleocon movement sort of got old. A lot of its leaders died. It never effectively institutionalized itself. It never effectively mobilized large donors. Of course, Patrick Buchanan has written many best-selling books and had a lot of media access. He was the main face of it, but he’s getting old. The American Conservative sort of lost steam. Taki left. I can’t remember when, but he did create Taki’s Magazine. Richard Spencer ended up editing Taki’s Magazine for a while, and then he left Taki’s Magazine and then he created Alternative Right at the beginning of 2010. Sometime after that, the fellow who was running Washington Summit Publishing and National Policy Institute, Louis Andrews, died after a long battle with cancer and so those organizations were handed over to Richard Spencer.
So, I see primarily a continuity between the paleo-conservatives and the birth of the term Alternative Right. However, when the Alternative Right webzine was created there was a fairly self-conscious attempt to bring in a lot of different thought currents under that very vague umbrella and so that included things that were not necessarily welcome in paleocon circles and that would include things like neo-pagans and paleo-masculinity and White Nationalism. Things like that. And so under that sort of broad umbrella a lot of different thought currents came together.
I actually wrote something about this at The Occidental Quarterly Online just after the Alternative Right webzine launched, so if you want to cite that or quote that, that’s there. It’s up there somewhere.
After a couple of years, Spencer, I believe, sort of lost interest in editing Alternative Right, and other people took it over really on day-to-day functioning and then he shut it down and launched his Radix publication. I thought in some ways that was a good idea because he felt like he had lost control of the brand, but on the other hand already at the time Alternative Right was becoming a generic term, and if you have a product that becomes synonymous with a whole genre — like Xerox or Walkman or something like that — the last thing you do is throw away such a valuable brand. But he did. He walked away from the brand, and Colin Liddell and Andy Nowicki have kept that alive.
In the last two years, of course, the brand has become much more mainstreamed. Because of its vagueness, a lot of figures that are, again, sort of closer to the mainstream of conservatism than I am . . . I would define myself as a White Nationalist and as a New Rightist and not as an Alternative Rightist, although I would use that term because it’s a broad enough umbrella to encompass me.
LR: But more specifically a White Nationalist.
GJ: Yeah, exactly. And I don’t feel the need to use sort of vague, broad umbrella terms, but other people do just because of their, well, because they’re not comfortable with being more specific. I’m all for people being as explicit and involved as they want to be and just respecting those decisions.
So, people like Milo Yiannopoulos, Mike Cernovich, Vox Day — all of them fairly prominent and connected with some of the edgier reaches of the mainstream Right — have started using that term as well. Also, people like Andrew Anglin of The Daily Stormer. As soon as the term got popular, he started branding himself as Alternative Right, and it’s sort of a douchey move on his part, a kind of trollish thing, to just try to take advantage of the popularity of the term, and I don’t blame him in the least for that.
Anyway, it is a very broad umbrella term, but the main intellectual root of it comes out of the paleo-conservative movement.
Now, as to what defines it today, I think the real core, the heart of it, the energy of it really is White Nationalists and New Rightists and people like that.
LR: Yeah, I got that from what Richard Spencer writes. For me, it’s a White Nationalism sort of identitarianism thing.
GJ: Yes. European identitarianism: that’s another term that we borrowed from Europe. It’s a good term. It’s analogous to libertarianism. It states what’s most important in your ideology, which is the preservation of your distinct racial and cultural and historical identity. So, it’s a good term.
And that really is, I think, where all the real energy is, and that is what’s generating a lot of the intellectual excitement, if you will, on the Right from the creation of memes and trolling and arguments.
You know, in the past year and a half or two years, things that have come out of our sphere have actually started to shape mainstream political discourse within the Republican Party, for instance. I think it was in 2012 that Gregory Hood at Counter-Currents referred to mainstream conservatives as “cuckold conservatives,” and that was really the inception of the cuckservative meme, which when it became more widespread through Twitter became a really effective barb that drove a lot of mainstream conservatives wild because it was so true. So, we started shaping the discourse, and I think that’s very valuable.
Now, another current of thought that is sort of flowing into the Alternative Right that’s very important is the breakdown of the libertarian movement. This is very important. I used to be a libertarian years ago, and I sort of followed this intellectual journey a long time ago. But in 2008 when the Ron Paul movement was getting started, I started noticing how overwhelmingly white Ron Paul supporters were and it was an implicitly white thing. They weren’t aware of the fact that this was a very white form of politics. It made sense more to white people than to any other group.
I was betting at the time that a lot of these people would start breaking away from this and moving in the direction of white identity politics. When I was the editor of The Occidental Quarterly near the end of that time, I actually set in motion an essay contest on libertarianism and white racial nationalism. The purpose of that was to get our best minds to think about this idea and create an analysis and work towards creating talking points that we could use to ease the way of a lot of people towards our position.
I don’t think that bore any fruit at the time, really, at least I didn’t see any, but a few years later after the 2012 election campaign and the end of the Ron Paul movement basically, within the libertarian sphere there was a real push by cultural Leftists to basically just take it all over and to eject anything that seemed conservative or patriotic or whatever. It became this Leftist, globalizing, and really sometimes quite explicitly Jewish takeover.
What happened is a lot of people were pushed out by just revulsion. There were these intense discussion groups online where people would be battling one another about this, and a lot of people just left in disgust. One of those online groups, a Facebook group, actually became the source of The Right Stuff, therightstuff.biz which now has The Daily Shoah as their flagship podcast and so forth.
Those people are all ex-libertarians, and they have moved out of libertarianism towards white identity politics in basically the same way I did and a lot of other people have. So, that really is a broad tributary that is flowing into White identity politics and into the overall Alt Right umbrella and it’s a very vital force too.
Most of the people involved in this are quite young. Most of them are quite educated. It’s very, very interesting. I had a dinner recently with some new young people who have come into it in the past 6 months to 2 years and then some people who have been around for decades. The contrast could not have been more marked, because really the people who had been in this for decades were all kind of misfits. They were socially awkward and weird people. And the younger crowd coming in were mostly quite impressive sort of fratty, preppy, squared away people, many of them with recent military careers, most of them in their 20s or around 30 and just a very different look and feel to this. People with a lot of agency and discipline and organization.
Now, there are a lot of people who we call autistes, who are — if not outright autistic — at least on that spectrum. They’re kind of socially awkward, and yet they do perform valuable functions. They’re great meme-creators and number-crunchers.
But there’s also a large number of people coming to this who are very normal in their presentation and their background. They’re the kind of people who psychologically would not be inclined to get involved in any kind of radical identity politics. But there’s a wind in our sails now, and they feel not only conviction, but they also feel that this is something that they can put their effort into and it might actually bear fruit. So, there’s a great deal of excitement and intellectual vitality here.
And this is very interesting also. One of the things that is an internal, I guess, rift within the Alt Right umbrella is, of course, the Jewish Question. I believe the term really was first coined by a Jewish writer Paul Gottfried. The paleocons have always been kind of friendly with Jews, publishing them and associating with them at their conferences and things like that, and within the White Nationalism sphere there’s a strong group of people who are quite critical of Jewish power and influence in our societies. People like Milo Yiannopoulos and Mike Cernovich are Jewish to some extent in their identity. It’s kind of disputed in Cernovich’s case, because he put out his DNA profile and none of it came up as Ashkenazic or Jewish at all, but there were people who left Russia claiming to be Jews who weren’t so he might be descended from that kind of line. But anyway, that is a factor. There is a Jewish camp and a Jewish-friendly versus Jewish-critical camp split within the Alternative Right.
One of the interesting things that I’ve now been hearing about is young Jews, including young Orthodox Jews, which seems like a very unlikely category, are now being drawn into this. They’re reading Heartiste. They’re sharing Alt Right memes
LR: Heartiste? I don’t know Heartiste.
GJ: Chateau Heartiste. It’s a blog run by this fellow who used to go by the name Roissy. Now he goes by the name Heartiste. Autiste is a play on Heartiste. But anyway, it’s a game blog. It’s on a higher level than “how to pick up girls,” but it deals with realism in the relations between the sexes, and it’s enormously popular, and he identifies himself as an Alt Right figure. It’s part of the manosphere, which is a sphere that overlaps with the Alt Right.
