In 2013, Marine Le Pen made an appearance at England’s Cambridge Union Society. Although in the lion’s den (mostly left-leaning, elite British university students are hardly her demographic), she gave a passionate defence of the Front National (FN) platform and its vision for France in the 21st century. Rather than focusing on her reception, I want to talk about some interesting distinctions between the French and the Anglosphere Right which become evident in her speech. The Anglosphere – English-speaking populations with a British cultural and political heritage – often tends to be less aware of these distinctions than our European counterparts are and becoming aware of them is important for two reasons. First, it exposes those on the Right to new and potentially useful ideas. But this isn’t enough; one of the key tenets of the Right is that societies differ and appropriate political systems differ with them. So secondly, it helps us to understand what makes the Anglosphere distinct.
The differences between worldviews become clear from the start. Following in the tradition of the French Right, Le Pen does not shy away from seeing the state as the spearhead of reform. While modern movement conservatives in America and elsewhere rail against the evils of “big government”, this abhorrence is absent in French culture. Le Pen declares that the Front National’s platform is aimed towards reclaiming French sovereignty – in political, economic, and military terms. All these objectives require the state apparatus. Politically, the FN wants to decouple France from the Schengen Area and its free movement of trade, goods, and people. Monetarily, this means returning to a French national currency instead of the euro. Without being the final arbiter of its own laws and monetary policy, French political sovereignty would be a mere fiction. Even so, the state cannot exercise this power if it is dependent on global economic networks for food, energy, and capital. Therefore the FN considers it vital to employ protectionist policy to rebuild French industry, energy independence, and food security. In terms of foreign policy, the FN aims to restore France’s role as a Great Power on the world stage, refusing to be tied into a greater European structure:
“Our political adversaries base their actions on a historical nonsense. They have decreed…that history brings us toward a globalized world without states in which universally we all submit and cowtow to the American-Western model. That is a mistake, and their mistake is the reason for our weakness. From Asia to Latin America, going through the Muslim world, a new world is emerging based on the affirmation of these individual identities and national sovereignties.”
Here is the first of our distinctions: the role of the state. Neoreactionary thought has already gone beyond the inane “small government versus big government” debate. What is necessary is competent government. In practice, nearly all politicians end up doing this. Progressives might expand this or that program, but the market still creates most wealth. Conservatives cut back welfare, but infrastructure spending goes on. “Small government” ideologies have been particularly effective in the Anglosphere for a variety of reasons. This may indicate that competent and appropriate governments in these territories will in fact be smaller in practice. Nevertheless, when we shift the focus from size to competency, we free ourselves from ideological constraints which can blind us to good solutions.
This is especially obvious in economics. In the Anglosphere, the gap between positive and normative economics gets blurred. Free trade increases economic efficiency because countries will focus on areas where they have competitive advantage, lowering prices over the long term. So let’s go for it! In the French Right and Left alike, this is not the case. Political and social goals make create economic costs, but then those costs must simply be paid. For the FN and many French, food security is worth paying more for groceries. This only becomes a problem when people forget that this trade-off exists. You can’t live like the German or American middle classes if you work 35 hours a week, and no amount of “people before profits” chants will change that. We can’t treat the laws of economics as alterable. They stem from human nature and the realities of supply and demand. Rhetoric like Le Pen’s statement that “we are bending to the laws of trade” aren’t careful enough in making this distinction.
The lesson to be learned is this: positive economics is not normative economics. Once you understand what choices Gnon has given you, you still have a choice to make. As an extreme example: the legendary Spartan lawgiver Lycurgus understood the effects of currency inflation. He used this knowledge to make the currency worthless and instil martial asceticism in his people. Neoreaction’s focus on Civilization-promoting institutions forces it to confront these questions. Could it be worth paying economic costs to maintain food sovereignty or a manufacturing sector? Or do lower prices allow us to focus on developing industries like technology? Do we pay the economic cost or the political one?
Another lesson France can teach the Anglosphere is that intellectual power shouldn’t be dismissed as “elitist”. Without a doubt, one of the worst characteristics of right wing groups across the Anglosphere is their dismissal of intellectuals. We can see this tendency in America’s Republican base as well as their equivalents in Canada, the UK, and other countries. It’s difficult to overcome because it responds to a real problem: the left does have immense power in the universities and media. Participating in red state cultural institutions like 4-H can make it harder for working class white Americans to get into elite colleges. They may denounce colonialism abroad, but this demographic essentially plays the role of the barbarian in the mind of Academia. Their backward ways must be left behind if they come to our universities.
