Race Realism, Or Center-Left on Culture
Writer for Respubliki Nowa. He writes about social philosophy and innovation.
March 13, 2017
Two marginal racist bloggers from the US claim to start a new movement on the Left.
We are beautifully different on the Left, and it’s one of the great things about us.. Each leftwing tendency focuses on a slightly different target group and offers a slightly different view of the world situation. So it is worthwhile to rise above the divisions, often driven more by personal conflict than actual ideology, and to open ourselves up to the entire spectrum of the leftwing media, all the way from liberal center-left to very radical. Disagreement is natural, and ferment is creative. Sometimes, nevertheless, people on the left advocate disappointing ideologies that are hard for the rest of us to get behind.
THE LATEST FASHION
The article started out interesting anyway: “I would like to criticize the leftwing of the Vistula backwater for not being aware of the latest leftwing tendencies emanating from our leftwing brethren from the Fatherland of the World Creative Class” – begins an article about the “Alt Left” written by Dr. Hab. Jaroslaw Tomasiewicz which appeared in New Citizen, a Polish leftwing social justice magazine. I regard foreign influences as inevitable and often useful, so naturally I was interested in this new leftwing movement outside the mainstream which has so far escaped my attention.
After today often encountered failure characteristics “Hipster-Left”, focused on easy wojenkach culture, the author writes about the new collective actor on the political scene, “The Alt Right – a rebirth of the “Old Hard Right” – ethnopolitical, traditionalist, populist – in a new postmodern form. A sort of return to the roots. And the Alt Right managed to overcome the Mainstream Left on its own home turf: to win the support or the workers by emphasizing economics and de-emphasizing cultural issues. Think a somewhat obsolete Thomas Frank.
A flashing red light at this point heralds a warning. Did Donald Trump really gain the support of part of the White working class through the efforts of the teenage racist trolls under the leadership of Richard Spencer – the elegant (at least when not performing a Seig Heil), erudite, and informal leader of the Alt Right?
You are probably thinking of the Centrist Democrats so disliked by Tomasiewicz. It seems however that the notion that the anti-elitist mood of working class Trump voters (many of whom supported Obama in the past) was powered by the notions of the Alt Right leader Spencer is not only factually questionable but also overly bleak in that it elides the appeal of Trump to a section of the electorate steeped in US nationalism. Or perhaps this is just a problem of the Old Left?
Some believe that the challenge posed by the Alt Right requires a symmetrical response: the creation of an alternative to the Mainstream Left emphasizing the forgotten foundations of Leftism, such as the primacy of economics over culture, the relationship of the base to the superstructure, and a return to the Marxian thesis that ‘existence shapes consciousness.’
Next there is a quote from a manifesto from Alternative Left writer Robert Lindsay proclaiming,
We will be leftwing on economic matters […] but rather Centrist in the sphere of culture.
Tomasiewicz later cites another vague point in Lindsay’s manifesto of the Alternative Left. This vision paints a picture of the Social Democratic movement distanced from the alleged excesses of Cultural Left, materialistic in the old style, although “small and diverse” – which, although it should not be imitated in the dark (we as Poles have common sense), nevertheless deserves our at least with fingers crossed.
So what’s wrong with this picture? More than you’d expect. The author refers to two online sources for information about the Alt Left, and clicking on either of them reveals some rather disturbing content. The Altleft.com site notes at the top of the page that it is The Left Wing of the Alt Right. Nothing dziwnegi therefore that it is enough time to go through the lengthy scraps to find the few real gems. In the text quoted by Tomasiewicz, we find this passage:
Though I disagree with him on some ideological points…It just so happens that I support Richard Spencer and repeatedly defended him when some oversensitive (and often sanctimonious) factions or some prominent individuals of the AltRight unsuccessfully tried to sacrifice him to improve the image of the movement.
In another text by the author of the site (who goes by the pseudonym “Rabbit”) in response to an appeal to downplay the racial aspect of the Alternative Left brand, he said:
The Alt Left always been about race realism and gender realism. This is the whole fucking nail on the head!
What is race realism? It’s the familiar old and frightening idea that believes in biological differences between “races” of people, eg. in terms of IQ, which it stipulates as very important for races to gain social or political significance. AltLeft.com openly promotes White Nationalism, and at the same time is quite honest, which clearly shows in the title of one of his posts talking about the “unreality” of nonracist “race realism”. The post notes the hypocrisy of the supposedly nonracist race realists and asks a rhetorical question:
“What’s wrong with hatred anyway?”
