On the History of “New Right” Ideas in AustraliaJim Saleam
French translation here
If Australians are now discussing and debating those ideas generally referred to as “European New Right,” we are justified to ask: what is the history of New Right ideology in Australia?
In fact, it is a long if potted history, with some useful attempts at adaptation. It is also a generally unknown history, although some early protagonists of the New Right school of thought are still with us. In this brief overview I shall assume that the reader is familiar with aspects of New Right and requires no instruction. If this writer is mentioned, I shall simply use my name in third person.
An “Indigenous” New Right For Australia
We know that the New Right is an intellectual trend initiated in France by Alain de Benoist after 1967. It spread from France to the other European countries, one by one. There is sufficient material, even in English, that provides the essential history.
The corpus of New Right ideology has only partly been translated to English. This has often left a major vacuum and a tendency to rely upon older (even if crucial) theorists and texts from the German (and other European) intellectual school generally called Conservative Revolution. Even so, there has been an attempt over the years (and now becoming more assertive) to translate contemporary New Right materials into English. There has been considerable work done since the mid 1980s to provide crucial materials and local interpretations of those materials, by English language writers. And so in Australia.
Regarding the classic authors, we may refer to names such as Oswald Spengler, Carl Schmitt, Julius Evola, and Arthur Moeller van den Bruck and many others becoming more widely known to Australian nationalist and anti liberal circles. However, we might not say that contemporary New Right authors have been as widely known in Australia.
The presence of prominent New Right theorist, Dr. Tomislav Sunic, in Australia in 2007 and the distribution of his book Against Democracy And Equality: The European New Right, certainly was useful in providing essential history, linking together the “classics” of the school of thought with de Benoist’s and others’ contributions. This work deserves wider circulation.
But at what point did this general trend appear in Australia?
Interestingly, if we favor the idea of evolutionary parallelism, New Right appeared in an indigenous formula.
The earliest effort at New Right ideology was a limited one and associated with well-known Australian nationalist pamphleteer, A. F. Norwick (hereafter known under his pen-name Alec Saunders). Saunders established a Sydney circle in 1975 — “The Indo-European Cultural Renaissance Society” (“a non political group” which rejected the Western idea of Judeo-Christian civilization as superior to its Classical and other Indo-European predecessors). He founded The Fire Makers journal. This labor was short-lived.
The group distributed The Fire Makers to a wide raft of people. Unfortunately, we received a number of replies from would-be neo-nazis who associated the defence of the Indo-European ideal with German fascism. There was little other interest and too few of us to sustain the work.
The group dissolved after several months.
The relevance of Saunders’s circle lies in the fact it arose independently and groped towards some core ideas of the New Right — its profession of the Indo-European cultural myth which posits a cultural identity for Europeans outside of the Christian “Western” civilization schema.
And even more important for this discussion must be that there could just as easily be direct Australian contributions not only to the immediate contemporary New Right system, but also Australian reference-persons (I shall not say full blown “theorists” of the European Conservative Revolution school) from earlier periods, who carry elements of its ideas. I could suggest that William Baylebridge and P. R. Stephensen may qualify.
A Connection is Forged
In 1977–1979 and rather accidentally, a source for New Right ideology came on the scene. Through the activities of National Resistance / Australian National Alliance, several university students with this interest were recruited.
In 1977, as a student at the University of Sydney, I was researching a honors thesis on the British “extreme right” (sic). During tangential research, some contacts were made in passing with participants in the French “national revolutionary movement.” These persons made the Australian scene aware of the budding French New Right movement as best they could. Whilst it stimulated an interest in classic texts, discussion about the new arguments was more difficult, given language barriers. Particular news cuttings and magazine articles continued to arrive in Australia after 1977 and these were helpful in developing a general overview.
Even so, Australians were alerted to de Benoist’s basic culturalist argument: that in the method/style of Antonio Gramsci, it was necessary to challenge the ideological and cultural basis of liberalism to support any model of political change.
Leading Australian activists, such as F. K. Salter and E. F. Azzopardi certainly firmly advanced this argument in the period 1977–1980.
After the foundation of National Action in 1982 which finalizied a couple of years of mixed fortunes for the Australian nationalist scene, some Australians again returned to investigating the New Right. Two members of that party visited the offices of de Benoist in Paris in early 1983 and returned with key documents, pamphlets and the magazine Eléments. These materials were widely discussed.
Saunders made contact with British Third Way or Third Position (essentially these are similar terms for the same thing) activists in The Rising group in Britain in 1983 and with Michael Walker’s The Scorpion magazine. The latter was formally New Right and was making contributions of its own, as well as discussing the burgeoning European movement. Saunders wrote The Social Revolutionary Nature of Australian Nationalism, which was distributed throughout National Action and another group. This pamphlet relied upon classic Conservative Revolution authors and Third Way authors with specific Australian references and interpretations. It referred to de Benoist and his GRECE school.
In 1985, Eugene Donnini, formerly of National Action, established a link with The Scorpion magazine. Donnini founded an activist group in Perth — the Australian Populist Movement and a magazine Stockade. The group pioneered a “green” nationalism whilst popularising New Right anti imperialism and its critique of the American liberal regime. Unfortunately, the group folded within a year. Donnini’s effort showed the easy blend of New Right themes with activist Third Way forms of organization and agitation.
