Liberalism’s Time is Up
By Joakim Andersen
A Review of Daniel Friberg’s The Real Right Returns: A Handbook for the True Opposition (London: Arktos, 2015).
We live in interesting times, times in which the political and ideological consensus which has been dominant for more than 50 years is coming apart at the seams. During this period of transition, the liberalism of the Left appears not only incapable of solving the growing mass of problems, it is also obvious to ever more people that it has been part of creating them. The opposition has every reason to scent victory.
Even so, massive challenges await. To take but one example, what is our alternative to the crumbling system? Who are ‘we’? And, to quote a famous twentieth century revolutionary, ‘what is to be done?’ If these questions are not answered satisfactorily, we run the risk of passing up the historic opportunity that is now becoming visible with increasing clarity.
Daniel Friberg and the New Right
‘To constitute a metapolitical vanguard, and hence a vital part of the broader initiative to set Europe straight again: this is the primary mission of the Swedish New Right.’ — Daniel Friberg
Anyone ready to ask the right questions and answer them had better acquaint themselves with Daniel Friberg. For ten years, he has been one of the driving forces behind the Swedish think-tank Motpol, as well as the CEO of the publishing company Arktos Media. He has been essential to the emergence of the Swedish New Right, as well as a prime contributor to the worldview of the global Right through Arktos’ strategic translations of de Benoist, Faye, and Dugin, amongst others, into English. This suggests that in Friberg we have encountered a rare man with an unusual combination of strategic ability, vision, and political sensitivity. In other words, Friberg could be described as a skilled metapolitician. This should make it interesting to gain further insight into his views concerning history and the future. This insight is offered by the recent anthology The Real Right Returns.
Already in the title, Friberg hints at his choice of ‘we’, while also distancing himself from the current form of ‘Right wing’ politics. If the Real Right returns, then obviously Angela Merkel, Anna Kinberg Batra, and Nicolas Sarkozy do not belong to the Right. These politicians are Social Liberals motivated by class egoism, and for decades they and their ilk have been prone to adopt both americanised and radical Left-wing viewpoints. Such a ‘Right’ is not Friberg’s. The Right of which he speaks is rather the European one, especially the so-called ‘New Right’.
After the Second World War, the True Right of Europe faced a crisis. It was often viewed as being associated with the losing side, while two extra-European superpowers occupied Europe and shaped her societies in accordance with their own interests. Among the most interesting responses to this situation can be found in the New Right, an initiative begun by a group of French intellectuals to break the Left’s and the false Right’s grip on society. Leading among these thinkers was and is Alain de Benoist, but around him could be found other notable scholars and writers such as Guillaume Faye.
‘Mass immigration, sexual liberalism, and many other negative political and cultural choices cannot be fully explained by the activities of the Left alone, but without the Frankfurt School and similar projects it is unlikely, if not inconceivable, that they would have taken the shapes they did.’ — Daniel Friberg
The New Right undertook a deep analysis of how it was that viewpoints and groups once seen as extreme and marginal could have achieved such a hold over European politics and culture. Among others, they turned to certain Leftist theoreticians, in particular the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci had developed useful theories concerning concepts such as how to secure power over the minds of the people, while diverging sharply from Marx and rather approaching Georges Sorel. Gramsci studied the role of the struggle of ideas in securing this power, also called the ‘positional warfare’ of cultural politics, and how to win it.
Gramsci developed a practical conceptual apparatus, utilising terms such as hegemony, organic intellectuals, and historical blocs. Partly inspired by him during their ‘long march through the institutions’ during the ’60s, the Left had usurped control of language, culture, the educational system, and the media over the course of the twentieth century. The aim of the New Right was to use the valuable insights of Gramsci to achieve something similar, but under another banner altogether. The New Right realised that successful politics presupposes metapolitical victories, meaning that one has already profoundly influenced what people believe to be right and true, which words they use, and how they identify themselves. Friberg describes metapolitics thusly:
‘Metapolitics can be defined as the process of disseminating and anchoring a particular set of cultural ideas, attitudes, and values in a society, which eventually leads to deeper political change. This work need not – and perhaps should not – be linked to a particular party or programme. The point is ultimately to redefine the conditions under which politics is conceived, which the European cultural Left pushed to its extreme.’
In The Real Right Returns, Friberg offers valuable insights and advice regarding metapolitics. Among other things, one needs a positive, conscious, and coherent alternative to the liberalism that has brought Europe to the brink of the abyss. Such an alternative is described in the book, which touches on topics such as society, Europe, gender roles, economics, and more.
Friberg does not use the strategy of Gramsci and the New Left as a straightforward blueprint. He has major differences of opinion with them, among which is their view of mankind. The Right’s view of man is marked by an ambition to always strive for improvement and to be true to one’s self. This means that ‘the personal is political’, and hence the book contains advice directed at male as well as female readers, with men being called upon to improve their physique and self-defence capabilities and to learn the gentlemanly virtues.