What of the second author of the Alternative Left manifesto commented on by Tomasiewicz? Robert Lindsay is a prolific blogger who refers to himself as a “liberal race realist” (the title of his previous ideological project), who rejects Political Correctness and “Cultural Marxism” and in their stead proposes “positive White identity” and masculinity for men (to fight Gender Feminism and Radical Feminism).
Once again though – it is not difficult to see where Lindsay is really coming from. Although in the manifesto quoted by Tomasiewicz, Lindsay rejects “racist fascism”, it begins with an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement and ridicules people who talk about White privilege or have an “obsession about structural racism.”
According to Lindsay, to belong to Alt Left, one should accept “racial realism”, which is one of the three pillars of Alt Left ideology – the other two are leftwing views on economics, to which Lindsay moreover dedicates little space, and a special form of moral libertinism who boils down to formally supporting the basic rights of minorities combined with a gut hatred against the movements that are fighting for those very rights.
Lindsay seems to be less directly hateful – and more eccentric – than Rabbit, but his journalism nevertheless includes discussions about the abominations of gay sexual practices, alleged reasons why women cannot lead Western civilization, and complaints about aggressive and obnoxious “Jewy Jews” who are themselves responsible for anti-Semitism.
As for the Alt Left, this is all we need to know about it right here. Tomasiewicz refers only to Lindsay and the author of a blog about the “Left Wing of Alt Right” because that’s all there is to the Alternative Left. Otherwise, the concept still appears occasionally as a rhetorical device in journalism, primarily as an insult. So the entirety of this new and noteworthy movement is a small group of readers of two marginal blogs that are attempting to enrich the standard White Nationalism of the Alt Right with an aversion to neoliberalism and a promotion of anti-feminist libertarianism (the latter being merely a rejecting the traditionally conservative views of women).
LEFT PRIEST JOHN
The detailed reasons why this leftwing website published a fictitious post about a couple of marginal racists in the chronicle New Citizen are not something that should concern readers. Suffice to say that it is difficult to believe in the sincerity of the author, who was after all the one who first discovered the sites of these bloggers. Why did he go out of his way to ferret out these marginal bloggers? Nevertheless, I do not think however that one could accuse the editor-in-chief of tolerance for “race realism,” nor is the readership enthusiastic about this concept.
The case recalls to me deeper concerns of some Polish Left intellectuals’ dislike for the “Left of Manners” or Cultural Left. Often it is not so much about the demands of this faction but more about the alleged incompatibility of this project with the conservative nature of the Polish people. These charges are often simply unfair.
For this often based on fantasies – Maciej Gdula in Political Critique accurately dismantled the idea of the conservatism of the people that is shared by anti-elitist liberals as well as the current anti-elitist Left. A plea to keep the Left only about the workers and to reject helping different minorities seems particularly unfair when we look at the development in recent years of leftwing movements and characters (like Total in Poland or Bernie Sanders in the US), fully and harmoniously integrating cultural issues and economics.
The spectacular failure of this article on the “Alternative Left” to resonate on the Polish Left brings to light another problem. This article published in the New Citizen is the modern equivalent of the medieval legend about the state ruled by Father John, a Christian enclave somewhere in the distant Orient.
We can see that the Cultural Left is an imaginary issue on the Left in anecdotes written by various intellectuals as diverse as Remigiusz Okraska, Stephen Twardoch and David Wildstein that the notion of the good old-fashioned Polish people who do not care about these newfangled cultural oddities is every year moving further from reality.
Tomasiewicz article, in which the role of Father John played the Richard Spencer, stands out as an apology for some particularly nasty and in the Polish context completely unacceptable notions such as race realism (perhaps even our extremist ONR does not openly promote the idea of biological racism). We need only barely scrape the surface of almost any “Morally Centrist” manifesto’s concern for ordinary people to see the usual hatred and disgust for certain disadvantaged groups – sometimes consciously but more often probably not. In this situation, to put on a mask of folk naiveté seems to be at best frivolous and at worst insincere and wicked, and we have not even begun to deal with the extreme views of of Rabbit of AltLeft.com which go so much further than that.