Cultural Fascism: What Is It?
Why "cultural fascism" is just as important as "cultural Marxism."
This article was originally published at Arktos.com on 9-3-2023, and can be found at:
Cultural fascism? How could such a subject exist? Let alone, is it a far-left conspiracy theory that misrepresents the school of the Nouvelle Droite thought as being responsible for modern nationalist movements, identity politics, and political correctness? I don’t think so. We must play fair. If there is criticism and a real subject called “Cultural Marxism,” we must consider its polar opposite, where fascism died long ago, and what we have understood in the postmodern era, is cultural fascism.
Cultural fascism can be traced back to the work of Maurice Bardèche, and his influence upon “neo-fascism.” In his 1961 book Qu’est-ce que le fascisme?, Bardèche redefined fascism as a cultural movement, where “fascism” is an attitude, a state of mind, and a romance for a man to accomplish greatness against the stuffy and hostile intellectualism of capitalism and communism. “Fascism” now becomes a cultural attitude and not a totalitarian regime.
If communism seeks a post-scarcity economy that benefits humanity as a whole, then it is fascism that seeks a future alternative for inhumanism, a term coined by the American poet Robinson Jeffers (1887–1962), that is a “rejection of human solipsism and [a] recognition of the transhuman magnificence.”1 I believe that cultural fascism is a cultural attitude, subculture, and school of criticism that observes popular culture through the lens of Jeffers’ concept of inhumanism, and as well adopting the practice and application of Antonio Gramsci’s “cultural hegemony” theory through a “fascist” perspective. This school of thought started by Bardèche was soon carried on and evolved through the work of Alain de Benoist, especially through his 1977 work Vu de droite.
In the new 2017 English translation, View from The Right, de Benoist declares the political “right” as a concrete opposition towards the political left or any advocation of the ambiguous “centre” that denies any anti-liberal opposition. In Vol.1, Heritage and Foundation, de Benoist criticizes the French intellectual Roland Barthes for denouncing language itself as “fascist.” According to de Benoist, language “compels us to speak” (p. 11) and all language requires a mandatory form that we must submit to before speaking.
De Benoist complains,
All society, in so far as it takes the form of a social body, is ‘fascist.’ The State is a ‘fascist.’ The family is ‘fascist.’ History is ‘fascist.’ Form is ‘fascist.’ It is but a small step to admit: the human phenomenon is ‘fascist,’ since always and everywhere, it imposes meaning, form, order, and strives to make them endure. (p. 11)
It is here that de Benoist declares the traits of meaning, form, and order the attitudes and purpose of an entire new school of thought, that is not of the left, but has a view to the “right.” De Benoist believes that “what is to come” is becoming an intellectual “yearning for a new synthesis” (p. 12). That synthesis could be explained as a new third political position and theory that mixes both the attitudes and subcultures of the left and the right. De Benoist believed that this third position would be called Nouvelle Droite, or “New Right,” as a placeholder. But it never was supposed to be a “right-wing” party. It just so happens that the “right” would be open to anti-liberal thought, until the left can open up.
I believe that de Benoist’s understanding of “meaning, form, and order” is the foundation of a cultural fascist mode of thinking, where the thesis of criticism comes from the revival of exclusive traits of meaning, form, and order. Cultural fascism is a bohemian project, celebrating an anti-bourgeois youth culture that attacks liberalism and the cosmopolitan spirit. It puts both the writer and artist first, having total freedom from the zeitgeist of today, and imagining a future of tomorrow that is tied with tradition and culture.
It is no surprise that Bardèche and his stalwart, Robert Brasillach, wrote the landmark 1935 book Histoire du Cinéma, or “The History of Motion Pictures,” one of the first books on film criticism and history. This academic work is still negated today, as it becomes quite evident that the invention of the film history discipline was the creation of two innovative cultural fascist pioneers. The medium of film itself has “fascist” possibilities.
Brasillach was later sentenced to death because of his advocation of Vichy France. This was the first extreme attempt of “cancel culture” against fascism. His “intellectual crimes” were treated as murder. The feminist Simone de Beauvoir was aloof about his death but acknowledges the paradox in her essay “An Eye for an Eye.
The liberal writer Maurice Blanchot became condescending against Brasillach and his politics,2 expressed in his own essay “Literature and the Right to Death.” In such an ugly turn of events, the French liberal intelligentsia never came to the side of Brasillach, and let him take the bullet. Since then, Brasillach has been widely regarded as a martyr and model for the cultural fascist movement. Maurice Bardèche ended up marrying Robert’s sister, Suzanne Brasillach.
