The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Buchanan & Fascism: A Serious Look

Chip Berlet
February 18, 1996

(Part 3 of 3)

The most extreme position in the Culture War is held by Christian Reconstructionists who seek the imposition of Biblical law throughout the United States. Other hard right activists, while less open or draconian, share an implicitly theocratic goal. While it denies any desire to impose a theocracy, the Center for Cultural Conservatism, which defines cultural conservatism as the "necessary, unbreakable, and causal relationship between traditional Western, Judeo-Christian values...and the secular success of Western societies," breaks with conservative tradition to call upon government to play an active role in upholding the traditional culture which they see as rooted in specific theological values.

The Culture War & White Supremacy

The theory of widespread secular subversion spread by proponents of the Culture War was from the beginning a deeply racialized issue that supported the supremacy of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. To the nativist right, in the 1920s as well as now, the synthesis of traditional values constituted "Americanism," and opponents of this particular constellation of views represented dangerous, un-American forces.

As John Higham argued in Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism 1860-1925, subversion has always been identified with foreigners and anti-Americanism in the United States, and particularly with Jews and people of color. In the 1920s, subversion was linked to Jews, and the immigration of people of color was opposed in part because they were seen as easy targets for manipulation by Jews.

While antisemitism was never the primary ingredient in anti-radical nativism, the radical Jew was nevertheless a powerful stereotype in the "communist menace" movement. For example, some members of the coercive immigrant "Americanization" movement adopted the startling slogan, "Christianization and Americanization are one and the same thing."

Virtually any movement to advance racial justice in the US was branded by the reactionary right as a manifestation of the secular humanist conspiracy. The National Education Association's bibliography of "Negro author s," foundation support for "Black revolutionaries," and the enlistment of Gunnar Myrdal as an expert on the "American Negro" were all framed in this way. Similarly, the African American civil rights movement was from its beginning identified by the right wing as part of the secular humanist plot to impose communism on the United States.

In 1966, David Noebel (then of Billy James Hargis ' Christian Crusade, now head of the influential Summit Ministries ) argued, "Anyone who will dig into the facts of the Communist involvement in the `civil rights ' strife will come to the conclusion that these forces have no stopping point short of complete destruction of the American way of life." (In the preface, Noebel thanks Dr. R. P. Oliver, who is now perhaps best known as a director of the Institute for Historical Review, which denies that the Holocaust took place.)

In 1992, the civil rights movement is still seen in this light, as the rightist Catholic magazine Fidelity makes clear:

"It is no coincidence that the civil rights movement in the United States preceded the largest push for sexual liberation this country had seen since its inception....The Negro was the catalyst for the overturning of European values, which is to say, the most effective enculturation of Christianity."

"The civil rights movement was nothing more than the culmination of an attempt to transform the Negro into a paradigm of sexual liberation that had been the pet project of the cultural revolutionaries since the 1920s."

The identification of sexual licentiousness and "primitive" music with subversion and people of color is an essential part of the secular humanist conspiracy theory, and one that has been remarkably consistent over time. The current attacks on rap music take place within this context.

In 1966, David Noebel argued that the communist conspiracy ("the most cunning, diabolical conspiracy in the annals of human history ") was using rock music, with its savage, tribal, orgiastic beat, to destroy "our youths' ability to relax, reflect, study and meditate" and to prepare them "for riot, civil disobedience and revolution." Twenty years later, these views were repeated practically verbatim by Allan Bloom, who wrote that rock music, with its "barbaric appeal to sexual desire," "ruins the imagination of young people and makes it very difficult for them to have a passionate relationship to the arts and thought that are the substance of liberal education."

The hard right's attack on multiculturalism derives its strength from the right's absolutism, as well as from its White racial nationalism. Samuel Blumenfeld was among the first to attack multiculturalism as a new form of secular humanism's values relativism, writing in 1986 that multiculturalism legitimized different lifestyles and values systems, thereby legitimizing a moral diversity that "directly contradicts the Biblical concept of moral absolutes on which this nation was founded."

