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Renaud Camus on the Great Replacement

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Renaud Camus

3,354 words

Renaud Camus
Le Grand Remplacement, 5th edition
Plieux: Chez l’auteur, 2019

Renaud Camus (b. 1946) is the French author of over 160 books, but only one of these is currently in print in English: an anthology of excerpts from his works, You Will Not Replace Us!, which was self-published in 2018. His political notoriety began in 2012, when he coined the phrase “the Great Replacement” to describe the nation-destroying levels of non-white immigration currently afflicting France and other Western nations. In French, most of his speeches and writings concerning the Great Replacement have been collected in the considerably larger volume which forms the basis of this review essay.

By his own account, Camus first began to reflect seriously on mass immigration and the thinking behind it upon hearing, around the turn of the millennium, a radio broadcast supposedly devoted to the subject of funding retirement pensions in Spain:

The journalist at first pretended to be extremely concerned about the demographic situation of Spain, whose population was visibly aging. Who would pay for the Spaniards’ pensions, he asked? Fortunately, he had a ready-made answer, [and] could reassure us completely. At the very gates of Spain there was a marvelous resource: tens and hundreds of thousands of Moroccans, Mauritanians, Malians who would be simply delighted to come to Spain, rapidly reduce the average age of its population, and (just incidentally, said the journalist) fund the pensions of Spaniards old enough to retire from the labor market.

In reality, even regarding this last point about pensions, despite its altogether secondary and even trivial significance in comparison with the destiny of a people, a nation, one would surely discover quickly that the proposed system would not work as well as we were being led to believe, and might even aggravate matters. But my surprise and concern did not relate to this. I did not understand (and still do not understand) how bringing in Moroccans or Mauritanians to make up for the missing Spaniards would restore the Spanish demographic situation. This sort of solution was only possible if one imagined nakedly abstract men and women cut off from any origin or belonging, or from any culture either (for culture is not only, but is also and even first of all, the voice of the dead, the heritage of one’s ancestors, the memory of their works, customs, rites, convictions — even if these are renounced or repressed). Fortunately, neither nature nor culture produces beings like this, so morally and intellectually disarmed, so exposed to a perpetual da capo, the constant return to nothing for lack of any heritage.

This impoverished view of human beings is essentially identical with Marxian economism: Man is a material creature primarily concerned with production and consumption. If human labor is just another commodity, why shouldn’t it flow freely across national borders as easily as raw materials or manufactured goods? In this interpretation, notes Camus, a country’s territory is simply “the possible limits of profitable industrial, commercial, or financial operations, independent of any possible sentimental or conservative dimension.” And such is the view of Western elites 30-odd years after the supposed collapse of Communism.

Camus pertinently refers to Plato’s Cratylus by way of drawing the connection between economism and an analogously impoverished view of human speech. This dialogue on the nature of language pits Hermogenes, who maintains that naming is entirely a matter of convention, against the title character, Cratylus, who believes that genuine names refer to natural kinds. Those who complacently speak of the “new French” from Africa and Asia, Camus points out, share the Hermogenian view of language: A Frenchman is simply anyone we agree to call a Frenchman, such as any person in possession of French identification papers or born on French territory.

This Hermogenian or conventionalist view of nationality, like Marxian economism, involves abstracting from everything which makes human beings distinctively human:

To believe that peoples can be merely will, an arbitrary decision, a name, a rubber stamp is the first illusion, the first layer of illusion. It proceeds ultimately from a humiliating concept of man deprived of all the attributes which make up his greatness and specificity, his unique, irreplaceable character, and which come to him from his history, his culture, his belonging.

In practice, the abstract view of man, whether Marxian or Hermogenian, is bound up with a program for stripping him of history, identity, and culture — i.e., for altering real human beings in an effort to make them fit the shortcomings of the ideology. In France, as elsewhere in the West, government schooling is charged with this task of deculturation, and educational decline (as measured against traditional standards) is the best proof of its success. As Camus remarks: “A people which knows its history and its classics does not let itself be led to the ash heap of history without protest. . . There can be no Great Replacement without a Great Deculturation.” The saddest expression of this process is the conversion of a small but growing number of young Frenchmen to Islam; most such conversions, as Camus writes, “have their origin in a despair of not being anything, post-cultural stupor, complete decivilization, respect for strength, the need for belonging.”

