The Limits of Race

Although it might be disturbing to some readers that in my following remarks about white nationalists I treat my subjects with respect, this should cause no surprise to anyone who is familiar with my work. I am accustomed to show respect for intelligent people, including those with whom I disagree. In writing about the post-Marxist Left, I focused on the intellectual side of traditional Marxists and presented their attempts to reconcile changing social realties with a Marxist historical theory. Although these efforts might have led into a blind alley, those who engaged in them were often learned and theoretically resourceful. Unlike multiculturalists or neocons, old-fashioned Marxists began with a serious body of ideas. I should also note that neither white nationalists nor Marxists represent any kind of political danger to our post-bourgeois society. Far more powerful forces are now at work battering what remains of our Anglo-American traditions of ordered liberty.

If someone were to ask me what distinguishes the Right from the Left, the difference that comes to mind most readily centers on equality. The Left favors that principle, while the Right regards it as an unhealthy obsession. A second distinction concerns individualism and community: while the Left focuses on liberating the individual from encumbering social traditions, the Right understands people as belonging to a framework of reference based on hierarchy and community. For the Right, liberty has a communal value. Without the community and its established relations, the individual stands unprotected before modern power structures that would impose equal servitude on all.

These distinctions do not commit their respective partisans to any one direction in the battle between a state-controlled and a free market economy. What counts in terms of this division is not which policy one embraces but which doctrines shape one’s economic positions. English historian John Laughland has pointed out that a pro-capitalist stance can easily coexist with the leftist goal of erasing cultural and social stratification. Defenders of capitalism at the Wall Street Journal embrace Marx’s vision of a unified homogenized humanity, without thinking it necessary to pursue that end through socialist revolution.

Paleoconservatives, by sharp contrast, follow the European nationalists of the 1920s when they emphasize “€œnational communities”€ and advocate tariffs to protect “€œa national work force.”€ This rightist approach toward economic collectivism, as a means of enforcing traditional attitudes, recalls the self-explanatory title of a book by German philosopher of history Oswald Spengler, Preussentum und Sozialismus. Spengler did not discern a contradiction between the Prussian military spirit and sense of obedience to lawful, inherited authority and a state-planned economy. The same combination can be found unexpectedly in the postwar German socialist, whom the Nazis had savagely persecuted, Kurt Schumacher. An enigmatic and heroic figure, Schumacher deeply admired Frederick the Great and was known for his efforts to fuse Marxism with Prussian nationalism. Despite his self-identification as a Marxist, Schumacher now seems in retrospect to have been a misplaced figure of the German anti-Nazi Right.

Having illustrated my distinctions, I would also like to relate them to what today passes for the American Right. To the extent that anything resembling the historic Right can flourish in our predominantly postmodernist, multicultural and feminist society and barring any unforeseen return to a more traditionalist establishment Right, racial nationalism, for better or worse, may be one of the few extant examples of a recognizably rightist mindset. Note that I”€™m not taking this position because of an ideological or methodological preference. My scholarship stresses nonracial factors in looking for explanations for social and political change. In fact I am often amused by the alacrity with which some white nationalists view civilizations as functions of the testable cognitive levels of genetically linked groups. This perspective is sometimes extended to those who died well before IQ testing was devised.

There is, however, something praiseworthy about the way white nationalists have stepped forward to challenge the purveyors of environmentalist interpretations. And here the white nationalists may be battling an unstoppable enemy. By now the multicultural Left and the politics of shame have done so well in our land that a real Right can no longer be treated with anything but odium and rage. Moreover, the current racial nationalists do not easily substitute for members of the Ku Klux Klan. The white nationalists I have known are articulate gentlemen with extraordinarily high intelligence, who may have started out as IQ prodigies in MENSA, the American organization that enlists high testing achievers. American Renaissance, both a magazine and a self-described rallying point for racial nationalists, has had its annual gatherings soar in attendance over the last seven or eight years. Although its national meeting three years ago was disturbed by a shouting match between Nazi sympathizers and Jewish members (from all indications the latter have prevailed in ousting the former), the wide range of attendees who parade their white pride, according to AR periodical editor Jared Taylor, may be more telling than his movement’s growing pains.

David Horowitz has made the valid observation that Taylor and other racial nationalists are imitating the multicultural Left, by presenting white ethnics as a victimized minority. Even more to the point, they mistake the game that minorities are allowed to play in a self-belittling white Christian society with the problems that the majority population has inflicted on itself. Humiliating white males in our society is not the same as what was done to blacks under slavery, for the simple reason that the majority in a multicultural society is encouraging others to trash its heritage and to practice discrimination against the majority. What is wrong with the latter situation is not oppression by others but the glorification of self-destructive behavior.