But anyway, we’re finding these young Orthodox Jews are now into Heartiste and into Alt Right memes. One of the things I think is going on here is they’re just drawn to something that’s intellectually vital and exciting. So, this is something that I’ve been seeing signs of in recent months.
LR: When you say there is a split on the Jewish Question, can you give me examples of those who are more friendly and those who are more critical?
GJ: Well, I’m quite critical. Kevin MacDonald is certainly quite critical. The Occidental Observer is his flagship publication. He also edits The Occidental Quarterly now. So, that would be one wing and there is definitely a wing that calls itself Alt Right which is basically just rebranded National Socialism and, of course, they are quite judeo-critical.
The people who are more neutral or friendly on the Jewish Question would be people like Jared Taylor, who runs American Renaissance. Some of the people who were involved in the original Alternative Right are sort of neutral or friendly on the JQ, as we call it, and then of course there are just outright Jewish figures who contribute to this and that would include sort of the grand old man, the dean of it I suppose, Paul Gottfried now, and beyond that there’s Milo and Cernovich.
And within our camp there are people who say, “Well, look, we can be White identitarians but we also (and they love to tweak this PC language) should seek ‘allies of color.’” And so their Jewish allies would fall under that umbrella.
One of the interesting things about this — and specifically the tributary coming out of libertarianism — is that although libertarianism and the Ron Paul movement were overwhelmingly white, there were certain outliers who were, say, black Ron Paul people or Asian Ron Paul people or South Asian Ron Paul people, and in the battle after the collapse of the Ron Paul movement after 2012, a number of these non-whites have been swept along by the logic of it and also by their personal relationships into being sort of allies of White Nationalism.
Personally, I’m happy to have any allies I can get, and so I’m in an awkward position where some of the people who share the best memes with me and are showing up in my Facebook feed, well, you know, one’s a Black guy, and a couple of them are South Asian — Muslims, actually, which is even more awkward in some cases, but you know they put up with me and my “remove kebab” rhetoric, and we’re all friends, and they have an intense moral and intellectual interest in this.
So, the broadness of the Alternative Right category really helps, I think. It allows a lot of people to participate in this, but also the broadness of it is threatening to some people because in the end these are not just ideas and fun on the internet. We really do have a vision of society.
Personally, I would like to see racially and ethnically homogenous societies emerge, and so what we have is a strange moment in time where people in this multicultural context — some of whom are multicultural and multiracial — are coming together in a movement that is aiming at separation someday. I admire the people who are involved in this. They’re very, very principled.
Some of them say, “Look, you know, I don’t feel at home in a multicultural society either. I feel less at home than you do.” Speaking in the United States or Canada, “You guys created this society, and you feel more at home here than I do, but nobody feels at home anymore in multicultural and multiracial societies.” And so we’re finding that we do have allies of color, because one of the dominant traits that we’re talking about, one of the main themes ultimately boils down to alienation, right?
GJ: Everybody should have a homeland. Everybody should have a room of their own where they can go and be themselves. A home of their own. And then, logically, a homeland of their own. It’s nice to have a place where everything is familiar, where everything is intelligible, and where you don’t feel that you feel alienated, you feel a lot of stress and anxiety. Multicultural societies really are creating high stress situations, low trust situations, and the breakdown of community. So, we’re communitarians, if you will.
LR: And you’re idea of the . . . What did you call it? The racially, ethnically . . . What was the word that you used?
LR: Homogenous. This would be for the United States, right? So, what do you do technically with the Black citizens, ideally?
GJ: Well, ideally, what I would like to do is . . . The landmass of the United States is quite large and we do have to make some distinctions here.
First of all, there are indigenous people and certainly they have rights here and I would not in any way expel them or remove the remaining indigenous peoples, but I would give them maximum autonomy within their little ethnic reservations, and I think that’s the only fair thing that can be done at this point.
As for Blacks, most of them came here involuntarily, and they’re descended from slaves. The fair thing to do would be to give them their own territories and their own autonomy and basically separate that way.
LR: Where, for example, could they go?
GJ: Well the South. There are large, heavily-Black states in the South. There are a couple of those and they certainly have ample resources, ports, and things like that. Everything that somebody would need to have a thriving country. Some states in the South might make a good Black homeland.
Now, as for post-1965 immigration, that is really the main problem. Since 1965, America has gone from a country that was 90% European in descent to a country where we don’t even know anymore, because the government has been maintaining that there are 11 million illegal aliens in this country for decades. We know that number has changed. It’s more like 30 million or more than that. So, we honestly don’t even know what percentage of our country is European-descended, but it’s approaching 60%. It’s going down to 60%, and where there are statistics about children being enrolled in school there are large numbers of states where among 6 and 7 year olds we’re the minority now. Just a distinct minority. Most of that is due to immigration into the United States in the last 51 years.
My view is the following: I wrote an essay called “The Slow Cleanse,” which sounds like a dieting thing but it’s about ethnic cleansing, to use an ugly term. But basically it says we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be seduced by these apocalyptic scenarios about race war and cataclysm and things like that. We should recognize that the contemporary situation was created over a 50 year period, and it was created by instituting demographic trends that are not favorable to the European majority. We can fix it in the same way. We simply need to create positive trends for the European majority.
So, what would those trends be? Well, first of all, stopping immigration from non-white countries. Second, sending back all of the people who have come here illegally. That would be a good thing. Just make it impossible for them to draw welfare, hold down jobs, put their children in schools. Basically, take away all the incentives that led them to migrate here in the first place and then they will deport themselves.
Beyond that, then there’s a large population of people who are sometimes second and third generation now. They do have homelands. A lot of these people do have close contacts with people overseas and we know that because they’re constantly trying to bring more relatives over here. Lord knows I’m all for keeping families together and what we need to do is reverse that kind of chain migration, family reunification tendency.
Many, many people move in America all the time. We are a very rootless society. People have to move because they live in a society where there’s a real estate bubble and their rents become too high for them to afford. And we just accept, “Oh well, rents are going up because of speculators. You have to move.” No one sheds a tear about that. People’s jobs change. The factory they work in closes and is rebuilt somewhere else in Mexico or Indonesia. We don’t shed many tears about that kind of forced uprooting of people.
My attitude is that we should not shed any tears about uprooting people for something far more important than just the whims of the market and the private interests of capitalists. We should basically have an attitude that people move all the time and if there are non-White families that work for large corporations that are global corporations the next time they’re relocated we want them relocated overseas.
At many, especially West Coast, American universities the majority of students are now Asian. I think we should encourage those Asian students, many of whom are bi- or trilingual and have fairly shallow roots in America if any at all, we should encourage them to pursue higher education in Singapore or Japan or China, and if they do it there they’ll not come back.
Basically, if you just start nudging things in those directions we can wait 50 years, but one of the things that I constantly stress is that we would not have to wait 50 years before we could reap some of the psychological benefits of knowing that as a group White Americans now have a future, because a lot of White Americans feel that as a group they don’t have a future. I think this is part of the reason why the mortality of Whites, especially working class Whites, has gone way, way up, because a lot of people are hopeless, they see nothing but diminished prospects for themselves and their children, they turn to alcohol and drugs and risky behaviors and things like that. This has been rather epidemic, especially in the last 4 to 8 years since the current economic depression set in.
I think that if people thought they had a future again in America or the French if they thought they had a future as a people in France today they would start feeling a lot more optimistic. Probably they would start new businesses and have babies. So, we reap a lot of psychological benefits today even though it might take 50 years for us to get back to status quo 1965.
In terms of my ultimate goals, I love the idea of neat, homogenous, partitioned homelands and things like that, but as a reasonable political goal that I want to put forward within the present political context I’d say let’s return to status quo 1965. That was when American workers were doing the best, when America was sending a man to the moon, when our cities were clean and vibrant in a good way. Vibrant with commerce and culture rather than Rastafarians and druggies and things like that, jungle music, whatever. It would be perfectly reasonable to do that.
