The ‘Great Replacement’: a Recipe for Murder
- March 18, 2019
Historically speaking, few things are entirely new under the sun, and the paranoid fantasies of the ‘great replacement’ and ‘white genocide’ that have gained new publicity as a result of the Christchurch murders are no exception. On Friday Newsnight interviewed Benjamin Jones, the UK leader of the alt-group Generation Identity about the murders. GI is one of various organisations which upholds the idea that ‘low birth rates of German and European people and simultaneous massive Muslim immigration will turn us into minorities in our own countries in a few decades.’
While claiming that he condemned the Christchurch murders, Jones insisted that violence was an ‘inevitable’ consequence of ‘bringing people from parts of the world who have a radically different perspective on how to conduct their lives as human beings to the typical Westerner.’
In Jones’s estimation, this ‘inevitable’ violence could only be avoided by defending and upholding a ‘homogeneous’ society. Jones did not say what this homogeneity should consist of, and the gormless BBC reporter did not probe him further.
The rest of us should not be so circumspect. Because these fears of racial and cultural engulfment have been a recurring theme in the white supremacist imagination for a long time, and have frequently resulted in horrific consequences, from eugenics programs and wars, to ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The origins of ‘white genocide’ can be traced back to the second half of the nineteenth century, when racist writers such as Arthur de Gobineau and the British-German political philosopher Houston Stewart Chamberlain propagated the idea that the white or ‘aryan’ race was under threat from various factors that included racial ‘miscegenation’, Jewish immigration, and the unrestricted global growth of non-white populations.
In his essay on ‘The Inequality of the Races’ the racist writer de Gobineau argued that
peoples degenerate only in consequence of the various admixtures of blood which they undergo; that their degeneration corresponds exactly to the quantity and quality of the new blood, and that the rudest possible shock to the vitality of a civilization is given when the ruling elements in a society and those developed by racial change have become so numerous that they are clearly moving away from the homogeneity necessary to their life.’
In July 1900, Houston Stewart Chamberlain saw the Boer War as a sign of imminent racial degeneration, and argued that ‘it is criminal for Englishmen and Dutchmen to go on murdering each other for all sorts of sophisticated reasons, while the Great Yellow Danger overshadows us white men and threatens destruction.’
Such ideas were not limited to cranks and marginal figures. In the years leading up to World War 1, the prospect of racial and national decline and collapse was a recurring obsession in Europe and the United States. On both sides of the Atlantic such fears were reflected in the popularity of eugenics, in restrictions on racially undesirable migrants, in the promotion of sports and physical exercise to ensure the vitality and ‘virility’ of the national ‘stock’.
The massive bloodletting of World War I reinforced these fears and gave them new political traction. In The Rising Tide of Colour Against White World Supremacy, (1920) the American journalist and Ku Klux Klan member Theodore Lothrop Stoddard warned that the ‘subjugation of white lands by colored armies’ was ‘less to be dreaded than more enduring conquests like migrations which would swamp whole populations and turn countries now white into colored man’s lands irretrievably lost to the white world.’
Then, as now, the dread of racial dissolution was based on an imagined racial hierarchy, in which the white, ‘Nordic’ or ‘Aryan’ race was seen as the epitome of culture and civilization and a prerequisite for the existence of both. As the American eugenicist and anthropologist Madison Grant argued in The Passing of the Great Race (1916), the highest rung of the racial ladder was occupied by, the ‘Nordic’ or ‘purely European type’, which he defined as ‘Homo europaeus, the white man par excellence.’
In a Germany radicalised by war and economic collapse, these ideas took an explicitly genocidal turn, in which the Nazi state set out to enforce ‘homogeneity’ inside and beyond Germany through eugenics programs involving the mass killing of ‘useless mouths’, and the exclusion, persecution and finally the extermination and subjugation of ‘alien’ races that had no place within its new racialised borders.
Nazi genocide was explicitly intended as an act of racial purification, and its architects justified their actions as a form of ‘self-defence’ in an existential struggle against a ‘Jewish/Bolshevik’ world order supposedly intent on defiling the ‘reservoir of blood’ that defined the German nation-state.
Then, as now, these narratives of racial and cultural invasion invariably focused on ‘cosmopolitian’ aliens beyond their borders and also inside them who had to driven out of the national territory or physically eliminated in order to guarantee the ‘living space’ of the German people.
The memory of Nazi genocide is one reason why today’s ‘replacement’ theories no longer use words like ‘mongrelisation’ or ‘miscegenation’, and generally prefer not to talk about ‘race’ at all – not on Newsnight anyway.
Instead they focus on Muslims and Islam; on ‘grooming gangs’ and ‘rape jihadists’; on refugees and migrants encouraged by ‘cultural Marxists’; on ‘identitarian’ ethno-nationalism and the defence of ‘indigenous’ cultures against ‘multiculturalism’; on conspiracy theories that depict a subjugated Europe overwhelmed by Muslim ‘colonisation’ and transformed into ‘Eurabia’.
In the last two year older and more traditional far-right tropes have come leaking through the sheen of pseudo-respectability, such as the Charlottesville Nazis who chanted ‘Jews will not replace us.’ But for the most part Muslims have replaced Jews as the current threat to the extreme-right’s ‘homogeneous’ society, and this threat is carefully framed as if it were a question of culture or religion rather than race.
Today, as in the past, these narratives of ‘replacement’ overlap with reactionary gender politics and toxic masculinity; with paranoid narratives of cultural and national collapse; with ahistorical notions of a national and racial ‘indigenous’ identity reaching back to the distant past; with anxieties about the proximity of the non-white world beyond ‘our’ borders and the influx of migrants or population growth of minorities perceived to be culturally powerful and culturally alien inside ‘our’ national territory.
These are the fears and anxieties that underpin Generation Identity’s calls for ‘homogeneity’, and they are increasingly seeping in from the fringes of the Internet into mainstream politics and the media.
If we are going to fight them, we need to remember where they can lead. In Jean Raspail’s racist novel The Camp of the Saints (1973), an ‘invasion’ of Europe by impoverished migrants is repelled by genocidal violence.
We have not reached the point where such ‘solutions’ have become politically acceptable, but the Christchurch murders should remind us that there are those who would like to adopt them.
And faced with these crimes – and the prospect of more to come – we should remember that the mass murder of Muslim worshippers by a a white supremacist fanatic is not an ‘inevitable’ consequence of immigration or multiculturalism, but of a racist tradition that has never been fully extinguished from our politics, and which cannot be allowed to regain any legitimacy and contaminate them any further.