What Horowitz has noted about white nationalists might also help explain their attraction. Their movement fits in with selected aspects of the dominant yuppie culture. Most white nationalists of my acquaintance live in cities and hold advanced university degrees. In their lifestyles they are sometimes hard to tell apart from their opponents. Although there may those in their group who have been taken in by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, I have not met more than a handful of such people. Even those vocal neo-Nazis among the white nationalists appear to be certifiable nerds. There has been, by the way, an attempt being made to create a white nationalist organization for Jews in New York City, led by a former school teacher whose sister had been raped by an inner city black. 

A few further generalizations might be in order here. As a professor of humanities I have observed that the rising generation cares even less than its parents about holding on to an inherited civilization. Most of my students in Western Civ courses have only the vaguest idea of the figures in the Bible (including Jesus) and their knowledge of modern history is usually confined to such inanities as “€œHitler was a bad man because he was intolerant.”€  But our own society is impressed by the quantifiable results of standardized testing. Having spent several years in the preferred country of New York Times “€œconservative”€ columnist David Brooks, that is, Montgomery County, Maryland, I was amazed to learn how one’s social status in that DC suburb corresponds to the test scores of one’s children. In a world of rootless bureaucrats, I cannot imagine how else culture and hierarchy would be formed. And the breakdown of the safety of residents, as unruly minorities move closer, is a constant concern in such a setting, however disingenuously und equivocally my neighbors in Rockville, Maryland spoke about “€œcrime problems.”€

One advantage held by the white nationalist Right in relation to other now obsolete Rights is its non-traditional, post-communal character. This Right promotes a sense of belonging and elitism that does not depend on sustaining past traditions; and it allows those in suburban Washington and its counterparts elsewhere to think of themselves favorably outside of any inherited social framework. If such people succeed, the white nationalists contend, it is because they are brainier and because they practice more social restraint than those whose presence they are avoiding. Why should they lie to themselves about their true human worth? Moreover, why should they pretend that the means by which they have advanced favors them unfairly? (This call for self-honesty is a pervasive feature of white nationalism.) Once the convert admits what he always knew to be true but had been hiding from himself, namely, that his proven cognitive abilities derive from his fortunate gene pool, one that certain races do not share equally, and that his own group of people are engaged in a race war, a suitable white pride can develop around these revelations.

Showing such pride does not require one to take any special action, except to abandon bad faith. It allows self-declared white nationalists to go on living in non-black enclaves, without declaring their social guilt. The most they might have to do to express their convictions is to oppose the immigration invasion from across our Southern border. And this might mean no more than expressing solidarity with opponents of immigration. Pride also means avoiding intermarriage with blacks; nonetheless, since the Jewish liberals of my acquaintance are not about to encourage their pampered offspring to marry blacks, I cannot imagine what practical difference would result if my former Maryland neighbors became white nationalists. As one white nationalist once told me in conversation, such people already indicate by where and how they live that they “€œdon”€™t buy into what they give lip service to.”€ 

But this candor would only be possible, we are told, if affluent white and Asian hypocrites would drop their leftist masks. At the same time, there may be an advantage to continuing the pretense, particularly if those who practice it believe that a triumphant racialist view would hurt them as non-white Asians or as the descendants of once disadvantaged Jews. A practical problem that white racialists or white nationalists cannot surmount is getting those who personally behave in a way that seems natural for whites to admit to what they are doing. Why proclaim an embarrassing position when one can practice it quietly and call it something else?

Another observation: Almost all white nationalists I have met are libertarians and atheists, and they are happy to welcome gays with white pride into their movement. They also seem willing to accept black debating partners, if they can find any.

My point here is not to mock white nationalists, most of whom seem socially congenial. To their credit, white nationalists take on insensitive questions that more timid souls regard with horror. They thrust themselves boldly against every third rail of stilted academic discourse, by stressing the ineradicability of cognitive disparities. They also force us to reflect on the genetic causes of violence, and their thinkers tirelessly explain why the dysfunctional behavior of inner city residents cannot be reduced to environmental impediments. Wherever they are let in, they enliven discussion through their politically incorrect conversation. Most significantly, they are the only noticeable opponents of the egalitarian ideal, and they base their case against it on facts drawn from statistics and biology.