The 1924 Immigration Act set ethnic quotas based on a certain base year. We could have a status quo 1965 principle, and if we got back there I think we would be at a point where white Americans would probably feel so de-stressed and happy about their future that they probably wouldn’t even think that we’d need to go all the way to separate. I would want to. You know, in 2065 when I’m dead, I’d want the next generation of our movement to be moving the goalposts in that direction, but the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t need to be some kind of cataclysm or apocalypse like a lot of sort of old Right — and by old Right I mean Fascist and National Socialist-influenced people like William Pierce, for instance — envision.
LR: OK. Thanks. Back to my initial question about the references. Who would you say are the main thinkers of White Nationalism either contemporary or older political thought?
GJ: The main thinkers of contemporary White Nationalism first. The people who are the most read and commented on would be Kevin MacDonald and Jared Taylor. They’re contemporary writers in their 60s and 70s, and they’re very, very influential. William L. Pierce of the National Alliance is certainly a huge enduring influence on White Nationalism in the Anglophone world and outside of it for that matter. He’s an ambiguous influence. There are many things I disagree about with him.
LR: William Pierce?
GJ: William Pierce, yeah. He’s a very important figure. Samuel Francis had a great deal of influence on it. He never really defined himself as a White Nationalist explicitly, but he participated in American Renaissance conferences and wrote many things that deal with race.
J. Philippe Rushton wrote on human biodiversity and racial differences in his book Race, Evolution, and Behavior and many other papers. He was certainly a major influence in White Nationalism today. Probably the most canonical statements about racial differences for most White Nationalists are Rushton’s writings.
LR: That would be based on evolutionary biology? That kind of thing?
LR: Could you sum up for me William Pierce? What does he bring?
GJ: Well, Pierce was basically a neo-Nazi. Early on, he was a follower of George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi Party. He joined that party and after Rockwell was assassinated he carried on one strand of that National Socialist vision in America. He created the National Alliance and ran it until his death in 2002. It was a large-ish organization. Certainly the largest organization in the United States of its type. They published books, magazines, held conferences, and encouraged people in various forms of activism.
His most influential book, unfortunately, is The Turner Diaries, which is a kind of revolutionary potboiler with a kind of race war apocalypse in it. It fascinates a lot of people, but I think that it also serves as an impediment to thinking about serious policies that one could actually put in place that most people would not just shriek and run away from.
He was a somewhat contradictory figure because, on the one hand, he was an elitist. He had a PhD in physics. He had a stratospherically high IQ, although he tended to have a sort of engineer’s mentality. He was basically a kind of Leninist in his views about politics. He thought of himself as an orthodox National Socialist, but he was pretty much a Leninist in his revolutionary attitudes.
On the other hand, he was constantly taking shortcuts and compromising with what he himself called the buffoonery of populism, which led him to, for instance, by a skinhead music label and recruit in the subculture of skinheads, which didn’t work out well for him.
So, yeah, at his best he’s very, very good, and he really did influence me on a number of points. I remember in 2000-2001 listening to his weekly radio broadcasts where he would analyze primarily current events, and he would stress over and over again the relevance of basically the power of the organized Jewish community in America in shaping events and just hearing that repeated over and over again over a couple of years and seeing the relevance of it to the things I was following was very, very convincing to me.
Before that, I had read Kevin MacDonald’s work and intellectually it made a lot of sense. He’s dealing with psychoanalysis, the Frankfurt School, deconstruction, and intellectual trends like that. But to have Pierce bring it home to contemporary unfolding political events was very powerful for me, and it showed the relevance of that analysis. And really that was his greatest influence, I think. His radio broadcasts. That and The Turner Diaries. Of course, he’s no longer commenting on current events, but The Turner Diaries are still being purchased and read.
LR: When you say he’s a neo-Nazi, is there an effort in the Alt Right or at least in the White Nationalist branch to have a filter from neo-Nazis? I mean, to bound them?
GJ: Well, yes and no. There are really three attitudes towards neo-Nazis. One is there are people who are neo-Nazis, and they think everybody else should think their way. Two is there are people who aren’t neo-Nazis and want to engage with them somewhat constructively because a lot of them are really young, they’re naïve, and they’re highly idealistic people, and they can grow intellectually. And so, what I’ve tried to do is I’ve tried to be somewhat constructive in my engagement and to say, “Yes, I see the relevance of this. However, it’s more complicated. It’s not quite so simple as you thought and basically historical re-enactment of interwar Fascism is not the answer.”
Then there’s a third group of people who basically want to create a cordon sanitaire around them and just keep them out completely. Those are the three tendencies within the Alternative Right.
LR: OK. And you’re in the second category.
GJ: I’m in the second category. I think that unreconstructed National Socialism and interwar Fascist movements, let’s just call it that, are certainly not the way forward. These people were aware of a lot of truths, and I won’t deny that, and I do think that something like fascism, in a very generic sense, is what every society ends up with if they try to do things like reconcile different class conflicts — interests of labor and capital, for instance — and if they take their own side in international conflicts. I do think that a kind of organic idea of society is somewhat fascistic, and societies move in that direction whether they want to call it social democracy or something else. They still move in that direction as they reconcile internal contradictions and as they educate people to be patriotic and so forth.
But, on the other hand, the thing that’s worst about these ideologies is, to me, they’re not realistic about how we’re actually ruled. They emerged at a time when they were literally fighting Communists in the streets, and to beat Leninists they adopted their tactics. They had to. You take a knife to a knife fight and a gun to a gun fight, and when you’re fighting Leninists you have paramilitary parties and militias and things like that. That’s what they did. Unfortunately, they adopted quite a few traits of Communism, including some of its worst traits, and in the end they didn’t beat it.
Today, we’re not ruled in a hard, Leninist fashion. The Left controls us through soft power. As Jonathan Bowden put it quite strikingly, we have something that between the wars would have seemed utterly impossible and paradoxical: we have a Left-wing oligarchical society. We are ruled by an oligarchy, and yet all the reigning cultural values are Leftist. Leftist values, especially Leftist identity politics, are no threat to the reigning oligarchy. In fact, people like Chomsky have pointed out that they actually lead to the breakdown of identities that impede globalization and the globalization specifically of what we call capitalism. I just want to call it oligarchy.
And so, we have a Left-wing oligarchy. How did we get a Left-wing oligarchy? Well, after the Second World War, the Left basically realized that organizing the proletariat was something that the Right could do very effectively against them, and also that putting dictators in power can certainly turn against them. Stalin was a very scary figure. And so they launched, basically, a different path, a New Left if you will, of creating intellectual hegemony. This march through the institutions that the old Left was already engaged in continued under a new Left, and we have now arrived at a point where basically all the dominant values put forward through the media and the popular culture and the educational system and mirrored in the political realm are all Leftist. There’s a hegemony of Leftist ideas and values, and just as you take a knife to a knife fight and a gun to a gun fight you take ideas to a battle of ideas.
Really, the French New Right is my inspiration here. The French New Right realized that aside from riots in the streets and student protests and things in the ‘60s the real battle was a battle for cultural hegemony, intellectual hegemony, and so to fight the Left in its current manifestation, which was cultural and intellectual hegemony, you have to deconstruct their hegemony with better ideas and create an alternative hegemony. That’s really what the New Right is about, and that’s why I call myself a New Rightist.
So, this is the speech I’m constantly giving whenever called upon to people who think that we just need to have some kind of Leninist party and then we’ll fight a race war. No, it doesn’t work that way! And if you think that you’re going to fight an armed struggle against the military and the police forces of any modern Western society, you’re deluded. They can’t even beat the mall cops and security guards of any modern Western society. It’s just delusional.
LR: So, you’re saying you have to fight the cultural war, the intellectual war.
GJ: Yes. It’s a cultural, intellectual war. Yeah. And that’s what the New Right is about. That’s why I define myself as a New Rightist.