The integration of immigrant children has been essential for the transformation of the French educational system into an engine of deculturation. Camus notes certain parallels with the extension of national education to the working classes a hundred or so years ago. The incurious young North Africans, he writes,

remind one of those classes newly admitted to higher education and exams, and who discover to their amazement (and even with a nuance of reproach, as if something had been intentionally concealed from them) that these studies, new to them, have their cost for those who undertake them, that it is a lot of work, that the offspring of the old bourgeoisie did not have quite as delightful a childhood as their now triumphant rivals had imagined — that at the very least the advantages they enjoyed were in part offset by a number of substantial constraints.

Inevitably, the admission of such persons gradually changes how schools are run:

They demand and get the indefinite reduction of these efforts: fewer course-hours, shorter school days, longer vacations, lighter bookbags, fewer books, less authority, less selectiveness, fewer notes, no repeating grades, less general culture, more success at tests, etc.

Another aspect of deculturation is the deliberate reinterpretation of history to justify demographic displacement. For instance, the history of the Second World War is currently being rewritten to highlight and exaggerate the role of Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian soldiers who debarked on the coast of Provence in 1944. In response, Camus notes that about one-third of the soldiers in question were actually pieds noirs, ethnic French residents of North Africa, while another third were from metropolitan France. The roughly one-third who were actual North African Arabs only fought for France because they were compelled to (which, as he notes, in no way diminishes their service to France or their sacrifice) and in general “did not leave behind them a memory of exemplary representatives of civilization.” But somehow their participation in the war means that Frenchmen must be grateful to today’s hostile immigrants for no longer living under the Nazi bootheel.

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The principal object lesson of the new history is, however, French colonialism. Camus begins his discussion with a reminder of what the term “colony” originally meant: the sending out of one’s own people to found new settlements in foreign lands. Ancient Greek colonialism was a response to overpopulation and land hunger in the cities of Greece itself. The Romans established colonies of Roman citizens in newly-won territories to encourage their Romanization and develop them economically; the typical colon was a farmer.

In terms of these precedents, most of French “colonialism” did not consist of colonies properly so-called; it was rather a matter of imperial administration by a tiny number of French officials, usually unaccompanied by their families. There were only two exceptions to this pattern: Canada in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and Algeria in the nineteenth and twentieth. The latter episode is, of course, more relevant to today’s counter-colonization.

Upon independence in 1962, the ethnic French population of Algeria, some settled there for four or five generations, amounted to around 10% of the whole: about one million out of a total population of ten or twelve million. The new Algerian government offered them a choice between “the suitcase or the coffin.” World opinion did not trouble itself overmuch about their “human rights”; it was widely felt, even in other Western nations, that the continued presence of so many white men would be incompatible with genuine Algerian independence.

Today, some four million Algerian citizens and French citizens of Algerian origin live within the territory of France, and the days when the non-European fraction of the population was no more than 10% are a distant memory, especially if we focus (as we should) on birth statistics.

In Algeria, as in so many other former colonies, much of the best physical infrastructure continues to be what the Europeans left. Yet Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has spoken of French colonization as a “genocidal conquest,” and has difficulty constraining his hostility toward visiting French dignitaries within the limits of diplomatic decency. Although large-scale oil production only began on the eve of the French departure, Pres. Bouteflika somehow manages to blame France for the failure of this industry to raise ordinary Algerians’ living standards in the six decades since independence.