Still and all, white nationalists lack a civilization, as opposed to some kind of late modern context. They resemble their opponents, as inhabitants of a disintegrated society, despite their appeals to a social hierarchy, albeit one based on racial and cognitive divisions. The materials that white nationalists bring into play seem inadequate for any serious war for civilization. The most they may land up producing is a fiercely defended critical perspective. And while that perspective can be directed against leftist and neoconservative assumptions, it is not likely to carry our society toward a new vision of order. The structure that white nationalists invoke is rooted in nothing concrete or historical; nor can it be when the family, gender roles, and a good deal else that kept societies together in the past is now under massive and largely successful attack.

White nationalists seem to be following American Republicans when they assume a high degree of social and cultural continuity among mainstream Americans. From their perspective, the fact that professional women have a single child in midlife or stay for a time with a single spouse is interpreted as a victory for the “€œtraditional”€ family. Also white nationalists typify what I have described elsewhere as “€œbaseless conservatism,”€ the attempt to create alternatives to the Left without being able to attract a firm social base. Because of this lack of a social foundation for their ideas, white nationalists may not be able to help us to get beyond our present disintegration.

Having picked on my subjects, it seems necessary to balance negative with positive remarks. No other group is presently challenging as frontally as white nationalists the ideal of universal equality. And for those of us who believe that only such a challenge can halt the Left’s forward momentum, it behooves us to pay tribute to those who are willing to be defiant. Furthermore, white nationalists anchor their opposition to egalitarianism in a natural social distinction; and they cite a profusion of data for what they believe is the natural situation. A recent article in the Sunday Times of London sums up the findings of a study involving 15, 000 children, 574 of them adopted, that sustains the conclusion that at least 70 percent of intelligence is an inherited feature. Environmental factors count for less in the cases of adopted children than the genes of their biological parents.

Compelling data can also be gleaned in such publications as Intelligence, Mankind Quarterly, and Personality and Individual Difference that indicate that poorer whites generally score higher on IQ tests than do wealthier blacks. And loads of research has been carried on confirming that there are socially significant genetic differences between the sexes. These and other findings abound in the works of such prolific scholars as J. Philippe Rushton, Michael Hart, Richard Lynn, and Michael Levin. 
  
The evidence that these and other authors bring to our attention has caused the Left to suffer heart palpitations. And the Left has worked strenuously to keep data concerning natural inequalities from being respectfully considered. The motive here is not the one that we often hear shouted from rooftops, that racialist thinking would open the door to a neo-Nazi takeover or to a return to black slavery. The real danger from questioning the doctrine of natural human equality, or the virtual interchangeability of all persons, is related to a question of power. Those who have it are demonizing those who dare to challenge them. Whence the name-calling that environmentalists or else inconsistent evolutionists Jared Diamond, the late Ashley Montague, and S.J. Gould have unleashed against hereditarians of all stripes. The friends of social engineering know where to locate their most cerebral critics. It is therefore understandable that several years ago the publisher of the revised edition of Rushton’s magnum opus Race, Evolution and Behavior was warned that he would not be allowed to exhibit his works at any book fair unless he withdrew from circulation his most controversial publication. Our political class acts swiftly and predictably to protect its established church.    

Despite this sustained attack, the white nationalists may not go away. Their arguments are too rooted in genetic science and experimental psychology to be effectively dismissed. And every time they are attacked by leftwing environmentalists, they pop back as objects of curiosity or as targets of vilification. These activists may have come along at a propitious time, when gender relations and family life have become destabilized and when our politics are already becoming markedly post-bourgeois. Moreover, what the late Sam Francis called “archaic conservatism”€ cannot offer a solution to this process that is likely to catch on. Appeals to medieval ethical thinkers or lectures about the inner check on moral appetites may be fine as abstract exercises but they are not the kind of stuff that would resonate in today’s world.

Appeals to what is primal and based on identity might conceivably have this effect. For if white nationalists can demonstrate to the satisfaction of people who count that genetic endowment is a group characteristic and not just an individual fluke, then they might be able to justify collective inequalities as something other than a scandal. They could also put a crimp in the programs undertaken by public administration to equalize all of us, while imposing special handicaps on the white majority “€œvictimizers.”€ And even in the absence of a real social context, they would be reconstructing in a modern way a defense of hierarchy as the natural human condition. In our age, this may be the best we can hope for to arrest government-promoted social engineering and to restore some inkling of white self-respect. Unfortunately for those who aim at these results, the political and media elites and the voting public are moving in exactly the opposite direction. 

This article was originally published on June 30, 2008.



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