What I see the Alt Right as is a great front in that cultural and intellectual war, and there are a lot of culture-creators involved in this now. Very creative people. It’s quite exciting. The people creating parody songs, memes, podcasts, videos. It’s tremendous the amount of creativity that’s being mobilized, and a lot of these people are very young, again.
The guy who’s been running my YouTube channel just graduated from high school, right? He just turned 18 this summer. He does very good videos though, and he’s been doing this since he was 13.
LR: It’s interesting that you say Leftist values. I see what you mean by Left identity politics and things about diversity and things like that, but it’s not the Left in the sense of working in the interests of workers, working against income inequality . . .
GJ: No. That’s gone! But, you know, the Left makes gestures in that direction, right? Yet, in the United States, it’s been democratic administrations, center-Left administrations, that are completely onboard with globalization. That’s been massively destructive.
LR: Yeah, there isn’t a Left anymore. It’s liberals.
GJ: I wrote a piece called “The End of Globalization,” and I’d recommend it to you. I’m working on creating a video for it for YouTube. My values on most issues are Leftist. I talk about how globalization is undermining most of the things that progressives hold dear, most of the things that were actually won by the Left.
I used to be quite a patriotic American, but as I got to know more about American history I really came to the conclusion that the most glorious chapter in American history was the history of the labor movement. Not the frontier and not cobbling together an empire and not constant interventions in the Latin world and things like that, but the labor movement.
But what’s happened with globalization is that the things that have been fought for like shorter work weeks, higher pay, making it possible for women not to work in factories (remember when that was a leading Leftist cause?), children not working, and things like that. All of these things are being undermined, plus environmental regulations as well.
The reason why these things worked, really, is there were limits to trade, right?
GJ: You were dealing with societies that were not global but somewhat autarkic. They did engage in trade, but they had mercantilist policies in place and so forth. When you globalize the marketplace wages will fall to a global level.
LR: Yeah, you don’t have to convince me of that. I’m a socialist and against free trade and a protectionist.
GJ: Good. Well, we’re on the same page then on that issue.
LR: Isn’t that somewhat contradictory with the libertarian trend?
GJ: Yes, it is. It’s contradictory, and what’s going on is unraveling. Libertarians, of course, believe in globalization and open borders and you’re free to do whatever you want. Marry your boa constrictor or whatever. And now they’re realizing that there are things more important than trade and individual choice, and that is identity, living in a functioning society, and so forth. And so they basically say, “This isn’t important.”
It’s so interesting to hear people who three or four years ago were ferocious partisans of free markets now saying, “None of this is important. None of this matters.”
LR: Really!? They say that? So, they’re just not libertarians anymore?
GJ: They’re just not libertarians anymore. They would like to live in a society where there’s lots of freedom, where it’s easy to create a business, and stuff like that, but they realize that globalization is actually hollowing that out, and so they want to be “libertarians in one country,” if you will. They want libertarianism with protectionism. They realize that that’s really the only way you can have these things, because libertarianism is an ideological product primarily of homogenous, high trust Northern European societies, and it would work in those sorts of societies as long as they maintained certain barriers to entry.
For me, I think they’re a little too sanguine about that. I think social democracy works well in those societies, too! This is really the way that some of these former libertarians talk now. It’s like, “Look, it doesn’t matter what kind of economic system we have. What matters is that we have a society where it’s just us, where we feel like we have a future, and where we can wrangle about women’s rights and labor and all these other things amongst ourselves rather than having different parties basically bringing in alien groups to ally themselves with and use as leverage in their political battles against people who are of their own race and nation.”
For me, Anglo-Saxon capitalism is a terribly evil system. For me, the Anglo-Saxon capitalist model is a plantation, and the globalizing impetus of Anglo-Saxon capitalists in America has been the recreation of plantation economies basically. Also, I think the social hollowing out of Western countries and also I think the increasing destruction of economic and especially technological progress, because there are really two ways of raising productivity: one is you make machines better that allow you to do more. The other way of increasing “productivity” is simply cutting the costs of labor, right?
GJ: As a mathematical construct, productivity treats those things as equivalent, and yet as a social phenomenon those are radically different routes. By restricting labor markets and keeping labor expensive, one of the things that the labor movement has done is constantly pushed for improvement of capital which makes everybody more productive. Once labor markets are opened up and people can increase profitability simply by cutting costs, one of the main impetuses that we’ve had toward technological progress has been removed and really one of the things that was most exciting to me about the recent Republican Convention was when Peter Thiel spoke.
I read his book Zero to One and one of the things he maintains is that globalization is incompatible with technological progress, which is really interesting coming from . . .
GJ: This is from a guy that works in Silicon Valley. He talked about this a bit in his brief speech. He said that all of America used to be hi-tech. When he was a kid, they were sending men to the moon, right? Today, we have 140 character tweets. Most of the technological progress that happens today is in the realm of computers, and most of that is simply improving ways that we can amuse ourselves during our decline.
I think that’s very, very powerful. There’s a lot of truth to that.
So, yeah, in the future, if we get what we want, we’re not going to have free trade, we’re not going to have globalization, we’re not going to have destructive competition that’s basically a race to the bottom, and instead we’re going to create conditions where middle class incomes and working class incomes continually rise and there is a constant spur to technological progress that’s going to make us all, someday, out of work. The machines will put us all out of work someday and then we’ll have arrived at utopia.
LR: Talking about libertarians, how does the neo-reaction movement fit in?
GJ: The neo-reaction group is a kind of peculiar group of people. They’re kind of snobbish and secretive. Some of them are friendly with me. A lot of them come out of libertarianism. A lot of them are in two industries: technology and finance, which is why I think a lot of them are very, very secretive because they work for huge companies that would frown upon their shenanigans.
I think it’s a highly interesting, highly intellectual group of people. I read their blogs, I read some of their books, and I value it. I think they try to remain aloof. A lot of what they try to do is remain aloof from actual politics. It’s a sort of apolitical stance like you get from the late Ernst Jünger or post-war Evola. You know, “we’ll just rise above all this stuff and not get involved in politics.” I think politics is moving in our direction and not getting involved is not an option at this point. It just makes you irrelevant. Still, they have lots of interesting ideas.
One of the things that I most like about the neo-reactionaries is that they’ve learned a lesson that I learned years ago. For years, the most influential book on me was Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, the most influential piece of fiction, but that changed, and eventually I realized that the piece of fiction that’s had the most influence on my thinking is Frank Herbert’s Dune.
The thing that fascinates me with Dune is its combination of futurism with archaic values and social forms which is basically what Guillaume Faye talks about in his book Archeofuturism as the way forward. We need to reinfuse modernity with certain things that are treated as archaic, and that means identity politics, an aristocratic ethos, a warrior ethos, and things that have been bred out of us by consumerism and bourgeois modernity and things like that.
So, what Herbert does is basically applied himself to this question: what social form is consistent with mankind ascending to the stars and colonizing the galaxy? And it was very obvious to him that that was not consistent with democratic politics which has a very low time horizon. It requires grand politics, grand visions, a grand strategy stretching forward over generations, and we had that briefly under the pressure of the Cold War and because Kennedy was a visionary, but politics as usual took over. Space exploration has faltered and so forth, because democracy.
What you would need to reignite that is some kind of society like we had pre-modernity where we had aristocracies that thought in dynastic terms, where you had orders like the Catholic Church and things like that that thought in very long terms over time and perpetuated themselves over time.
What the neo-reactionaries take from Hans-Hermann Hoppe in his writings on the failure of democracy is basically this point. Hoppe said, “Look, democracy is a failure and undermines civilization because it shrinks time horizons down, and that means you can’t pursue grand strategies and civilizational goals. You’re just thinking about the next quarter if you’re in business. You’re just thinking about the next election if you’re a politician.” So, the neo-reactionaries take this critique of democracy and modernity very seriously, and so the question then becomes, “What kind of social form do we need basically to get ourselves toward a technological utopia?”
On the other hand, however, I have also defended a certain form of populism and a certain form of democracy. I have an essay called “Notes on Populism, Elitism, and Democracy.” It’s in my book New Right vs. Old Right.