Patrick Buchanan bases his opposition to multiculturalism on White racial nationalism. In one article, "Immigration Reform or Racial Purity?," Buchanan himself was quite clear:

"The burning issue here has almost nothing to do with economics, almost everything to do with race and ethnicity. If British subjects, fleeing a depression, were pouring into this country through Canada, there would be few alarms."

"The central objection to the present flood of illegals is they are not English-speaking white people from Western Europe ; they are Spanish-speaking brown and black people from Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean."

Buchanan explicitly links the issue of non-White immigration with multiculturalism, quoting with approval the xenophobic and racist American Immigration Control Foundation, which said, "The combined forces of open immigration and multi-culturalism constitute a mortal threat to American civilization. The US is receiving a never-ending mass immigration of non-Western peoples, leading inexorably to white-minority status in the coming decades [while] a race-based cultural-diversity is attacking, with almost effortless success, the legitimacy of our Western culture." The Free Congress Foundation's Center for Cultural Conservatism disavows any racial nationalist intent while bluntly arguing that all non-White cultures are inferior to traditional Western cultures.

Race & Culture

The major split inside the right-wing crusaders for the Culture War is based on whether or not race and culture are inextricably linked. Buchanan and the authors of the Bell Curve argue for biological determinism and White supremacy, while Weyrich and Robertson argue that people of all races can embrace Americanism by adopting northern European, Christian, patriarchal, values--or, in their shorthand: traditional family values.

It's important to state clearly that neoconservatives, for the most part, share Buchanan's distaste for multiculturalism. The American Spectator, for example, has argued, "The preservation of the existing ethnocultural character of the United States is not in itself an illegitimate goal. Shorn of Buchanan's more unhygenic rhetoric, and with the emphasis on culture rather than ethnicity, it's a goal many conservatives share. If anything, a concern that the ethnocultural character of the United States is being changed in unwholesome ways is the quality that distinguishes the conservatism of Commentary and the Public Interest from the more economically minded conservatism that pervades the Washington think tanks."

In part, it is legitimate to argue that the distinction between the old and new conservatives on the issue of race is slim. At the same time, however, the distinction between the approaches the old and new conservatives take on race is the distinction between White racism and White racial nationalism. While systemic racism enforced by a hostile, repressive state is dangerous, the massed power of racial nationalism, as expressed in the activities of the racial nationalist, clerical fascist regimes in Eastern Europe during World War I I, is vastly more dangerous.

The embrace of White racial nationalism by the paleo-conservatives has been extensive. Chronicles magazine wrote in July 1990:

"What will it be like in the next century when, as Time magazine so cheerfully predicts, white people will be in the minority. Our survival depends on our willingness to look reality in the face. There are limits to elasticity, and these limits are defined in part by our historical connections with the rest of Europe and in part by the rate of immigrations. High rates of non-European immigration, even if the immigrants come with the best of intentions in the world, will swamp us. Not all, I hasten to add, do come with the best intentions."

In his distaste for democracy, Buchanan has explicitly embraced racial nationalism. In one column, titled "Worship Democracy? A Dissent," Buchanan argued, "The world hails democracy in principle; in practice, most men believe there are things higher in the order of value--among them, tribe and nation, family and faith." In April 1990, he made a similar statement: "It is not economics that sends men to the barricades; tribe and race, language and faith, history and culture, are more important than a nation's GNP."

Buchanan has also stated:

"The question we Americans need to address, before it is answered for us, is: Does this First World nation wish to become a Third World country? Because that is our destiny if we do not build a sea wall against the waves of immigration rolling over our shores....Who speaks for the Euro-Americans, who founded the USA?...Is it not time to take America back?"

The basic thesis of White racial nationalism is expressed by David Duke, who won 55 percent of the White vote in Louisiana while arguing:

"I think the basic culture of this country is European and Christian and I think that if we lose that, we lose America....I don't think we should suppress other races, but I think if we lose that White--what's the word for it--that White dominance in America, with it we lose America."

