This is the transcript by V. S. of the question and answer session after Jonathan Bowden’s speech “Western Civilization Bites Back,” delivered at a Counter-Currents event in California on February 25, 2012.
Greg Johnson: Are there questions?
Q: What was the specific context of Trotsky coining the term “racism”?
Jonathan Bowden: It wasn’t a specific context. He was trying to formulate an anthropological term that could be used for any form of group prejudice. He was thinking about anti-Semitism in the Bolshevik USSR principally, but he wanted a term that could be used if anyone says, “The English are better than other groups.” You can immediately say, “That’s a racist statement.” So, he wanted something that was a put-down, a sort of hammer blow. Somebody says something: “Racist!” Retreat under the table.
Q: And was this when he was still in power or was this after the purge?
JB: This was when he was still in power, but the purge was coming.
Q: Did you ever meet Enoch Powell? Do you have any understanding why Powell could never really move towards . . . the race realism he had towards certain groups, he could never apply to one particular group?
JB: Yes, I knew Enoch Powell very vaguely. I heard him speak a couple of times. He was an extraordinarily gifted man. I think the short order was that Powell wanted to be a member of the establishment in Britain at the time and saw himself as an establishment rebel, and the term “rebel” and the term “establishment” were as important the one as the other. He always saw himself as a member of the Tory hierarchy, the hierarchy of the Conservative and Unionist Party, the major center-Right party in the British state. He always saw himself as putting forth a rival prospectus of goods that conservatives could choose over Heath and other more accommodating centrist and center-Left Tory leaders. Bbut he never saw himself as an outsider. He was always proud of his role in the Second World War. He never saw himself as going outside the conventional Right-wing box in Britain or anywhere else.
So, my honest answer to your question is that despite the radicalism of his mind, despite the ability to speak ten languages fluently, despite the poetry that he wrote, despite the outsider status that he enjoyed mentally, he was an insider and he was an establishment man at the core of his being. That’s why he never moved in the direction that you stated.
Q: I’d like to ask you where did this [white] self-loathing begin?
JB: Well, I think self-loathing is part of human nature, really, but it only becomes politically important and decisive for a group rather than as a pathology of an individual when you allow yourself to be captured by ideas which are very much to your own detriment as a matter of course. If you say, “We’re responsible for Black slavery, and we’re responsible for everything that went with that, and I feel personally guilty for this, and I must expiate this guilt that I feel all the time, particularly when I’m in the proximity of an African-American, particularly when I’m in the proximity of an affirmative or self-identifying African-American,” then that becomes a debility of all life.
Where does it come from? I think it comes from within, it comes from without, but it comes more from without when your group has adopted abnegation as a prejudice. I think a lot of people enjoy a degree of masochism. That’s what it is.
Q: How did it go from Rudyard Kipling in your country to this multicultural mangling? I don’t understand it, personally. You’re imperialist and happy with it and the rest of us seemed to be marching along behind you in it, and now you’re whipping yourselves.
JB: Yes, I know. It’s an odd one, isn’t it? In the Medieval period, there was a cult called the Flagellants who used to go around with large crosses and Christian banners whipping themselves and saying, “Woe is me! Woe is me!” It’s rather psychoneurotic, really. The British Empire has gone from being top dog to bottom dog with such extraordinary rapidity that it’s difficult to get your mind around it. It’s only a generation or two, really.
Q: Is America following you or are you following America?
JB: You’re following us and yet, in our decline, we’ve adopted certain standards from you.
Q: Because you’re from Britain, I’d like if you could say a little bit about the nationalist movement in Britain. What do you think the situation and prospects of it are?
JB: Yes, given the support that has existed electorally and in the society, the nationalist movement has been far less successful than its continental brethren. The organization of importance in the last 20 to 25 years was the British National Party, which did break through and did make gains, particularly amongst Right-wing, center-Left voters, if you know what I mean. Reagan Democrat type voters, working class Whites who wanted a party that would stand up for them, but otherwise had the economic profile of the old Labour Party.
However, that cycle seems to have come to an end, and that organization, without engaging in internal dissent and back-biting, has bankrupted itself by attempting to be all things to all people and also projecting a sense of strength which was not commensurate with its resources. Don’t forget that in Britain, as in the United States and elsewhere, big capital aligns itself with the center-Right party, the conservatives, big labor and labor’s money orient themselves around the center-Left parties, the Labour Party in Britain, the Democrats here, whereas it’s extraordinarily difficult for these parties to finance themselves. There’s also the extraordinarily hostile media space in which such parties operate.