You do need some kind of popular counter-balance to elites. There’s no question about it. I’m a populist in this sense. I believe in sort of classical republicanism as opposed to liberalism. I believe in an organic model of society. I believe, like the classical republicans believed, that the main force in a society that guards liberty is a strong middle class. However, liberalism and globalization undermine the middle class. Therefore, if you value liberty you have to value protectionism, and you have to impose certain restrictions on the operation of capitalism to make sure that the rich get richer and the poor get richer and the middle class get richer. So, I don’t believe in strict equality, but I do sort of like the Aristotelian idea that inequality has to be somewhat proportionate. There can be distributive justice, in other words, which is a concept that libertarians just completely reject. They write that out of their system of ideas.
LR: So, you would still be for keeping democracy?
GJ: Democracy to some extent, but what you have to have is . . . We’ve become too democratic, I think. Average people have lower time horizons. The more power that average people have and the people that ride to power on the votes of average people, the shorter the time horizons are. However, if you just get rid of any popular representation you’re just leaving yourself open to abuse by elites.
So, the classical republican view — and this really did influence the founding of America far more than, say, Lockean liberalism, which is a myth that libertarians put forward — and modern republicanism à la Montesquieu was an organic view of society. You had to have limitations on commerce and things like that, you had to protect the middle class, and you had to have checks and balances. So, you had, in effect, the mixed regime.
The model of the mixed regime comes from Aristotle’s Politics, it’s in Montesquieu, and it’s in the United States Constitution. And really every good, functional Western European society, ancient and modern, has had some form of a mixed regime. You’ve had a monarchical principle, whether it’s a hereditary king or a president or whatever, you’ve had an aristocratic principle, and you’ve had a popular principle. Those things have to be kept in balance, and so I sort of believe in the mixed constitution, the mixed order. I just think that we’ve strayed excessively towards a combination of democracy and oligarchy, and we don’t have leaders who think long term about the common good anymore.
Again, libertarianism doesn’t have a notion of the common good. They’ve got procedures and whatever comes out of the sausage machine at the end is blessed, right? No matter what it looks like, because it’s going through their procedural notions of what is right.
I now have ex-libertarians who routinely talk about the common good or the good of society. There’s a resurgence of these sort of classical republican notions like the common good percolating around within this context of the Alt Right, and I’m kind of happy that I’m one of the people who has been promoting that.
LR: OK. But you would still keep elections? Something that does represent the will of the people? Because it’s one thing to have checks and balances and another having some way of representing the will of the people.
GJ: Yeah, well, the will of the people is a really complicated notion. This is something I do like to point out against the most anti-democratic people in our circles. The fact of the matter is that if we had direct democracy where people voted with their television set or their smartphone or their computer or whatever we would actually have better policies than we do today on things like immigration and trade. There’s no question about that.
So, in situations like that the people actually know what’s right. Better than the elites, which need to be brought to heel, brought into line. They need to be replaced, basically.
But what is the will of the people? The people wants what is best for it, but what’s best for us is not necessarily what we want at every given moment, right? So, we really want that cigarette right now, but that’s not what’s best for us in the greater scheme of things. So, you do have to give power to the populace to check elites, but you also have to have people who are wiser and more public spirited than average in positions of authority so they can basically say, “No, we’re not just going to have bread and circuses and free cigarettes” and stuff like that. There are bad popular policies that can come about to through direct democracies. So, you do have to have a moderating influence.
This is a standard thing that Rousseau talks about when he talks about the general will. The general will is not necessarily what the populace wants at any particular moment. It’s what they want when they’re thinking most rationally about things in the long run.
The origin of this idea, fascinatingly enough, is Plato’s Gorgias. Socrates in the Gorgias says, “There’s a distinction between what you want and what you think you want right now. What all men want is they want the good life, they want well-being, but what they think they want at any particular moment might not necessarily be conducive to well-being.” And if freedom is getting what you really want rather than what you just think you want right now, then that leads directly to Rousseau’s conclusion that you can be forced to be free. You can be freer if you are paternalistically prevented from throwing away your freedom and your future by, say, getting addicted to heroin or something like that or gambling away your week’s wages before you take it home to feed your family. Stuff like that.
LR: So, at the end of the day, you’d still be for some elections?
GJ: Yeah, definitely!
GJ: Definitely. And there are different ways you can do that. There are forms of popular representation that don’t require people standing for election. You can have sortacracy. You can have systems like they had in the past where people are randomly pulled out . . .
LR: Right. Like in Greece. Like in Athens.
GJ: Yeah, like in Athens or like people who do jury service in America today. You’re just sort of pulled out randomly to do jury duty. But there are all sorts of ways that you can do that. But yeah, representative democracy is one way to do it.
Another way of doing it is plebiscites. Plebiscites tend to be quite favored, actually, among authoritarians of the Right, and honestly if Marine Le Pen ever ends up running France she’s probably going to have to be using plebiscites more than getting things passed through the legislature.
LR: To what extent is neo-reaction something that influenced the Alt Right? A lot of the articles that I read in the US media about the Alt Right made it seem that neo-reaction was at the core of it.
GJ: It’s not. It’s very peripheral. You see, this is part of the problem with the news coverage in America. It’s extremely lazy. They do a quick Google search, and they find a few articles about neo-reaction and they think, “OK. I can run with this. It sounds kinda edgy and sinister even.” Yet the fact of the matter is that it’s always been marginal, and it holds itself aloof from most of what’s going on in the Alternative Right sphere. It has not influenced it all that much.
It’s influenced me a little bit or at least it parallels what I think in some ways. I can’t say it hasn’t influenced me at all, honestly. I see where they’re coming from. I can complete some of their thoughts. It’s simpatico, but it hasn’t been influential on the Alternative Right and it’s just lazy reporting that leads people to say this kind of stuff, basically.
LR: I would say that one of the points in common seems to be the rejection of equality.
GJ: The rejection of egalitarianism. A kind of elitism. But a lot of us are really populist, right? I mean, the core of this thing is a populist attitude. You might believe that the best way to serve the good of the whole is to have a certain elitist element in government, but you can’t even just say that elitism tout cort is completely the way to go. Like I’ve been arguing, you need a mixed regime. You need a popular element.
We are populists, and they are elitists, and that’s really the big gap between us. They tend to be really interested in technology and things like that. Well, we’re very interested in that too. There’s no question about it. We tend to be engaged in actual things that we hope will produce political change, and they’re trying to posture as being above all that.
Basically, they’re signaling “we’re no threat to you, system that might destroy us or fire us from our job at Google or whatever! We’re no threat. We’re just harmless little fuzzballs. We’re just harmless eccentrics circling around on the internet.” And I can sort of understand that as a protective coloration or whatever, but a lot of them really do seem to take it seriously, and until they stop that sort of posturing and start actually recognizing that the world today needs changing, and they can actually effect it, they’re sort of irrelevant. Interesting, but irrelevant.
LR: Right. Another difference I would say — tell me if I’m correct — is that if they are strictly anti-modernist and the Alt Right is too modernist in the sense that identitarianism and nationalism are still a product of modern times.
GJ: Yeah. One of their memes — I call it the 1789 canard — is that they claim that the modern nation-state is a very modern invention. Yes and no. When you read Machiavelli, Machiavelli was calling for what? The unification of the Italians to chase out the barbarians who were invading their country. There was an Italian nation in the Middle Ages, and the Italians recognized each other from the Piedmont down to Sicily as a common people divided politically, but a common people. The ancient Greeks regarded themselves as a common people. They were politically divided, but they were the Hellenes as opposed to other people. So, there were national identities even in antiquity. There weren’t necessarily nation-states.
LR: Yeah, the nation-state is a product of modernity.
GJ: Yeah, and I think it’s one of the great products of modernity. This is one of the ways I differ from these people who are all traditionalists. Oh, if you’re a traditionalist you believe in empire. No, I’m not a traditionalist in that sense. I don’t believe in empire. Empires are always created by murdering people and oppressing them, and I don’t believe in that.
