Rassenkampf or Klassenkampf?

I hate to say it, but what strikes me more than anything in rereading Houria Bouteldja’s article is just how painfully French her entire mode of thought is. Far from being fundamentally “alien” and indecipherable to white leftists in the West, her arguments are Western through and through. She recycles the worst of Frog poststructuralist brainrot, precisely when she insists upon her «altérité radicale».

The really astounding thing about this is the way that so many self-declared Marxists, predominantly white Anglophone males, are rallying to the side of a thinker who can only talk about “class struggle” in scare quotes. Perhaps Marx and Engels were wrong, after all: the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of Rassenkampf, not Klassenkampf.

Bouteldja’s polemics against Enlightenment universalism actually has some precedent in (reactionary) French political thought, moreover. Marx has a bit on this in his 1863 Theories of Surplus Value, hardly a piece of a juvenilia. Sub out “Linguet” for “Bouteldja” and switch around the pronouns, maybe get rid of specifics like “contemporaries” and “that was then beginning,” the statement might well stand today:

Linguet…is not a socialist. His polemics against the bourgeois-liberal ideals of the Enlighteners, his contemporaries, against the dominion of the bourgeoisie that was then beginning, are given — half-seriously, half-ironically — a reactionary appearance. He defends Asiatic despotism against the civilized European forms of despotism; thus he defends slavery against wage-labor.

Of course, most of the romantic anti-capitalist motifs Bouteldja relies upon can be traced back to some reactionary European precursor. Her rants against “gay universalism” are clearly underwritten by notions of Kultur and Gemeinschaft as somehow organic and distinct that go at least as far back as Herder. You can almost smell the Spengler, however, in the accounts of decline and cultural pollution by the homosexual bacillus.

At the end of the day, though, it is the “white left” that uncritically embraces this anti-Marxist nonsense that bears most of the blame for its opportunistic pandering.

11 thoughts on “Rassenkampf or Klassenkampf?

  1. Even now France is still the place with the most spiritual and most refined European culture and the leading school of taste. But we have to know how to find this “France of taste.” Whoever belongs to it keeps himself well concealed – the number of those in whom it is embodied and lives may be small, and in addition they may perhaps be people who are not standing on the strongest legs, partly fatalistic, dark, sick, and partly mollycoddled and artificial, such people as have the ambition to conceal themselves. All of them have something in common: confronted with the raging stupidity and the noisy chattering of the democratic bourgeois, they keep their ears plugged. In fact, rolling around these days in the foreground is a stupid and coarsened France – recently, at the funeral of Victor Hugo, it celebrated a true orgy of tastelessness and at the same time of self-admiration.16 Something else is also common to them: a good will to stand against spiritual Germanization – and an even better inability to do so! Perhaps these days Schopenhauer is already more at home and has become more indigenous in this France of the spirit, which is also a France of pessimism, than he ever was in Germany, not to mention Heinrich Heine, who has long since been transformed into the flesh and blood of the more sophisticated and discriminating Parisian lyric poets, or Hegel, who today exercises an almost tyrannical influence in the form of Taine, the pre-eminent living historian.17 And so far as Richard Wagner is concerned – the more French music learns to shape itself according to the real needs of the âme moderne [modern soul], the more it will become “Wagnerian.” That’s something we can predict – it’s already doing enough of that now. Nonetheless, in spite of all the voluntary or involuntary Germanizing and vulgarizing of taste, there are three things which nowadays the French can still point to with pride as their inheritance and property and as the unforgotten mark of an old cultural superiority over Europe. The first is the capacity for artistic passions, for devotion to “form,” for which the expression l’art pour l’art [art for art’s sake] has been invented, along with a thousand others – something like that has been present in France for three centuries and, thanks to the reverence for the “small number,” has made possible again and again a kind of chamber music in literature which is not to be found in the rest of Europe. – The second thing on which the French can base a superiority over Europe is their ancient multifaceted moralistic culture, because of which we find, on average, even in the small romanciers [novelists] of the newspapers and random boulevardiers of Paris, a psychological sensitivity and curiosity, of which people in Germany, for example, have no idea (to say nothing of the thing itself!). For that the Germans are lacking a couple of centuries of moralistic behaviour which, as mentioned, France did not spare itself. Anyone who calls the Germans “naive” because of this is praising them for a defect. (In contrast to the German inexperience and innocence in voluptate psychologica [psychological delight], which is not too distantly related to the boredom of associating with Germans – and as the most successful expression of a genuine French curiosity and talent for invention in this empire of tender thrills, Henry Beyle may well qualify, that remarkably prescient and pioneering man, who ran at a Napoleonic tempo through his Europe, through several centuries of the European soul, as a tracker and discoverer of this soul. It took two generations to catch up with him somehow, to grasp some of the riddles which tormented and delighted him, this strange Epicurean and question mark of a man, who was France’s last great psychologist). There is still a third claim to superiority: in the nature of the French is a semi-successful synthesis of north and south, which enables them to understand many things and tells them to do other things which an Englishman will never understand. In them, the temperament which periodically turns towards and away from the south and in which, from time to time, the Provencal and Ligurian blood bubbles over, protects them from the dreadful northern gray on gray and the sunless conceptual ghostliness and anaemia – our German sickness of taste, against the excesses of which at the moment we have prescribed for ourselves, with great decisiveness, blood and iron – or I should say “grand politics” (in accordance with a dangerous art of healing which teaches me to wait and wait, but up to this point has not taught me to hope).18 Even today there is still in France an advance understanding of and an accommodation with those rarer and rarely satisfied men who are too all-embracing to find their contentment in some patriotism or other and know how to love the south in the north and the north in the south – the born mid-landers, the “good Europeans.”- For them Bizet created his music, this last genius who saw a new beauty and enticement and – who discovered a piece of the south in music.

  2. French people aren’t into that rubbish. It may have started in France, but it’s mainly Americans and Britons who pay attention to it these days.

  3. Chris is generally right.

    One of the best historians of French colonialism (and above all opposition to it) was Claude Liauzu who passed away in 2007 (Histoire de l’anticolonialisme en France du XVIe siècle à nos jours: (Review – I follow this stuff closely, https://tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/histoire-de-lanticolonialisme-en-france-du-xvi-a-nos-jours-claude-liauzu-review/)

    He had this to say about the early incarnations of this groupuscle, accusing them of

    ’instrumentaliser le passé dans des manipulations telles que celles des Indigènes de la République, réduisant la colonisation à un crime, réduisant les problèmes actuels à la reproduction du racisme colonial, réduisant l’étude de ce passé à une repentance …”

    Using and manipulating the past, as by the Indigènes de la République, which reduces colonialism to a crime, reduces contemporary problems to the reproduction of colonial racism, and reduces the study of this past to an act of repentance.”


    On the Indigènes’ impact, and their brand of ‘post-colonialism’ read the monumental survey of the different French left, Les gauches françaises : 1762-2012 : Histoire, politique et imaginaire by Jacques Julliard.

    The book has its (many) faults but you will find no mention of their kind of rubbish.

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