At that stage as the chairman of National Action, I pushed for — with the support of the party majority — an association with the Third Way groups. Under his auspices too, The Scorpion was also read by National Action cadres. This overall ideological effort was related to the National Action model of political guerrilla warfare with the ideological struggle a key part of anti-establishment challenge.
The cross-fertilization of New Right ideology with Third Way ideas (also sometimes known as Third Position or “revolutionary nationalist” ideology), is notable. Why? Because several basic ideas were common; indeed one might almost say, as Roger Griffin (the academic expert on theories of fascism and neo-fascism) has said, that one is a sort of child of the other, popularizing the more complex notions and developing a new discourse of seductive power. In that regard I refer to ideas such as anti imperialism, ethno-differentialism (not “racism”), the critique of Americanism, an ecologist nationalism and so forth. In that way, New Right serves as part of the ideological arsenal of activist groups and parties. This process can be seen in some of the major parties of Euro-nationalism such as the German National Democrats at the Italian Social Movement.
Welf Herfurth, now editor of the New Right Australia / New Zealand website, also arrived in Australia in 1987. He was a young Third Way activist involved in the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). Herfurth combined (as he essentially still does) elements of the New Right school with Third Way ideas. Herfurth assisted to diffuse this position with National Action members and in wider circles in the years thereafter.
What Place For New Right Ideology In Australia?
I pose this question in terms of political function. It would be trite to say that New Right is the intellectual basis of any serious challenge to liberalist, globalist and humanist ideology. However, how can it directly serve this struggle?
The communist example is a useful theoretical tool in deciphering the relationship between the “ideological” and the “political.” In the former Marxist-Leninist parties, dialectical materialism was the central ideological truth. One could be a communist activist without having any particular understanding of Marx’s historical philosophy of revolutionary social change and his appreciation of the dynamics of philosophy which underlay this change; but one could not be a main leader of the party, or a theoretician of the party, without being versed in dialectical materialism.
Even so, communists did not operate dialectical materialist parties, but activist machines. In other words, although they espoused a philosophy, they abided by Marx’s dictum in his Theses On Feuerbach, that: “the philosophers have hitherto only described the world, the task however was to change it.”
So what was the function of dialectical materialism? It was the glue, the rationale, the mystery at the centre of an earthly mechanism. It bonded the cadre and was the basis of the remainder of the ideological-political construction. In proving certainties, it armed its soldiers for war.
It is reasonably obvious that those who have had any interest in New Right from the 1970s to the close-present, combined a commitment to its base ideas and current expressions (as best assimilated) with their commitments to various styles of nationalist activist politics.
It could be said therefore that New Right ideology, both in terms of its basic Conservative Revolution ideas and the post-1967 discourse, served as a core value system, a mythic revelation providing a theory of man, of Indo-European man, of history, of cultural history and of ideological contest. The task remains — to change the world.
And Now — As a Trend
New Right has had a broken history in Australia. We can say that for some years after 1991 (the eclipse of the main branch of National Action), not much was heard of it. No other group expressed any interest and we were back to ‘individuals’ again.
New Right was revived in the general discussion after 2002 or thereabouts. I might suggest that the climate of imperialist war-mongering, the up-beat assertion by the forces of New World Order that a new phase in the unfolding of the market-millennium was upon us, inspired a return to basic antiliberal principles.
One sign of that was the formation of a New Right organization. In the last couple of years, the “New Right Australia / New Zealand,” directed by Herfurth, has put forward a synthesis of New Right core ideals with the “national anarchism” idea first advanced by British New Right sympathizer and writer, Troy Southgate. This synthesis has not been adopted as the dominant trend internationally, if only because, as the process of synthesisation goes, other alternatives often present themselves. We see the New Right therefore “combined” with Eurasianism in Italy and the national revolutionary school of Horst Mahler in Germany and in other arrangements elsewhere. However, through the local Australian mechanism, New Right ideology generally has been diffused, awakening a new layer of students and younger people to the pluriverse of ideological contest. This was an important initiative.
The Sydney Forum, which has brought together several New Right persons and other Australian nationalist elements (Herfurth and I are involved with it), has popularizsed the New Right message. Indeed, it was Sydney Forum which hosted Tom Sunic in 2007.
Essentially, the New Right is likely to achieve a deeper appreciation in Australia over the next decade, as contacts with European sources deepen and local writing is done. The importance of local writers cannot be underestimated. Students at university performing postgraduate work may be the key in writing parts of Australian history from a Conservative Revolutionary point of view and developing critiques of the Australian suburban wasteland and bourgeois society and state. Time will tell. The New Right is a trend and is sure to be the “mythic core” world view of any Australian challenge to the liberal globalist state.
A version of this article appeared in Ab Aeterno, no. 1, November 2009.
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I can’t say that I am surprised that Saunders would write that back in 1975 there was little interest except from neo-nazis when the only published authors you mentioned were names such as Oswald Spengler, Carl Schmitt, Julius Evola, and Arthur Moeller van den Bruck and many others becoming more widely known to Australian nationalist and anti liberal circles.
The Australian nationalist and anti-liberal Eric Butler was quite successful in reaching a large number of people and his organization is still going seven years after his death. Perhaps the early New Rightists were too far ahead of the crowd and slightly out of tune for the times? There is a time and a place for everything but for the early birds the packaging is critical.
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