Images of a ‘better’ world? Fictional storytelling in the radical-right (Part I)

Analysing the radical-right – whether parties, social movements or paramilitary organisations – usually looks at programmatic and doctrinaire material, such as party manifestos or pamphlets. Scrutinising these reveals many facets of their politics, e.g. stances towards migration and taxation. However, the radical-right is not only a space of strictly political and economic ideas, but also a cultural space held together by what has been termed ‘cultural imaginaries’, visions through which idealised radical-right subjectivities emerge. This draws on Charles Taylor who views imaginaries, or what he calls ‘social imaginaries’, as entailing an understanding of how ‘we all fit together’, an understanding both factual and normative , i.e., of how things usually are and how they should be.

In this blog entry, I am interested in how – and to what end – ‘ideal’ radical-right subjectivities and the world they populate, are imagined; not through, e.g., dietary- and body-related practices, movies and/or individually style, but through fictional storytelling. The latter has long served to write subjectivities into existence; both on the left and the right. Severe consequences of such writing have been visible, e.g., at the beginning of the 20th century when a trilogy (1902-1907) by Thomas Dixon Jr. fed into the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, a trilogy of which the second work, The Clansman, was adapted in the infamous film The Birth of a Nation (1915). Another consequential case is William Pierce’s The Turner Diaries, which outlines a blueprint for moving from how things are to how they should be and inspired the Oklahoma City Bomber, Timothy McVeigh.[1]

With this in mind, I will look at how worlds are imagined by introducing two novels produced by the radical-right in the Anglosphere below – while CARR Doctoral Fellow, Julian Göpffarth will follow up by discussing (the power of) fictional storytelling in regards to two examples from France and Germany in part II of this mini-series.

I start with Hold Back This Day, a novel first published in 2000 by Ward Kendall. It is almost 300 pages long and ‘A NOVEL LIKE NO OTHER’ (as the cover tells us). The author describes it as a piece of ‘white nationalist fiction’, with the hardcover edition being published by Counter-Currents Publishing USA, ‘the flag-bearer of … the idea of a white ethnostate’. The book tells the story of Jeff Huxton who lives on Earth in the 22nd century; a unified world with one government, one religion and one race, ‘the bland and soulless metronome of one united humanity’. This is, of course, also the fear of the contemporary radical-right, a fear of ‘globalism’ having triumphed. The perils of this unity are continuously illustrated, ranging from examples (‘wienerschnitzel smothered in guacamole sauce’, ‘Praise to Allah and Vishnu’) to a skin tone regime (1-10) in which 5, a total mixture, is desired by the government and most parts of the general population. Jeff is one of the remaining whites (‘Skintone Class 1’), and so is his son. While Jeff experiences gazes, he has settled (uneasily); though he is aware of his son’s plight. The latter suffers from anti-white prejudice and hates himself, snapping once at his father: ‘Like you! Like a freak with white skin and blue eyes that everybody else stares at!’’ This speaks to widespread ideas of ‘white victimhood’ or even ‘white genocide’ in the radical-right today, and indeed, Jeff’s son is ultimately crushed by the ‘World Gov’. However, prior to that, the son joins a resistance group (called NAYRA, i.e., Aryan reversed) which is headed by Karl Ramstrom who is on a mission from Mars, ‘the last refuge of the white race’, to ‘repatriate our people’. This colony is revealed to be on the brink of star travel, though it is only through Jeff – who has become willing to fight for his ‘race’ – that a much-needed element of star drive research can get to the Martian colony. Jeff ultimately reaches the colony (which is destroyed in a raid by forces from the one-world government), but in this final fight, in which Jeff dies too, Karl and fifteen thousand colonists in suspended animation start their journey to Alpha Centauri. There, they build a new civilization – while Earth ultimately collapses under the incompetence of its one-world leadership and ideology.

The second novel by S. B. Saunders (2019), From the Land All the Good Things Come, is more than 500 pages long and has received public acclaim from the former leader of the neo-fascist British National Party, Nick Griffin. This story is less centred on one single protagonist, but, by starting in 2060, concerns ‘native Britain’ and events towards the country’s perceived liberation unfold. It is set in a time when political structures as we know them have largely collapsed; at the continent, Russia ultimately takes over, driving out Islamists and communists, while the North American Confederation is an ethno-state and the strongest Western nation after Russia. In the United Kingdom, the English Front (EF) fights the Shuhada al-Ummah, the latter being backed by the ‘Old Families’ who control London and the Home Counties. Some ‘mixed-races people’ still live in EF territory, though EF’s ideology is all about the ‘survival’ of the English ‘racial stock’ in order that ‘the body of England survives’. To secure this goal, a biological weapon is unleashed which leads to the death of those lacking a pure-enough bloodline, both within the EF territory, but also, more importantly, across Britain, thus making the land deadly to Africans, Arabs and Turks. The ‘beloved leader’ of the EF, David Caldwell, is trialed and killed for what is narrated as a horrendous crime (thereby, ‘the people’ are represented as remaining pure), a sacrifice the leader makes to rescue his ‘people’. This illustration of a heroic, male leader is just one example of traditional gender roles present in the novel; while men are fighters and able to reason, a ‘woman thinks with her heart and with her womb’. Indeed, while racism and anti-Semitism are present too, it is concerning sex and gender, that some of the most bizarre statements can be found. For example, and mirroring well-known radical-right stances, the reader is told that in the process of ‘claiming back Canada’:

‘Mothers watched in horror as their children starved and began reverting back to their original sexual characteristics, as genderising hormone shots were subject to the same embargo [by nativists] as wheat and milk. Canadian boys began to lose their breasts and the girls began to lose their beards…’.

What can we take away from considering these two novels? Among many parallels, firstly, both plot lines stress, that following a valley of suffering, radical-right ideas ultimately triumph – a triumph, which is costly, but never in doubt. Importantly, this triumph goes beyond nostalgia for an affirmed, unproblematic past (see Boym’s ‘restorative nostalgia’), but is forward-looking and truly utopian. Secondly, this triumph is triumph of ‘race’; it is a plot, which results in a happy-ending for all those who believe in the people as a racial whole whose survival is more important than that of its individual parts. The protagonists the reader is asked to identify with, i.e. the ideal subjectivities presented, share this conviction. Thirdly, racism, anti-Semitism and traditional gender roles too are explicitly reproduced through these novels, including representations of heroic self-sacrifice, thus making clear how ideal radical-right subjectivities are imagined.

In other contexts, the radical-right has sought to imagine futures in related, but nonetheless different modes, e.g. by reaching educated bourgeois audiences through conveying ‘anxious hope’ for an alternative radical-right future. In part II of this series, Julian Göpffarth will thus look at the ways established and well-respected writers popular in radical-right circles speak to fears of cultural decline and Islamophobia in conveying this alternative future, and what it says about the movement as a whole.

Dr Bernhard Forchtner is a Senior Fellow at CARR and Associate Professor in the School of Media, Communication and Sociology at University of Leicester. See his profile here.

© Bernhard Forchtner. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).

[1] An interesting detail indicating the relevance of fiction pointed out by Daniel Harper is that Pierce’s pen name, Andrew MacDonald, appears to be a reference to Robert Anson Heinlein, a classic science fiction authors, who also wrote under the pen name Anson MacDonald.