France did not succumb to this temptation. Unlike many Anglosphere countries, there has never been a contradiction between being an elite intellectual and a political reactionary. The result? It’s much easier for the French right to attract intelligent people who can carry it forward. From the Economist
“The French far right is intelligent. This makes it the more compelling and the more disconcerting. Compared to, say, the BNP in Burnley or Nick Griffin’s appearance on the BBC’s ‘Question Time’, we are talking of some of the best and the brightest. Far right thought is a rich and textured seam in the French intellectual imagination. It emerged in part from the writings and philosophy of highly influential and intellectually respected reactionary thinkers like Chateaubriand and de Maistre who began, as it were, a right wing narrative – dialoguing with their adversaries over the next two centuries – in negative reaction to the French Revolution of 1789. And they dialogued. In and out of the right, centre right, and far right, and even the left. They are part of the landscape. In the twentieth century, writers on the nationalist far right such as Maurice Barrès and Charles Maurras became enormously influential—and their influence was felt well beyond the right.”
Because of this ongoing tradition, rightist French intellectuals were able to create ideological responses to the French revolution and anti-colonialism. Although Le Pen has been criticized for substituting populism for this tradition, it also makes it possible for her to harken back to France’s past as a colonial Great Power. The Anglosphere countries – even those which maintain the monarchy – generally have a more negative view of the imperial era. When we learn about the Empire at all, it is in the context of racism, capitalism, and gunboats. The tradition of shrewd diplomacy, technological development, and “stiff upper lip” mentality has been entirely forgotten. As we saw earlier, “professional governance” is more desirable than across the board “small governance”. Until recently, only the paleoconservatives preserved the Anglosphere’s intellectual Right – and this at the cost of achieving real world goals. Neoreactionary writers have begun re-examining this tradition. Moldbug cites Carlyle. Foseti examines old Rhodesia. Examining former colonies which learned the British tradition well is also useful. Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew brilliantly synthesized British governance and Chinese cultural values.
The Anglosphere stretches around the world and across continents. As such, it can be difficult to understand what unites it. Countries where other cultural forces compete may be expected to drift further from the Anglosphere. Will Han Chinese culture come to dominate in Hong Kong? India retains its civil service, but its ruling party is staunchly Hindu and nationalist. Yet could Canada, Australia, and Anglo expats from Barcelona to Dubai find commonalities? The Anglosphere thrives on trade. British Capitalism birthed both the golden child of Technological Progress and the black sheep of American Consumerism. But why is this? Unquestionably, the Anglosphere has a more individualistic bent than its continental cousins. Neither communism nor fascism did that well here on a popular level. Perhaps that’s why the Soviets had to get their spies at Cambridge. Modern liberalism and free trade conservatism fit in better with the Anglo tradition of property rights and individual liberty. This is also why it is known for greater tolerance of cultural differences. While it’s not impossible to imagine British laws banning the burka, the government would be hard pressed to find an equivalent to laicite to justify it. The officials who allowed 1400 children to be raped by Pakistani gangs in Rotherham were able to exploit this and use political correctness as a weapon.
Before I close, I should address the question of why it’s worth thinking about the Anglosphere as a distinct entity at all. The answer is that similar issues are confronting many of the Anglosphere countries and communities, from mass migration to Cathedral politics. On the flipside, shared cultural norms will likely shape similar solutions. The nationalism of old tied ethnic identity to territory. This form of nationalism cannot serve the interests of a group which finds itself across the world. Like Chinese and Indians, the Anglosphere exists both as populations with political institutions (Canada) and minorities maintaining their culture (Dubai expats). Like the Arabs and Hispanics, foreigners – from high-performing colonial subjects to migrants – have historically been brought into the ethnic fold (Anglo-Indians). Neoreaction in particular must understand these realities. It is a primarily Anglo phenomenon with its roots in the analytic, empirical tradition of social science. I won’t predict that this will result in some kind of reborn Anglo thede, but who knows? The Neo-Victorian phyle of Diamond Age may yet come to pass.