The people in our circles who defend empire and colonialism, I always say that if you defend these things you’re basically signaling to your neighbors that you’re not above a little murder and theft when it suits you.
GJ: And I think that’s just a morally retarded attitude. It’s morally retarded, and it’s quite anachronistic, because we don’t live in a world where white people are ever going to be running everything again. It’s just not going to happen!
LR: Richard Spencer seems to have a fantasy of recreating a white sort of Roman Empire with Europe and America reunited like a big white empire.
GJ: Yeah, well, I think that that’s . . . I have an essay called “Grandiose Nationalism” where I’m somewhat critical of that.
His views on this have shifted a lot over the last couple of years. A few years ago at American Renaissance he was calling for the idea of the ethno-state, the ethnically homogenous homeland. By the beginning of 2014, he then gave a talk at the Traditional Britain group (I forget when that was. I think it was 2013.) about why we need Europe against the Brexit attitudes or the attitudes that led to the Brexit. After the Ukrainian revolution suddenly he was basically turning Radix into an outlet for Russia Today propaganda and was extolling empire.
Basically, I think a lot of this has to do with the influence of his wife, who is a very, very strident Russian nationalist and basically spends a lot of her time pushing Kremlin propaganda about Ukraine. Suddenly ethno-nationalism became a bad thing when ethno-nationalism meant Ukraine demanding that it chart its own course rather than let Russia do it. So, I think that his thinking on this is sort of overly influenced by political events and by the people he talks to. It’s not as ideological of a position as it is something that is news- and personal relationship-driven.
LR: And as for neo-reaction, it seems to me that even though it says it’s against anything that’s happened since the French Revolution, what it seems to aim for is something that doesn’t have anything to do with what existed in the past but more this idea of the small company units dismantling countries and competing companies, basically. I don’t know if you read about that.
LR: It’s something else entirely. It’s neither traditionalist nor modernist. It’s more just like geek or corporate.
GJ: Corporate geeks. Yes, this is a fascinating trait of theirs. Some of them are traditionalists. Others are techno-utopians. Others are kind of quasi-libertarians. They’re all sort of interacting with one another.
The corporation can be a model, or can be reconfigured in a kind of quasi-feudal way, I think. I think the Japanese have done this. Corporations can, in principle, think very, very long-term. More long-term than politicians.
They’re toying with ideas about different social forms that are compatible with long-range thinking. That’s really the core thing that a lot of neo-reactionaries are concerned with. Questions about time horizons and how these things impact civilization and technology and progress.
LR: It’s good that I’m speaking to you, because I was feeling that I was a bit misled by these articles that seemed to put neo-reaction with the Alt Right. But, for example, there are points in common like neo-reaction talks about “The Cathedral” and the Alt Right talks about “The Synagogue.” Sounds like it’s the same thing.
GJ: Well, it is the same thing, but one thing you have to understand is that there is a certain amount of our discourse that is not sincere, and this is the thing that’s most troubling to me, because I don’t say things just to get rises out of people. I don’t say things for effect. I say things because I think they’re true, and I don’t believe in lying propaganda and stuff like that or dissimulation, because I just don’t think that’s where our strength is.
There’s this whole troll culture where trolls will say things that are patently false or insincere just to get a rise out of people. When people talk about “The Cathedral” and others talk about “The Synagogue” it’s kind of a trolling thing. It’s like, “No, it’s a synagogue! There! I got ya!”
But they are opposed to the existing elites, right? There’s no question. They do have that in common. The reasons for their opposition and their rationales, their visions of society that they have, they differ somewhat and in the end they still are fairly marginal to what we call the Alt Right and they kind of want to be.
In recent months, I would say in the last nine months or so, I’ve noticed that some people who are friends of mine who are coming out of the NRx sphere are much closer to me and others have receded behind a wall of opsec (operational security). They’ve become much more secretive in their interactions. Some of their little gatherings are open. Some of them are blogging less for the public and writing for one another in their little groups. Things like that.
LR: Oh, OK.
GJ: So, they’re becoming a little more occulted, if you will, whereas others are being more open.
One thing that has, I think, excited the whole Alternative Right and some people in the NRx sphere as well is the Trump campaign, because he’s, well, a populist for one thing. But there are certain dimensions of his thinking and behavior that resonate with some of the NRx concerns with technology and also some of the NRx attitudes about long-range thinking. Because Trump isn’t the kind of person who made billions of dollars by currency trades and arbitraging like George Soros. He builds things, and he builds things that last a long, long time.
He also thinks dynastically. He’s got these kids he’s trained to be part of his organization, and he also runs his company like a feudal baron. He can be very crass and sounds like Archie Bunker sometimes. He can be very crass, but by all accounts in his handling of his employees and the way he relates to them he’s extremely lordly but magnanimous and gentle with people, very forgiving, and he gives them a lot of latitude. He has some aristocratic virtues about him that are one of the reasons why he’s a very effective builder of big companies.
So, those are some of the things I think unite us when we look at the Trump phenomenon. There’s something here. There’s something really exciting here even though he doesn’t really agree with us on a lot of the most important issues.
LR: Just so I understand, back to the question before of the differences, of course you’re more populist and they’re more elitist, but you would both share anti-egalitarianism?
GJ: Yes, to some extent. Equality is a nice thing, but it’s not the most important. That’s the way I put it. Liberty is a nice thing, but it’s not the most important thing. There are higher values that might cause us to want to trim the liberty of the individual and trim social equality and to the extent those higher values exist I will compromise on those issues.
I do think a certain republican attitude about having a society where there’s a broad middle class, where there are lots of property owners, where people are more self-employed than employed by large corporations, and where people don’t work on plantations for big bosses. That is a kind of egalitarian attitude that I have.
On the other hand, I would love to see an ethos like you have in Japan where corporate CEOs would be embarrassed to pay themselves as much as Americans do in comparable positions. I’d like to see that because they’re quite rich anyway, right? There are certain upper limits. There should be a certain sense of classical virtues like temperance that I would love to see come back.
But yeah, if people produce more value they should have more rewards. Income inequality is a fine thing, but you don’t want it to translate into social and political inequality, if you put it that way. The breakdown of the functioning of a republic where you’ve got a lot of free people, self-employed people, and so forth. So, I would like to see limits on loan capital. Things like that.
And you see this throughout history and it’s been a theme of republican thinkers throughout history, if people can borrow against their property, if they can mortgage their property and then lose it, this is one of the ways that independent farmers and homeowners become renters and employees. So, you want to find ways of limiting that kind of stuff.
In ancient Athens, Solon, one of the things he instituted was debt repudiation, because he realized it was threatening the republican liberties of Athens. More and more people were losing their land and becoming laborers on somebody else’s land. The plantation economy was asserting itself, and so he introduced a shaking off of debts and broke up estates and gave small farms to farmers again and tried to recreate the middle class.
The same dynamic happened with the destruction of the Roman Republic and in the 19th-century American context, the populist movement there was very, very concerned with preventing the impoverishment of farmers. They were opposed to the gold standard and things like that because they were deflationary and harmed farmers especially.
All of these kinds of issues are things that I’d bring back, and those have an egalitarian bite to them, but it’s not the idea of complete strict equality is the highest value in society.
LR: Right. For you, it’s identity and order, you could say?
GJ: Identity and order. Identity and a kind of organic society. That’s how I would like to think of it and organic societies have differentiation in them. They’ve got hierarchies, but at the same time there has to be a moral obligation to make all those internal distinctions work for the good of everyone as opposed to this factionalist attitude that the people on the top are ruling for their benefit alone.
LR: What does it mean, “organic society”?
GJ: It means organic like an organism where . . . OK. Today we have an inorganic society where you’ve got different classes and different groups of people and they’re all pursuing factional interests. It’s not a single organism with a common life and common interests. It’s an economic zone where warring tribes are fighting over spoils. That’s what most societies are like today, whereas in an organic society there is a sense that it is a whole and it has a common good. If there is not a whole then there is no common good.