It is also worth mentioning, before Bardèche or de Benoist began writing on the topics of a cultural right-wing, that in 1955 a rabble-rouser and conservative thinker, Raymond Aron, wrote a reactionary book titled L’Opium des intellectuels, or “The Opium of the Intellectuals,” that argued that Karl Marx invented a religion “of the people,” which makes them sound pretentious and deluded from the realities of the world. This was met with huge backfire from the youth culture and liberal intelligentsia that de Beauvoir and Blanchot represented. Importantly, it addressed the cultist concerns of Jean-Paul Sartre, and how his own personal Maoism invaded the cultural ideology of the time. Aron was pleased with de Benoist’s attempt to revive and legitimize the voices of the Vichy regime as a just cause. This time, both Aron and de Benoist wrote in a postmodern diatribe style against their Maoist opponents.
In the American environment, we unfortunately have soft “conservatives” that try and go against the “woke” crowd by assuming leftist terms and painting them as evil. Jordan B. Peterson became famous for his physiologist talk around Carl Jung, and his attack on those who are lazy, calling the enemies “postmodern neo-Marxists.” But like Raymond Aron, Peterson is rather acting as a stooge for the liberal establishment that hates anti-liberal thought. Peterson is defending a type of classical liberalism that America once stood for and that establishment, “Conservative Inc.,” is what he is trying to balance as a force. It is these so-called “conservatives” like Peterson and Aron that unfortunately would side with a “civic nationalist” liberalism, where criticism of the left is welcomed, but would never dare challenge the entire sphere of either side. This is because both Peterson and Aron are guilty of upholding their respective establishments. As a French leftist statement once argued, “Better be wrong with Sartre than right with Aron.”3
The post-World War II decade of France sought a revival of cultural fascist thought. There is no denying that there were Vichy advocates that were like any other radical leftists of the time. Still, there are works in the French canon that remain untranslated in English because of their obscurity or because of the controversial ties to fascism. One such work includes Lucien Rebatet’s 1952 novel Les Deux Étendards, which is often regarded as a late modernist epic of the 20th century. And some later works continue to be censored, or even ignored, for their cultural influence. Jean Raspail’s 1973 novel Le Camp des Saints envisions the end of the white world with mass immigration into France allowed by their own liberal altruism. These texts are crucial to Alain De Benoist’s intellectual canon of the Nouvelle Droite and the cultural impact they have on the French.
Today, there are reactionary postmodern thinkers that challenge each other’s diatribes for the sake of being contrarian. Alain Badiou is known for his whimsical and ideological version of a new mental kind of “communism” of belief, similar to Bardèche’s thought on what is “fascism.” A rival philosopher named François Laruelle created a reactionary and inverted idea of “non-philosophy,” where there can only be a philosophy against the school of philosophy itself. Laruelle, who is apolitical, has even challenged Badiou’s theories in his own work Anti-Badiou: The Introduction of Maoism into Philosophy. It goes without saying that this type of contrarian reaction is deep within the French tradition of philosophy, and the work of Laruelle can be traced back to the inversions of Aron, de Benoist, and even Bardèche. All the postmodern and philosophical jargon becomes swift conclusions of fancy rhetoric, as it becomes a fuzzy excuse to justify its irrational and personal choices without clarity of the self, or for the curious reader. What then, are we to make of the so-called “culture war” at hand if it is nothing more than a pretentious game of power-knowledge?
From an unlikely source, sincere Marxist and political scientist Michael Parenti addresses the concerns and flaws of Gramscian ideology in his 2006 book The Culture Struggle. He argues that culture itself is becoming commodified, and the only way to be critical outside of this social control is to understand subculture as an inauthentic mode of existence and problem of the self. This is ironic, considering that the far-left relies on subcultures like hardcore punk, antifa, and the status quo of upper-middle-class urban whites to promote its ideology. Parenti, however, is seeking to define culture outside of academia, and that culture is an indeterminate motion subject to change. If the basis of culture is likely to change at any given moment, it becomes a highly politicized topic, and thus a concern for the elites to morph and change its subjects at will.
Advocating Gramsci’s theory of culture hegemony is a double-edged sword, in that advocating and promoting a unique subculture like “cultural fascism” will eventually succumb to a polar opposite force willing to commodify it, and transform itself to mean something else. Naive lines such as, “you should respect our culture,” assume everyone is happy with that subculture, but no criticism is addressed around who the subculture supports, advocates, and what they practice. If cultural fascism sponsors the activity of white supremacy and the advocation of war, what good is it then to be a part of it? Cultural fascism thus becomes a vehicle for a different party with different interests, and like Jordan B. Peterson ranting about those evil “Marxists,” this hatred can only benefit a blind conservative class which will continue the liberal capitalist project.
Parenti argues that we can “transcend” culture if we recognize it for what it is, and who it serves. Ethical values become much more apparent than aesthetics or need. This approach is critical to the work of William S. Lind’s nationalist manifesto Retroculture: Taking America Back. In a series of essays, Lind nitpicks and designs his own American-esque style culture based solely upon personal and subjective aesthetics, and an objective need to accomplish a dreamy goal under this cartoon uniform. Cultural fascism and Lind’s Retroculture would ultimately clash together and not unite. Unlike an intersectional far-right, subcultures of this kind of niche degree will make simple arguments for a religious Kulturkampf belief that one must think and act in order to cleanse possible sin away from their mind. There is no praxis in Retroculture’s actions, but only commodifying itself for a bigger party to control, as argued by Parenti.