This all makes sense. Gramsci speaks of ‘organic intellectuals’, and of the value of intellectuals who act on behalf of the workers. For the Right, the mission is of a similar nature; we combine Gramsci with Vilfredo Pareto, who taught us that our primary task is the creation of an elite. For such an elite, Friberg’s perspective and advice are valuable, and the optimistic tone of the text as a whole may be even more so. No depressing defeatism and no belief that ‘all is lost’ can be found in The Real Right Returns. To Friberg, the future is ripe with possibilities, and the enemy is hardly worth taking seriously. He has analysed him, and drawn the conclusion that his time is up. This makes for many a poignant and entertaining turn of phrase, making the book a breath of fresh air.
‘Revolutionary upheavals have wrought havoc on the European continent for over two hundred years. The insanity ends now. The reaction is coming, step by step, and we will follow Julius Evola’s recommendation to “cover our enemies with scorn, rather than chains”.’ — Daniel Friberg
A central term in Gramsci is historical bloc. He used it to designate an alliance of groups united by certain hegemonic ideas. One good example of this would be the historic Workers Movement of Sweden and other European countries, which is now dissolving since its members no longer view it as representing their interests. Our task today is nothing less than the creation of a similar (but better) historical bloc, which can lead the resistance to replace the current establishment, and thereafter lead Europe for a long time to come.
Gramsci viewed the historical bloc as an alliance of groups, and what Friberg offers in The Real Right Returns are mainly suggestions of the type of ideas that could permeate such an alliance. He outlines how we ended up in today’s crisis, describing the metapolitics of the ‘Left’ during the twentieth century, as well as even more fundamental cultural reasons for its success. Friberg’s description is unusually accurate, and should be acceptable to a broadly-defined Right. The same could be said for the alternative he presents under the heading ‘Points of Orientation’. This alternative differs from both socialism, with its focus on class, and liberalism, with its focus on the individual. Friberg is conscious of the importance and value of things such as culture, identity, and ethnicity.
A historical bloc of the Right would be wise to be guided by the clever French axiom Pas d’Ennemis à Droite, ‘no enemies on the Right’. Discussions and criticism is natural, and can be challenging in a positive way and part of relationships within the Right, but such disagreements are or should be something completely different from simple enmity or hostility.
I suspect that the utilisation of the word Right will be a cause for some controversy. Is this not a term that excludes, among others, the sensible Left that still exists? In terms of the history of ideas, however, the word ‘Right’ is certainly the correct designation for those such as Friberg. Furthermore, it is also a moniker all but abandoned by bourgeois conservatives, and it is virtually just sitting there, waiting to be adopted. With a clear definition of who you are and what you want, you have better chances of collaborating with others. Even so, within the Real Right one can also find strains of thought that are comparable to the organic solidarity of certain types of socialism; many early anti-capitalists were conservative.
The mainstream ‘Left’ of today has failed fatally insofar as its goal was another economic system, or even in terms of an understanding of contemporary history. Friberg writes:
‘Despite its firm grip on the public debate in Sweden (for example), in practice the Left achieves little more than to fill the role of global capitalism’s court jester. Despite this, it continues to succeed in its other main goal, which has been to prevent Europe’s native populations from defending themselves against a political project that undermines their right to political self-determination. Toward this end, sentimentality was substituted for Marxist historical analysis.’
Those among the Left who share this assessment, and I know they exist, should consider whether the Real Right might not be a better partner for collaboration than either the ‘Left’ or the ‘Right’.
In conclusion, this is a valuable and very readable book. Friberg describes the background that put us here, in an unprecedented cultural, demographic, and existential crisis for Europe and her peoples. But he does not collapse into defeatism or pessimism, but states with a duly substantiated optimism that ‘the success of our ideas is not just possible. It is certain’.
Friberg also outlines the positive alternative and the worldview which should guide the struggle against the decaying system which dominated the twentieth century. He gives practical advice for male and female readers alike, as well as for anyone victimised by the death-throes of a dying monopoly of opinion-mongers (the media scaffolding of the dissidents).
Perhaps the discussion of metapolitics is the most valuable aspect of the book. In metapolitics, what Sloterdijk calls the politics of language is a central part. A small word such as ‘racism’ can make informed debate on issues such as immigration impossible (which, of course, was always the purpose of its introduction). We must also wage the war of language, and to this end the book contains a metapolitical dictionary in which Friberg defines useful terms such as ‘the right to difference’, ‘White flight’, ‘egalitarianism’, ‘ethnomasochism’, and ‘identity’.
In brief, this is a book to be recommended.
Andersen, Joakim. “Liberalism’s Time is Up.” RightOn, 3 November 2015. < https://www.righton.net/2015/11/03/liberalisms-time-is-up/ >.