Renaud Camus: Philosopher of the Great Replacement
Jared Taylor, American Renaissance, January 5, 2024
Credit Image: © Maxppp via ZUMA Press
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Renaud Camus, Enemy of the Disaster: Selected Political Writings, Louis Betty (ed.), Vauban Books, 2023, $22.95 (softcover), 266 pp.
Any American who reads the news has heard of the Great Replacement. Many even know that a Frenchman named Renaud Camus coined the phrase. But that is all they know — partly because of the campaign to discredit the idea that European people are being replaced, but also because, although Mr. Camus has published some 150 books, only one, Tricks, was ever translated into English. Now, thanks to Vauban books, we have 260 pages in English of the best essays by the foremost philosopher of the greatest crisis of our time. Enemy of the Disaster is beautifully written and translated, with excellent footnotes.
Without using the same words, I have written and thought about the Great Replacement for 30 years; I thought I understood it and had looked at it from every angle. I was wrong. I believe Mr. Camus has reflected more deeply and expressed himself more eloquently than anyone else on the awful fate Europe is preparing for itself.
The Great Replacement
It was in 1994 or 1995, as Mr. Camus was walking through a formerly French village, that it occurred to him that “it’s as if, over the space of our lifetimes — less than that! — France has been in the process of changing its people; one sees one people, takes a nap, and there’s another or several other peoples who appear to belong to other shores, . . .” leaving the natives with “a disconcerting sense of exile.” And yet, he was supposed to believe that these newcomers, by some kind of transubstantiation, were French:
Thus a veiled woman with a shaky command of our language, entirely ignorant of our culture, and, worse yet, overflowing with vindictiveness and animosity, if not hatred, for our history and civilization, will be perfectly able to say — and she usually does not miss the chance, particularly when she finds herself on television — to a native Frenchman, . . . “I am just as French as you are,” if indeed it’s not more French . . . . [All quotations that follow are from Mr. Camus and all italics are his own.]
Mr. Camus writes that until about 1970, no one doubted that to be French meant something — it was different from being Spanish or British — but today, anyone can be French. And this means the identity the French once thought they had must be an illusion, “that their shared history was but a dream, that even their past existence, for which they might feel nostalgic, is a mirage.”
As the French lose their identity, immigrants keep theirs: “[F]or the generations that preceded our own, being French, was of a similar nature to these simple and strong identities that we see quietly persevere and prosper around us.”
The replacement of the French by foreigners brings crime, degradation, conflict, destruction of cities, a collapse of standards, and the defilement of culture. It is permitted to notice certain related infelicities, but never to speak of causes: “Problems . . . appear to float in the air totally independent of reality, and have not the slightest chance of ever finding solutions because they have no explanations, because their explanations are hidden and must remain hidden.”
Mr. Camus is appalled that so few people recognize the Great Replacement as “the most important event in the history of our country since its inception, for, with another people, its history, if it continues, will no longer be that of France.” He despises politicians who jabber about standard of living, and think dispossession can be smoothed over with reforms, budgetary tinkering, proper “education,” and reforms of reforms, “as if the survival of a people as such were less important than the comfort with which it pursued its mad journey toward the dustbins of history.”
If anyone suggests that the new French are a headache, champions of the Great Replacement — whom Mr. Camus calls “the friends of the disaster” — have the answer:
We need more of what seems to have not worked, more immigration, more pedagogy, more suburban planning, more multiculturalism and ethnic plurality, more disaster, in short, for if it is a disaster, it is because we have not gone far enough, have not sufficiently believed in what we were doing, because we have spoiled everything for lack of faith, nostalgia, attachment to outdated values, idealization of the past, and, of course, racism (it does not work if we do not add racism) — in short, our friends, the friends of the disaster, have a theory they adore, what I would call the conspiracy theory theory.
Anyone who annoys the “friends of the disaster” — and they are easily annoyed — they accuse of peddling conspiracy theories. No less an authority than Wikipedia, in the first sentence of its article on the Great Replacement explains that it is “a white nationalist far-right conspiracy theory.”
History is a sad record of peoples conquered, pushed aside, even exterminated. In the case of Europe, those whom Mr. Camus calls “replacists” have achieved “the supreme refinement: the consent of the victims,” as they make up reasons to believe that capitulation is the only moral choice. In the past, when foreigners crossed borders uninvited, they came armed because natives would kill them. Now, “Europe constantly wonders what new rights she should give them.”
Mr. Camus notes the habit of calling mass migration “a humanitarian crisis”: “At this rate, it would not be surprising, should history textbooks, with the replacist servility for which they are known, begin to speak of the centuries of the barbarian invasions as ‘the time of Humanitarian Crises’.”
“All words are deceitful,” writes Mr. Camus, “but the most deceitful of all, alas, is French. There are no French jihadists, for example. If they are jihadists, they are not French.”
The communism of the 21st century
Mr. Camus brilliantly develops an idea he first heard from his friend, the French Jewish intellectual Alain Finkielkraut, that antiracism is “the communism of the 21st century.” It is clear that:
it plays the same role; that its historical function is similar; that its influence, ability to inspire action, and salience in public discourse and in the depths of conscience are of the same order of magnitude. . . . Antiracism has no gulag, as far as we know. . . . It does not, to my knowledge, torture . . . It has not killed very many people so far . . . [but] it does destroy lives, wreck careers, sweep entire existences under the carpet — individual existences, of course, and in great quantity, but the existences of peoples, too.
