The great replacement or the politics of the myth (1/2)

In The Great Replacement or the Politics of Myth, Pierre André Taguieff is the archaeologist of a theme of which the writer Renaud Camus would be the inventor. Fake! A concept that he actually popularized. Multifaceted, this racial ideology is several centuries old, and it invites itself durably in the international public debate. But who is this book of extraordinary erudition and which seizes us with dread, so difficult is it to let one’s relatively healthy mind drag through the universe of this filthy mire? Certainly not ordinary people – 60% of the French population it seems! – who is convinced, in fine and as Louis-Ferdinand Céline says, that the white man “is going to get fucked”.

In the 1950s, the philosopher Léo Strauss – author among others of Persecution and the Art of Writing – established a concept affirming that, to discredit the argument of a contradictor, it was enough to refer to Nazism, Hitler and the Holocaust. This is what he called the “reductio ad hitlerum”. In the 1990s, when we were only at the beginning of the Internet, an American lawyer stated an empirical law: “The longer an online discussion lasts, the more the probability of finding a comparison involving the Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” This is what is nowadays called the Godwin “law” or “point”. It is not only applicable to online discussions. With this “great replacement” that some political parties recycle in many forms, wouldn’t we be facing the new Godwin point of immigration?

In 2010, under the pen of the French writer Renaud Camus, faced with poorly controlled immigration (essentially of the Muslim religion) in Europe in general and in France in particular, the term “great replacement” appeared which was to become the reactionary paragon of the extreme right within the political spectrum, which are now opposed by the supporters of “universal creolization”. In the United Kingdom – which compiles ethnic and religious statistics – the writer Douglas Murray, author of the best-selling The Strange Suicide of Europe and Knock down the West. How anti-racism became a weapon of mass destruction, analyzes the profound changes that make London, Manchester or Birmingham cities with “white minorities”. In an interview at Figaro on December 8, he said: “The benefits of diversity are not inexhaustible. There’s a stage where you’ve effectively diluted your culture to the point that you’re not who you used to be.” From English-style “dilution” to French-style “great replacement” to which 60% of the population adheres, are we, as historian Nicolas Lebourg has demonstrated, faced with “the story of a deadly idea” or, as Michel Houellebecq worries: “I was very shocked that it was called a theory. It’s not a theory, it’s a fact”?

So, denial or over-dramatization? Myth or reality? Inconvenient truth? Afraid of disappearing? Racism in disguise? Weapon of mass destruction? Genocide by substitution of peoples? It is to this anxiety-provoking, catastrophic theme, announcing the inevitable decline of the West already prophesied by Oswald Spengler in 1917, that Pierre-André Taguieff, philosopher, political scientist and historian of ideas, has just devoted his latest work, attempting to provide answers in the light of history, the real one, not that of the Maurrassian Éric Zemmour. Because the stake is important, and the author underlines it “it is about recasting human nature on new foundations and from top to bottom to build the perfect society of the future.” New utopia?

A well-worn theory…

The concept of the great replacement is obviously not as old as all the migratory flows which started from the African cradle, and which were incessant following multiple problems. It already finds its source within medieval Christianity with, in 1492, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in the name of the purity of the blood, then the alleged discovery of America the same year, setting up an order planetary race justifying, for centuries, violence and white domination (Alexander D. Barder: Global Race War International Politics and Racial Hierarchy – Oxford University Press, 2021, untranslated). But the ideological turning point will be with the work of the Frenchman Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882) whose The Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853) intends to demonstrate that successive interbreeding leads to the inevitable downfall of humanity. Emitting the hypothesis that there was once a pure race, Gobineau will establish a classification devoid of scientific authority (white, then yellow and black), placing the Germanic race among the most advanced, hence the imperative to preserve it. This specious theory of racial decadence will subsequently irrigate Nazi thought, without it being possible to establish whether Hitler read Gobineau, unlike his ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg, who will divert thought from it, like that of Darwin. For the first time, Gobineau – who was by no means anti-Semitic – speaks of a superior race, the Arians, who supposedly dominated the European continent:

What he calls the “fall of civilizations” is the fatality of the progressive replacement of the original “strong” or “noble” race by a racially inferior mixed population, which is the only cause of the decadence of the civilization created by the superior race. Such is the Gobinian postulate: the mixing of races, that is to say the loss of purity of the creative race, is the cause of all decadence. (Pierre-André Taguieff)

This theory will be at the heart of the völkisch ideology in Germany from the middle of the XIXe century. This movement rejects any form of modernity. He does not hesitate to draw on the progress of science, in the fields of anthropology, eugenics and linguistics, but also to insidiously divert Darwin’s theories of evolution for racist purposes, to to attempt to demonstrate the imperious superiority of the German race for the purposes of national revival. The myth of the Aryan did not originate in the deranged and primal mind of Hitler writing Mein Kampf; it predates it by more than a century. It is true that German philosophers like Immanuel Kant made his task much easier: “Nature has endowed the African Negro with no feeling that does not rise above silliness (…) Blacks are so talkative that they have to be separated and dispersed with sticks.” (Observations on the feeling of the beautiful and the sublime, 1764).

What Pierre-André Taguieff demonstrates brilliantly, by devoting many particularly instructive pages to it, is that the great replacement theory finds its true source in Gobineau, but, because it is part of the dogmatic beliefs of the time , it should be contextualized. Notwithstanding, Gobineau is not a French “nationalist”. He’s only interested in the Arians, who are just a figment of his imagination; he does not speak of racial suicide, as Hitler promises to the French in Mein Kampf: “If the evolution of France were to continue another three hundred years on the present line, its last residues of Frankish blood would disappear in this European-African mulatto state of formation. An immense territory of coherent settlement, going from the Rhine to the Congo, filled with an inferior race forming little by little, over a long bastardization. (This hodgepodge will be taken up by the French Waffen-SS René Binet (1913-1957), ex-Trotskyite, who will also be a theoretician of the great replacement.) As we can imagine, Gobineau will be emulated, and not only in Germany. France is one of the worst breeding grounds for anti-Semitism and xenophobia with – among others – Édouard Drumont, Maurice Barrès, Charles Maurras, or Georges Vacher de Lapouge, who wrote in 1899: “The admission of foreigners can destroy a nation in a short time, but cannot ensure its perpetuity by strengthening its workforce..” Throughout the pages, Pierre-André Taguieff makes a historical inventory of all the words of “horror” that we knew during the period between the two wars and it is not surprising that in France, the vast majority of these “intellectuals” were able to provide the long cohort of collaborators. This problem is not limited to France or Europe. It is rife in the same way in the United Kingdom and the United States: “It should not be forgotten that the specializations which characterize the superior races are relatively recent, very unstable and that, mixed with generalized or primitive characters, they tend to disappear. The mixing of two races eventually produces a race which reverts to the older, generalized and inferior type..” (Madison Grant, The Decline of the Great Race1916)

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The great replacement or the politics of the myth (1/2)