It is difficult not to see the fascist undercurrents in these ideas.

The Hard Right's Disdain for Democracy & Modernity

In the 1920s, at a time, not unlike today, of isolationism, anti-immigrant activism, and White racial nationalism, democracy was seriously challenged. With its anti-elitist, egalitarian assumptions, democracy did not appeal to the reactionary rightists of the 1920s, who insisted that the US was not a democracy but a representative republic. Today, Patrick Buchanan, Paul Weyrich, and the John Birch Society also insist on this distinction, which can more easily accommodate the anti-egalitarian notion of governmental leadership by an elite aristocracy. As Hofstadter pointed out, the pseudo-conservatives' conspiratorial view of liberals leads them to impugn the patriotism of their opponents in the two-party system, a position that undermines the political system itself.

While hard rightists claim to defend traditional US values, they exhibit a deep disdain for democracy. Dismissive references to "participatory democracy, a humanist goal," are common; Patrick Buchanan titled one article, "Worship Democracy? A Dissent." Like many hard rightists, Allan Bloom mixes distaste for humanism and democratic values with elitism when he argues:

"Humanism and cultural relativism are a means to avoid testing our own prejudices and asking, for example, whether men are really equal or whether that opinion is merely a democratic prejudice."

More specific rejections of democracy are common currency on the hard right these days. Paul Weyrich, for example, called for the abolition of constitutional safeguards for people arrested in the drug war. Murray Rothbard called for more vigilante beatings by police of those in their custody. Patrick Buchanan has supported the use of death squads, writing, for example:

"Faced with rising urban terror in 1976, the Argentine military seized power and waged a war of counter-terror. With military and police and free lance operators, between 6,000 and 150,000 leftists disappeared. Brutal, yes; also successful. Today, peace reigns in Argentina; security has been restored."

Perhaps the most disturbing manifestation of antidemocratic sentiment among the reactionary rightists has been their apparently deliberate embrace of a theory of racial nationalism that imbues much of the protofascist posturings of the European New Right's Third Position politics. Third Position politics rejects both communism and democratic capitalism in favor of a third position that seems to be rooted historically in a Strasserite interpretation of National Socialism, although it claims to have also gone beyond Nazism.

Third Position politics blends a virulent racial nationalism (manifested in an isolationist, anti-immigrant stance) with a purported support for environmentalism, trade unionism, and the dignity of labor. Buchanan has endorsed the idea of antidemocratic racial nationalism in a number of very specific ways, arguing for instance, "Multi-ethnic states, of which we are one, are an endangered species" because "most men believe there are things higher in the order of value [than democracy ]--among them, tribe and nation." In support of this view, Buchanan even cites Tomislav Sunic, an academic who has allied himself with European Third Position politics.

Over the past several years, Third Position views have gained currency on the hard right. The Rockford Institute's magazine Chronicles recently praised Jorg Haider's racial nationalist Austrian Freedom Party, as well as the fascist Italian Lombardy League. In a sympathetic commentator's description, the Third Position politics of Chronicles emerge with a distinctly volkish air:

"Chronicles is somewhat critical of free markets and spreading democracy. It looks back to agrarian society, small towns, religious values. It sees modern times as too secular, too democratic. There's a distrust of cities and of cultural pluralism, which they find partly responsible for social decay in American life.

Similarly, Paul Weyrich's Center for Cultural Conservatism has praised corporatism as a social model and voiced a new concern for environmentalism and the dignity of labor.

In the wake of the schism within the right wing, the formation of coalitions is just beginning. Whether the US is indeed endangered because it is multicultural may depend on whether mainstream conservatives embrace a paranoid, conspiratorial world view that wants a White supremacist theocracy modeled on the volatile mix of racial nationalism and corporatism that escorted fascism to Europe in the mid-century.

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