Once independence was achieved in 1962, it did not take long for young Algerians to begin seeking their fortunes on the other side of the Mediterranean. Camus remarks: “it is not common to see a harshly oppressed people run, the moment they are liberated, to live with their oppressors and remain under their administration.” Obviously, such migration does not mean that the Algerians liked France; what they liked was the easier life they hoped to find there and, not infrequently, the idea of getting revenge on their former colonial masters. As another Algerian President, Houari Boumédiène, proclaimed to the United Nations in 1974:

One day millions of men will leave the global South to go North. And they will not go as friends. For they will go to conquer it. And they will conquer it by populating it with their children. It is the wombs of our women who will give us the victory.

Such immigrants and their descendants matter-of-factly refer to the white French simply as “the French,” speak of their favorite ancestral recipes as de chez nous (from home), and march through the streets waving Algerian flags and breaking things to celebrate an Algerian soccer victory over France’s national team.

Camus has a friend of Moroccan origin who teaches in a majority-North African school in the Paris suburbs. A homosexual, he has cause to appreciate the more easygoing nature of French society and, in Camus’ words, “is grateful for everything the country has done for him.” This man has some interesting things to report about the attitudes of his young pupils:

Conquest is very much present in their minds. In their eyes it is inevitable, a mere matter of time — something in which they take great joy and pride. They laugh when their teacher tells them that he is French just as they are, and they cannot believe for a single moment that he is serious. They think he is testing them with the outrageousness of his statements. When he went so far as to tell them that he is not only French but a French patriot, strongly attached to his French homeland, they thought he was really going too far, that he ought not to talk like that, that it wasn’t right.

But white Frenchmen can get in serious legal trouble for denying that such so-called new French are any less French than the descendants of Clovis and Vercingetorix. Camus himself has been condemned for the crime of “incitement to hatred and violence” for speaking honestly about them.

The immigrant population is perfectly capable of assuming a French identity when it is to their advantage, however. On French television one can see their representatives defiantly maintaining “I am just as French as you” (and occasionally “I am more French than you”) in response to any challenge. Such contradictory thinking characterizes all apologetics for the Great Replacement. As Camus puts it, their logic resembles the proverbial French joke he calls “the argument of the pot”:

At first, advocates of the Great Replacement resort to outright denial. The changes we see around us every day are not actually occurring; they are merely a “far-Right conspiracy theory.” (The page containing the brief English Wikipedia article on Monsieur Camus includes the term “conspiracy theory” and its variants no fewer than 12 times, as if the authors feared readers might be slow to get the point.) But when backed into a corner, the same people quickly shift to the claim that what has been done is irreversible, and mock those loyal to our race and civilization as mere nostalgics pining after an irrecoverable and perhaps mythical past. The French are told that France has always been a land of immigration, but also that it did not truly become France until large-scale immigration began.

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One simply cannot find any open and manly defense of what is being done to the French and other white Europeans. The perpetrators seem to understand that it is literally indefensible and are reduced to logically contradictory deflective tactics. This is no doubt a measure of the aberrancy of our current situation; as Camus writes, “It is doubtful whether over the entire course of history any other country has been seen, with no external constraint, bleeding and ruining itself in order to subsidize and encourage its own conquest and to guarantee the substitution of its own people.”

In addition to contradiction and deflection, euphemism is a leading trait of what Camus calls “replacist” discourse. A whole new euphemistic jargon has been created which Frenchmen must learn to decode, as Soviet newspaper readers once did the Communist officialese in Pravda. Prominent terms include youths, incivility, and sensitive zones. By now, every Frenchman knows what is really meant when newspapers refer to “incidents following a soccer match” or “the inadequacies of suburban transportation networks.” Journalists write of a housing shortage, prison overpopulation, youth unemployment, insecurity, violence, and failing schools in order to avoid admitting the obvious: that all these issues are mere secondary symptoms of the importation of a large and hostile foreign population.

Quartier populaire, a term suggestive of a working-class French neighborhood, now means one from which the native population has been driven out. In news reports one comes across statements like: “The candidate’s name is Tufik Lassawi, which should gain him votes in the quartiers populaires.”

