I have a number of questionable books in my library. Astrology books. If the BBC decides to interview me one day, I will make sure that the public is not made aware of my juvenile passion for astrology and I promise I will hide these books.
One would expect nothing less from Michael Gove and his wife Sarah Vine. But apparently, they are eager for the rest of the world to know what they have in a corner of their library.
Properly dissected by Owen Jones and other Twitter opinion leaders, the photos of the Goves’ library show in evidence, a gallery of horrors which include David Irving, a Holocaust denier; Alain de Benoist, who, since the 70s is the intellectual guru of the Nouvelle Droite, the French Far Right; Guillerme Faye, Benoist’s former pupil and rabid Islamophobe; and Paul Gottfried, an American “paleo-conservative”, which is another way to say reactionary.
I don’t expect a respectable Conservative politician to show off any of these books, but of course, I believe everyone is entitled to possess them. The problem is that Holocaust deniers, racists, and Islamophobes may feel empowered at the sight of their favourite authors on the bookshelf of Tory politicians.
The Nouvelle Droite’s agenda is about culture. They have never been interested in winning the elections; they wanted and want their ideas to become mainstream. For example, they want “white people” to advocate for racist segregation while calling it “multiculturalism”. So it’s very important to be vigilant.
But Twitter being Twitter, the request for accountability, has rapidly turned into a conspiracy theory in itself.
And so, the fact that Michael Gove owns a book by David Irving, (and let’s not forget that Irving was a Corbyn enthusiast), has become a piece of evidence that the Tory party is currently led by racists, Islamophobes, anti-Semites, (who can, of course, get by because the Board of Deputies and the Israeli Embassy provide proper cover), eugenics fanatics, misogynists, homophobes and so on.
But is it? Truth to be told, these pretentious Right-wing thinkers are, intellectually speaking, a ragtag army.
De Benoist is virulently anti-Zionist, a fact that Owen Jones and other apprentice censors have conveniently forgotten. With the exception of Faye, who actually parted from his teacher because of different views on the Holocaust, the French Far Right, Nouvelle or Ancienne, is massively enamoured with the Syrian dictator Assad, as they were with Sadam Hussein at the time of the Gulf War. They were also admirers of Gaddafi and Khomeini. Which makes sense, if you advocate for the “traditional family;” what’s better than a place where polygamy is legal?
The technocratic utopia of Dominic Cummings may be seductive for someone on the Far Right. But almost all the Italian comrades of Alain De Benoist, (and there are many), now support the Extinction Rebellion movement and are overtly suspicious of technology.
Generally speaking, the Far Right is still divided into two components: on one side the worshippers of whatever Tradition, (Catholic, Pagan, German) whose ideal society is a sort of fictional Middle Age, where men are horsemen, nobles or peasants, women are submissive, and everybody is happy and content because the (Jewish) modernity, including banks and technology, still has to arrive.
On the other side, you have those who believe to be the vanguard of modernity and to have history on their side; who think they are leaders of a rebellion against the Jewish elites, after which technology and eugenics will be able to establish a new racist worldwide empire.
These two intellectual (for lack of a better word) components do not coexist easily under the same roof, and indeed the Far Right is notorious for internal breaks and perennial rivalries, as every reader of the magazine Searchlight knows well.
It’s nonsensical to imagine them conspiring in some dark library, Steve Bannon following the meeting via Zoom, plotting to take over the Tory Party and meanwhile lending one book or two to Michael Gove or Boris Johnson. The day that such a meeting will be called, it will be over as soon as they start throwing chairs at each other, which often happened at the meetings of the BNP.
As much as this fantasy could be attractive – and yes, I am always delighted when Fascists hurt each other – there is no conspiracy of Far-Right militants, technocrats, Islamophobes, and anti-Semites, aiming to establish an intellectual cupola over the Tory Party.
It would be interesting to consider why those who have followed Jeremy Corbyn until his defeat are now engaging in this sort of fantasy. And it comes to mind that Jeremy Corbyn himself, in 2011 had written the foreword to a horrific anti-Semitic book, “Imperialism”, by JA Hobson, whose lengthy descriptions of the horrors perpetrated by “international financiers, chiefly German in origin and Jewish in race” are part of the worldview of the Far Right.
And so the word “projection” comes to mind.