That’s all I really mean by organic. It’s a whole, it has a common good, and the internal differentiations that exist in that work towards the common good, and when you start getting a part that’s working for its own interests, well, that’s analogous to a tumor growing in a body. It’s an organ or it’s a clump of tissue that’s inimical to the common interests.
LR: And so you think there is a common good?
LR: How would you define it?
GJ: The common good for the French is to keep on being French.
LR: That’s your point of view of the common good. So, what if someone disagrees that that’s the common good?
GJ: Well, we can talk it over. But, you know, eventually someone’s going to decide, and we hope that we can create the broadest possible consensus and there will be about 10 to 15% who will probably never get on board. But we can deal with that.
But yeah, in the simplest identitarian sense of a common good . . . The common good of Hungary is that Hungarian people will have a home and there will be Hungarian people in the future, that the things that they value and love will continue to be valued and loved by their descendants, you know, until the sun burns out and we have to go and have Hungary on another planet somewhere. I’m being somewhat facetious, but not 100% facetious. But that’s really the attitude I have.
For a European-descended American like myself, the common good really is that the things that we have created and valued will, first of all, be restored and they will be propagated.
How to put this? I hate using these old 19th-century imperialist terms like “manifest destiny,” but I do also think that we should strive for some kind of destiny to actualize our highest potentialities and that includes things like perfecting us culturally, perfecting science. One of the things that I think is the most important is protecting the biosphere that is massively over-stressed. I would like to see human beings continue to explore the depths of the oceans and outer space, things like that. These things are glorious, and I think that they elevate us. We have that potentiality, and I think that when we see these things actualized we respond with awe. And that’s a good thing. That brings us all together.
LR: Right. To what extent is the Alt Right in part a revival of the old Right before the Reagan and Buckley conservative revolution, before National Review Republicanism? It used to be more isolationist. It used to be more protectionist.
GJ: Yeah. And let me just make a little point here. The “old Right” in the way I use it . . . People have criticized it. I wrote this essay “Old Right vs. New Right” where I stipulate that the old Right for me just refers to National Socialists and Fascists and inter-war totalitarian movements, but I did grant that there is an old Right in the American tradition that is pre-WWII and yes they are protectionist, they are anti-interventionist. To a great extent, the paleo-conservatives were looking back to that old Right.
LR: Yeah. Exactly.
GJ: Most definitely. After the Second World War, the Right was relaunched by William F. Buckley and it was really defined in such a way that a lot of what constituted the Right before WWII was just thrown out.
GJ: You know, nativism, skepticism toward freedom of trade, and things like that. There was a strong Right, populist critique of liberal economics and libertarian economics in the old Right in America. All of that’s totally valid.
That’s one of the things that astonished me in my intellectual journey. Before I became a philosophy major, I was briefly an economics major, and I was very interested in economics and somewhat enchanted by the whole free market economics model. And then to discover that there’s this whole raft of critiques from the Right of liberal, libertarian, free market, Manchesterism, and whatever economics. It was a great discovery, because all of that has been completely marginalized within the economics profession, which is very, very interesting, because nominally a lot of libertarians and free market types are Right-wing. But the stuff that they really emphasize is completely consistent with the functioning of our globalized Left-wing oligarchy. The elements of Rightist critiques of neo-liberalism and liberalism that they’ve completely hidden — things like distributism, things like the populist movement, the critics of gold standards or the Social Credit movement, guild socialism — all of these things are incredibly rich traditions of thought, and they have these people [free marketeers] absolutely nailed, which I guess is one reason they hide this stuff, because what they stand for doesn’t stand up to that kind of critique.
It’s very, very interesting if you go back into the 19th century when a lot of these movements are coming into existence, there’s the sort of “horseshoe effect” that people talk about where the political spectrum curves around and meets in certain ways. The things that are still valuable about socialism today were acknowledged and understood for the most part by Right-wing critics of capitalism before the First World War and Second World War, which I think is really interesting.
LR: Yeah. It’s strange for me to hear you say “Left-wing oligarchs” when there’s not much that I can see that’s Left-wing except for the cultural aspects of it.
GJ: Yeah, but that’s really what it’s all been reduced to. It’s “Cultural Marxism,” as people like to say.
LR: Economy-wise, it’s ultra-capitalist, ultra-financialized and globalized, free trade, and all these things are what I would call Right-wing in the sense of pro-market, pro-capitalist.
GJ: Right. But you do understand my point though.
GJ: I would agree that it’s bad for the public, it’s bad for working people, the middle class, and it’s bad for society as a whole, and yet there are lots and lots of Leftists who are perfectly comfortable with this system, and the sort of Left-wing identity politics, especially as it exists as identity politics. It’s organically part of this oligarchy today.
LR: Yeah, exactly, but I don’t consider them legitimate Leftists.
LR: But yeah, I see what you mean.
GJ: Self-described Leftists then, who are organically part of the oligarchy.
LR: Yeah. I get it. I think that’s practically all of my questions. So, just out of curiosity, you majored in philosophy? That’s what you told me?
LR: And that means a Master’s in philosophy?
GJ: I got a PhD, yeah.
LR: Oh, you have a PhD?
GJ: A Bachelor’s, a Master’s, and a PhD in philosophy!
LR: Oh, OK! What university?
GJ: I don’t want to go into all these particulars.
LR: Oh, you don’t want to say anything at all about that.
GJ: Yeah. There are 53,000 Greg Johnsons on Facebook alone, so that provides me with a certain cloud of unknowing that I can hide details in.
LR: Right. But you don’t hide your political opinions in your everyday life?
GJ: No, but I don’t want people throwing bricks through my windows and things like that.
LR: Oh, yeah, of course.
GJ: Or Theresa May — or I guess she’s now the Prime Minister — but I don’t want the Home Office sending me letters banning me from the United Kingdom, which I know they would do if they could just figure out which of those 50-some thousand Greg Johnsons on Facebook I am and send something to my address.
LR: Right. Do you still work in academia? Are you a researcher or teacher?
GJ: No. My academic career was brief and inglorious and I went directly from there to be involved in all of this stuff.
LR: You mean professionally? Is this . . .
GJ: This is my job. I make a living as a publisher and a blogger on the New Right.
LR: Really? Oh, OK.
GJ: Yeah, I employ myself and a couple other people, actually, with my efforts.
LR: OK. I should have asked this question at the very beginning but sorry for being all over the place. The Alt Right, you could say it starts around 2010? Would that be the date? The thing is that there’s so many older trends and older movements that seem to come together that it’s hard to put a beginning date.
GJ: I think in 2008 and 2009 was probably when it was coming together as an idea, and then in 2010 at the beginning of the year the webzine Alternative Right was launched. So, I guess it was coming together in 2008 and 2009 then it sort of rolled out to the world at the beginning of 2010.
LR: Right. OK. Well, thanks a lot for taking all that time to develop all these points. It was very helpful.
GJ: Well, thank you very much. I enjoyed this actually. This was fun.
LR: You’re not interviewed a lot, no?
GJ: No, actually I’ve been dodging interviews with the American press for a couple of reasons. The main reason is I kind of want Donald Trump to win, and American reporters have been contacting me basically because they’re trying to get juicy quotes to smear him with by associating him with all sorts of crazy, unappetizing radicals like me, and I don’t want to play their little game.
I figured, you being in France, you’re far enough away from that particular low agenda, and so I figured why not.
LR: It’s not even web-based. It’s an actual paper publication, so you can’t even go online.
GJ: Yeah, I tried to do a little research about you, and I was like, “Wait. This is ink and paper. How archaic!” But that’s great. I actually like that fact. And when the lights all go out it’ll still be around. So, it’s a good form.
But yeah, I made a reference recording of this. Would you mind after your article comes out or whatever if I were to make that public?
LR: Our interview?
GJ: Yeah! I thought it was very interesting.
LR: Um. I definitely do not want to be filmed.
GJ: No. I just have the audio.