My object lesson for what can be done in Europe is the Front National in France, which on any register is the most successful of all the groups. It’s true that the Front National has moderated a whole section, a whole [unintelligible], under Le Pen’s daughter, and is increasing support by doing so. But of all of the nationalist groups I’ve ever met in Europe, on the continent, they were the slickest, they were the best arranged. Even their feuds were more successfully conducted, so that gives the idea that they were of a higher order all the way around.
Q: But more specifically, I suppose, does that mean that you think there’s a prospect for some success, putting it delicately, if the present leadership of the British National Party is replaced by someone else? What’s the prospects for the future in Britain?
JB: Yes, without being too indelicate about it, and I’m known to have views on this matter. Yes, I think that under its current leadership that group can’t go forwards any more. There are elements in it that could take you forward despite its indebtedness, because many parties are in debt, let’s face it. It’s become stuck under its present leadership and, as in all things, there needs to be a bit of renewal. Although you can’t blame everything on one individual, but there’s a degree to which leaders are always problematical when they don’t break through and win.
I remember when I attended [a conference in the U.S.] there was a debate about whether David Duke should be included, and I was slightly surprised with the vehemence at which people spoke against Duke being included, and maybe Don Black, the Stormfront man, as well. I suddenly realized that this is the tension which exists between the membership of such groups and the would-be leaders of such groups, particularly if the leaders have been not as successful as they and their initial supporters would have wanted.
Johnson: Two more questions.
Q: I have a few questions, actually. I heard you mention the Front National just now, and I’m sure that you know that François Hollande is ahead in the polls, so I wonder what you think of the future of the FN given a Hollande win in the election.
JB: I think the FN has a good future because it’s so well organized and it’s so resilient in relation to shocks. One of the difficulties for nationalist parties is they find it very difficult to come back after shocks. So, if they have a very negative electoral performance as the British National Party did in the last general election in Britain. This sends them in a cycle for about a year to two years before they can come back and they’re also emotionally and economically exhausted from such a tournament. But the Front National seems to have sources of funding laid down and sources of inner resilience. It’s basically when you have membership that’s not in the thousands but is in the tens of thousands, you develop extra skin and extra ramparts, and you become that much more resilient and you become much more like a mainstream party despite the fact you might have an anti-system ideology. So, I think that although a day in which the FN can become a power broker in the present Fifth Republic is remote, I think the FN has a good future. I also think people, particularly in this room, should realize that part of the FN’s moderation or its neo-moderatism is tactical as much as anything else.
Q: And my second question, I’d like to go back to Trotsky. I wonder if you have a citation for Trotsky coining the term “racism.” A second question related to that would be does the name Magnus Hirschfeld mean anything to you?
JB: Isn’t Magnus Hirschfeld a Weimar sexologist?
Q: Precisely. And he wrote a book in, I believe, 1928 called Der Rassismus and so far as I’ve been able to ascertain I haven’t been able to find in Trotsky any citation for the word racism that predates that.
JB: I believe Trotsky did use the term. Of course, it’s like the Beat movement developed the cut-up method in literature, but lots of other people were doing it at the same time. Yes, ideas have a confluence and converge at a particular time. I know for a fact that Trotsky did use the term “racism” in an quasi-anthropological essay in some Soviet journal in 1924/25/26/27. My knowledge is that’s the first time it was used in this generic, propagandistic way, but I’m sure many others used it in and around the same time and largely for the same purpose as well.
Q: Let me toss one idea at you and then I’ll shut up. This Magnus Hirschfeld, of course, he was a typical Weimar agitator, right?
Q: And he instituted the first sexology study.
JB: Yes, that’s right. He had an institute for the study of human sexuality.
Q: Indeed. And his book Der Rassismus, its first English edition was actually translated by a man and wife couple in England. They were a pair of English communists. I think that’s very significant in the history of this magic word in the West and I think it should loom larger in the history of this than Trotsky. That’s just my personal opinion.
JB: Yes, you may well be right, but the debate about who originated the word can be unduly . . . Maybe in the future in my talks I’ll say Trotsky and Hirschfeld.
Q: I appreciate it.
Q: You used the term “the managed blank of blank in decline.” I just wanted to get those two terms that I missed. It was right after the Henry Miller quote. You said, “The managed blank of blank in decline.”
JB: I can never remember what I say.
Johnson: We’ll get it with the transcript. Thank you very much!
1. The phrase in question is “the managed expectation of mediocrity in decline.”
We Are Derek Chauvin
Pressing the Snooze Button on the Ziological Clock
I’m Not a Racist, But. . .
Forthcoming from Counter-Currents:
Jonathan Bowden’s Reactionary Modernism
Remembering Jonathan Bowden (April 12, 1962–March 29, 2012)
London: No City for White Men
The Oslo Incident
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World & Me