As part of this strategy of euphemism, sociology is called in to reduce the conquest of France to purely socio-economic terms:

The immigrants do not harm society out of ethnic hatred and because they want to conquer and make others submit, take over territory, acquire neighborhoods, cities, regions; they do it out of desperate protest against the unjust economic, social, cultural, topographic, urbanistic lot to which they have been subjected.

Camus even maintains that “[a]nti-racism relies on sociology as Stalinism did on Lysenkoist biology.”

Each New Year’s Eve hundreds of automobiles, mostly belonging to Frenchmen of modest means, are incinerated by “youths.” The newspapers avoid devoting too much attention to the matter out of fear that publicity could inspire more such attacks. Pathetically, the mayors and prefects who must respond to such destruction appeal to Muslim religious leaders for help. They hope the civilizing effect of religion will calm the aggressivity of young Algerians as Christianity did that of fifth-century Franks. Camus notes:

These secular authorities have got the wrong religion. They have confused that of the new arrivals with that of their ancestors. The religion they are dealing with does not preach kindness or gentleness to those who are foreign to it: the infidels or unbelievers. Its principal preoccupation is its own triumph, i.e., the greater glory of its God, his ever-firmer and more widespread grip on the world whether by conversion or conquest, but preferably by both at the same time. Anything which works in this direction is good; the question of means is entirely secondary. The essential point of their morality is to win, to vanquish, to make their enemies submit, to spread as widely as possible.

Meanwhile, French politicians are forced to compete for the votes of such hostile conquerors:

Before the presidential election of 2012, the think tank Terra Nova advised the Socialist Party and its candidate to rely not on their traditional, or rather mythical, emblematic constituents, the working class, but on a consortium of ethnic minorities: immigrants and their descendants and soon, if possible, actual foreign citizens, at least for local elections.

To win the votes of immigrants who are already citizens, one must promise to show oneself favorable to further immigration. A domain as essential to the identity of the nation as its immigration policy thus now depends on immigrants. One may say, in a sense, that the country is no longer independent. From this growing dependence of the nation, certain parties, interest groups, and men draw strength, at least for the time being: a kind of petty power which amuses and enriches them as they await the disaster which will not fail to sweep them away as well.

As Camus explains, immigrant support for the Left involves no loyalty, but is a mere “provisional arrangement as they await the moment when they will be strong enough to take the running of the country into their own hands.”

In the most general terms, Camus sees the failure of the multicultural experiment as stemming from a misunderstanding on the part of both immigrants and Europeans: specifically, of a failure to grasp (or remember) certain preconditions for a successful society of the European type:

[The immigrants] wanted to benefit from the advantages they see here: a much higher standard of living, more developed social systems that are more protective of the person, less corruption, better guaranteed individual liberties, more stable and just political systems. But what they seem to have failed to understand, in general, is that these systems, so beneficial in comparison with those they are used to, have as counterpart and condition the existence of a large bundle of accepted constraints, a high degree of public spiritedness and consciousness of form (i.e., of abstention, self-control, in-nocence [written by Camus with a hyphen to bring out the etymological sense of “abstention from harm”]), a sentiment deeply anchored in the social pact and its virtues — all traits only acquired by a long exercise which probably demands several generations, for peoples even more than for individuals and family lines.

There can be neither prosperity nor civil harmony without the determination of nearly all individuals to participate in the common effort to make institutions work, or at least not to damage them, without a degree of public spiritedness which can only be obtained by a long process of education and self-control within a common people, and which is most easily accomplished when the nation has a high degree of ethnic, linguistic, and religious unity.

This insight, to which most of the immigrant populations never attain, has also been forgotten by too many of our own people. In its place has crept a lazy habit of assuming any society must be as good as any other. Even apart from the Great Replacement, such an attitude is incompatible with the continued survival of European civilization, as Camus explains masterfully:

Under an egalitarian regime there has never been a case where the most demanding habits and values have not been rapidly submerged by those less demanding and disappeared; the former can only survive under an inegalitarian regime which recognizes them as superior and preferable, more valuable than others; and which takes particular care to protect and disseminate them.

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