LR: Well, I have to think about it. I didn’t really contradict you at all, because it wasn’t really a debate but I suppose . . . I suppose. I’m not sure I would want my name associated . . . Well, I’m not going to hide that. I’m using the interview. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with it, I guess.
GJ: Right. Well, I can send you the recording if you want to listen to it over again.
LR: OK. Sure. I would have paid more attention to being more articulate with my questions.
GJ: Oh, no! You were excellent. You were quite good. I was really happy. I was feeling like I was searching and mumbling and woolgathering a lot.
LR: Fair enough. But I guess there’s nothing wrong with it. I just wouldn’t want my face to appear.
GJ: No. No, not at all. It’s just audio.
LR: Maybe because some of your crowd looks kind of aggressive.
GJ: Oh, of course. Yeah.
LR: So, I don’t know if I’d want to be attacked.
GJ: No, nobody’s going to do that. Well, think about it.
LR: That should be OK. And OK. Thanks a lot for taking all that time.
GJ: No, it was a pleasure and just send me a link to whatever you write up. I’d like to see it.
LR: OK. It probably won’t be online.
GJ: Oh, could you send me a copy of it then?
LR: Maybe I could make a PDF.
GJ: PDF. Yeah.
LR: It will be a very, very long article.
GJ: Well, good. I read French pretty well, so I will enjoy it.
LR: It probably, as you can guess from my honest presentation of myself, it will not be favorable, but it will be . . . Well, as you can guess, a Left-wing interpretation.
GJ: I can’t ask everyone to agree with me, but I do enjoy having civil intellectual conversations and debates.
LR: Yeah, it should be possible to talk with even your adversaries. But what’s also troubling and interesting is that . . . Of course, I’m not sensitive at all to . . . Race and identity doesn’t talk to me at all, but on the other hand the critique of globalization and that part of it is totally compatible with my politics, so that’s always sort of troubling to see. Points in common.
GJ: Yeah, well, it is interesting to me. I used to be a libertarian, and all of this stuff fell on deaf ears, and now I sort of think of myself as Left-wing as one can reasonably be. In my essay “The End of Globalization,” the main point that I make is that if you’re going to draw a line and halt globalization, what’s the natural line to draw it at? What is the natural end point? And I say that it’s natural to draw the line at the nation-state.
It just makes sense, because you’ve got governments in place, you’ve got common history, you’ve got policies. A lot of things that were very good that happened over the last century happened within the context of nations that had protectionist measures in place. And so, in some ways, to end globalization you need to reset to an earlier form of what France was up to or what the United States was up to.
LR: Yeah, I completely agree with that. The thing is that then the discussion is how do you make a nation? Is it based on an idea of citizenship or is it based on an idea of ethnicity? And that’s where we probably sort of diverge.
GJ: Yeah. The mainstream today is, at best, civic nationalism. Even the Front National is a civic nationalist organization. Donald Trump is a civic nationalist. There’s no question about it.
GJ: I would like to go to a civic nationalism. I think that would be an improvement. However, I think it’s an inherently unstable form of government, and that there are ethnic fault lines within any civic nationalist thing that would have to be addressed next.
Civic nationalism is always trying to foist artificial forms of unity upon people, and why should we foist artificial forms of unity upon people when there are actual organic forms of unity that are already there? Even, probably, in you. You know, because you’re French. You have a lot in common with other French people, and there’s an organic connectedness that you have that is probably more rooted and more stable and more, therefore, conducive to a functioning, just society than artificial civic forms of nationalism that we’re constantly trying to impose.
Here’s another thing. Carl Schmitt is wonderful about this. He talks about how to function democracy is illiberal. Democracy and liberalism don’t go together, because when a democracy is trying to function it tries to impose unity on the populace, and if it’s a multicultural, multi-ethnic populace it will impose forms of unity that are often fake.
And one of the most interesting things is to look at the history of 20th-century fake nationalisms like Turkish nationalism, for instance. They invented a whole fake history for themselves. It’s really quite remarkable.
LR: Oh, all nation states do that.
GJ: Yeah! But it has to be imposed with a certain violence that groups that don’t . . .
LR: For sure.
GJ: And, of course, what happened in the Ottoman Empire when they tried to create Turkishness as a unifying factor is they basically tried to exterminate the Christian minorities of the empire. There is a terrible logic to this, which is why I favor, if necessary, breaking up these nation-states, if they’re mini-empires, so that you don’t have to have fake forms of unity imposed really by doing violence to people’s identity.
LR: Yeah. I think I’m more skeptical about being able to achieve that unity. Even maybe just because I believe, as a Marxist, I probably believe too much in class antagonism, and I don’t feel close at all to the French boss exploiting people, you know? Maybe I feel that. That’s just my Marxist approach probably.
GJ: Right. Well, you know, I’m not a Marxist . . . Obviously.
LR: I’m glad we got that.
GJ: We got that out there, yeah. In case you were wondering about that . . . Really there are all sorts of things that Marxists are zeroing in on that are bad, right, about capitalism and modernity? But I just don’t think that the Marxist framework is true or adequate. I don’t believe in historical materialism. I’m really a kind of historical idealist.
I think, honestly, as a political philosophy and as an account of history, Hegel is disturbingly close to the truth for me. The great thing about Hegel, I think, is he rediscovers something that’s central to classical political philosophy, which is the concept of thumos, the middle part of the soul, the spirited part of the soul. Which is what? It’s attachment to one’s own, including one’s own identity ultimately. Not just one’s personal identity, one’s sense of honor, but also one’s place, one’s roots, one’s homeland, one’s people. That was, for all the classical Greek thinkers, the essentially political emotion.
Desire. Well, that leads to the global marketplace. Reason. That leads to the cosmopolis, the republic of letters. But the distinctly political part of the soul that leads to diversity of political orders is thumos.
Hegel believes that really is thumos the driving force of history. The master-slave dialectic is all about a struggle to the death over honor, which is the thumotic part of the soul.
One of the things that I’ve been working on just recently is a review of Peter Sloterdijk’s book Rage and Time, because I found out that actually one of the strategists for Alternative für Deutschland is a student of his and in Rage and Time Sloterdijk is arguing for the inadequacy of modern liberalism, and I would also say Marxism too, and psychoanalysis to understand the distinctly political emotions and passions which are connected with thumos. This fellow, whose name escapes me now, the Sloterdijk student, basically has come up with an argument for German nationalism that’s very, very simple and bypasses all of the events from 1933 to 1945.
He simply says, “Look, it’s natural, normal, and right for people to love their own, to have a love of one’s own, a preference for people who are closer to them over strangers.” And that’s really the basis for ethnic nationalism. I think it’s a very powerful argument, actually.
If you look at Carl Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political, really the sort of hidden assumption there is the power of thumos, because he says there will never be a global polity. Politics is always plural for him. What does that mean? It means that inherent in the political is a particularizing force that always will posit an “us vs. them.”
GJ: And that, I think, is a dimension that for me really opened up the book of history. I don’t think that people really understand history by looking back at it from materialist lenses. I think that most of the cultural realm is based on an economy of, if you will, thumos rather than desire. Human beings are articulating their distinctness as a species by creating artificial worlds that are not governed by the economy of desire.
And so, I look at someone like Bataille in his sort of Nietzsche-influenced writings about culture as having something essential that he’s saying that fits in with the sort of Hegelian and Platonic notion of thumos, because we create culture precisely by negating materialism. We raise ourselves above the realm of necessity by creating luxury. And so I think that history has to be understood not through materialism but primarily as a negation of materialism, which creates this realm of culture.
That’s why I’m not a historical materialist.
LR: Would you mind sending me the recording? I tried to write down everything and it will be easier to . . .
GJ: Sure. Yeah, of course, and I just hope that my Skype recorder automatically popped on like it’s supposed to. But yes, thank you so much! I do have to run. I have to take my dog out and also there’s some construction going on next door. I don’t know what’s going on. I hope it hasn’t been too distracting to you, but I hear these machines.
LR: Oh, not at all.
GJ: Good. These machines have been crashing away. OK, well, thank you so much and we’ll be in touch.
LR: Thank you!