It is also of no surprise that the subject of metapolitics, an abstract talk of politics, was popularized by Alain Badiou in order to envision a subjective and utopian stance on everyone’s personal vision of “communism.” Ask, “what does communism mean to you?” And returning to Parenti’s own culture hegemony paradox, “you should respect our culture.” The egalitarian mode of thinking, or liberalism, is the priority syntax of this line of thought, and stops us from confronting real issues outside our own prisons of conformist subcultures. So why then advocate for subcultures if it would naturally lead to such equality of division?
Parenti argues that culture is not an absolute (just like equality), and that the individual still exists to stand outside of it all and criticize the world around him. There are human feelings and human rights that transcend culture, where we are advocating values of common sense. Also, the spirit of transcendence is the meaning that motivates and controls political organizations. So when political parties control cultures for their own liking, they do it out of the assumption that they can accomplish an agenda that transcends the current political situation. As previously mentioned, communism is a fight for humanity, while fascism could be described as a fight for inhumanity. These two objectives, humanity or inhumanity, are the basis of transcendence, and not commodification.
However, just like the Kulturkampf conflict, objectives of transcendence can easily fall back into a jihadist scenario of the holy verse sinner, and that leads into the radical holy crusade between believer and non-believer. But we can still get the basic “human condition” found through the diversity of art and literature throughout the world, and find something similar within our own fight for personal politics, which can help transcend subcultures and create praxis. A living example would be Aleksandr Dugin’s Eurasian Mission, which helps to create a universal mode of Russian self-determination against all forces of globalism and of liberalism. Anyone can join the side of Dugin’s Eurasianism and see the value for humanity beyond the constructs of consumer subcultures. It intersects and fights for the values of ownership, as observed by Parenti.
Would Dugin’s Eurasianism, Lind’s Retroculture, de Benoist’s Nouvelle Droite, and Badiou’s communism become allies for “cultural fascism?” Not at all. But we can see all these influences coming back to one source, Maurice Bardèche, and his romantic prose and anger against the French state.
If we can describe “cultural Marxism” as something thuggish and decadent from the perspective of Jordan B. Peterson, then this some logic applies to that of Bardèche and his analysis of the “spirit” of fascism. It’s not that cultural fascism is a threat against society, but that cultural fascism is the main motivator and interest for anyone getting into the ambiguous “far-right” in general. It is the culture that people are interested in, and the subcultures that create prison comfort out of it. It is true that the gathering of many far-right subcultures at the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia led to the destruction of the American far-right, and demonized the culture as a whole. This is where culture is constantly used as a method of social control, in order to destroy and to create. It is culture that can motivate someone, but the values of humanity or inhumanity are used to transcend this paradox.
I believe Bardèche is a writer and intellect against all odds that can think about something without associating it with its outcome. It is the contrarian sake of being a “fascist” against the order of the world, like believing that the Earth is flat, or believing in Bigfoot. As Bardèche once wrote, “I am a fascist writer.” He is not afraid of the consequences of his statements, as he relaxes the reader into his convictions. We are seeing less of this intellectual behavior as associates of a larger culture succumb to new mannerisms, codes, and idols that mean nothing to the individual’s power. I believe a true cultural fascist is against everyone, and is a true lone wolf that doesn’t play games, or is friends with anyone. It is a fusion between the audacity of Diogenes and the freedom of de Sade, where the wolf is fighting for a culture that truly defines themselves, and for others that want to accomplish a good for something greater. Cultural fascism is against the orthodoxy of liberalism and the rules of capitalism. It is never something that can be compromised to white nationalism or exclusive politics around a singular cause.
The cultural fascist is a thug akin to the Gramscian wish that the working class can read. It is a byproduct of an Information Age that is losing the narrative because of the universal access to the internet. Cultural fascism can never intersect with fellow fascists, because they all look after themselves. Everyone knows how bad liberalism is. It’s rather an intersectionality on how to destroy it.
The cultural fascist follows the contrarian romance of Bardèche, and doesn’t care about the feelings of others. Subculture might have created a product out of this, but a true cultural fascist would be against these materialistic prisons of mere aesthetics and needs. Robert Brasillach died for speaking his own thoughts. And so the cultural fascist must be as fatalist as Brasillach and can die at any moment. All in the name to fight for meaning, form, and order, and fight for a society that is inhuman in spirit, but human in nature.
The cultural fascist never died. He has only died and reinvented himself to struggle in the coming 21st century of conflict.
Eric Richtmyer, “Maurice Blanchot: Saboteur of the Writers’ War,” Journal of the Western Society for French History, Vol. 35, 2007.