As for France, “communism never governed this country, whereas antiracism, to the contrary, has been in power here for several decades. . . . Antiracism . . . has the Republic itself very officially in hand at every level of decision making, and the latter loudly boasts on every occasion of its subservience.” In France, communists had a couple of newspapers and feeble publishing houses, but, today, antiracism “reigns over the whole of journalism without a single honorable exception.” The media, courts, and universities all worship it.
Communist nations had the words “socialist” or “democratic socialist” as part of their names. When, asks Mr. Camus, will a European country officially style itself “the Antiracist Republic of . . . ?”
Antiracism is thrilling because it allows its practitioners to have, “not adversaries with whom one may calmly debate, but only irreconcilable enemies whom one can only hope to destroy.” It grants itself a monopoly on hatred, for “it is those who talk most of hatred who feel it most intensely.” Moreover, it is impossible merely to be anti-antiracist. That would give opponents too much credit; they can be only racist.
So long as the only people who challenge antiracism are “racists,” it cannot be beaten. It would be as if the only people complaining about sexual repression were child rapists. Antiracism behaves in the same way, “and this is why it has nothing more pressing to do than describe as racist anyone who raises the least objection to it or asks it embarrassing or displeasing questions.”
If antiracists were honest, they would define “racism” — as violence against someone because of race, for example — and fight that. Instead, they either never define it or define it in ever-expanding ways. This way, racism is whatever they dislike, whatever challenges their power.
People who are only lukewarm to antiracism are enemies, and, just like communism, antiracism thrives on enemies. It has achieved the greatest possible triumph for an ideology: “to pass for morality itself. Or even better: to be in the eyes of a given society, the whole of morality.” Racism is “the queen of all mortal sins,” but as antiracism banishes racism, it also banishes “ethnic groups, people’s cultures, religions as groups or masses of individuals, civilizations as hereditary collectivities, origins, and even nationalities.” Thus, stripped of identity:
antiracist man stands naked before his fate, he comes from nowhere, no past protects him. He begins with himself, with himself now. On a planet, ideally without borders, without distinctions of any kind, and without nuances, he is a traveler without baggage, a poor devil.
Antiracism is so thoroughly beaten into Europeans that anyone can deliver its sermons. Mr. Camus was tried for inciting hate (the speech that landed him in court is included in this book). He elaborates on his remarks, at trial, about the prosecutor:
His closing argument . . . is something I could have written myself with my eyes closed while composing a sonnet with my other hand. We all know it by heart before he even began speaking. I’m sure that everyone present here today has heard it a hundred times — a thousand times. It is the doctrinal bath in which we are immersed from dawn till dusk and from dusk till dawn, the ideological and commercial soundtrack of our existence in advanced dogmatically antiracist society.
Antiracism has given Hitler a second career far more destructive than the first. He has become “an idée fixe for the entire continent.” To say someone is like Hitler is the “absolute weapon of language . . . its supreme fulmination, the atomic bomb of maledictions.” The accusation is:
a formidable weapon best kept out of the hands of the general public (or so one would have thought). And yet there it was, available over-the-counter, no prescription needed. Nay, it was freely distributed on every street corner to journalists and school children alike, to talk show “regulars” and brothers-in-law bloated from their Sunday meal.
Because of Hitler, it is no longer possible to talk of European civilization or its transmission and survival:
Any sort of we with the least claim to historical consistency was angrily prohibited. . . . This imaginary world then went about severely scolding the real world every time the latter humbly sought to remind it of its reality, be it only by raising a finger to ask a little question, or by simply revealing its suffering. . . . and if it had the bad taste to insist, this insistence was declared criminal.
Even nations that fought the Nazis were de-Nazified:
as if Europe, and of course, France, having suffered from the Hitlerian cancer, had been and continued to be operated on over and over again by surgeons . . . fiercely resolved to eradicate the evil . . . . These overzealous practitioners have left the patient more than three quarters dead, for in their glee to extract they have removed all vital functions, instinct for survival, and desire for life. The patient is officially alive, no doubt, but he has no more heart of his own, no lungs, no brain, no entrails, no loins, no arms or hands that might take hold of his destiny, nor legs that might carry him, if only to flee from the horror of his condition.
One of the great discoveries of antiracism is that race does not exist, but this discovery only made everything racial. One need know only a man’s race and you know where he stands on the moral spectrum.
Mr. Camus struggles to understand why Europe capitulated:
One hesitates to identify interest as the principal motor of replacist ideology and its lies, for one cannot fail also to take into consideration all of the groups that nobly support, promote, and diffuse these deceitful dogmas against their own interest, often of the most immediate kind (and who are sometimes just beginning to regret it): Jews, women, homosexuals, secularists, champions of free thought and free expression, all cheerfully busy sawing off the branches on which they sit.
At first, Mr. Camus thought that the French must have been demoralized by the defeat in 1940, but notes that the British — among the victors — are just as badly afflicted. He believes that a muscular Christianity might stop the armies of Islam. One of the great strengths of the invaders — at least of Europe — is that they have faith, and a half-dead religion is no match for a living one. However, Mr. Camus sees no hope for Christian revival. Furthermore:
I have too much respect and even affection for Christianity, despite its turpitude, to return to it out of self-interest, strategic considerations, or the simple yet true reason that we would be stronger if the faith still inhabited us. . . . I would not think it honorable to throw myself and still less others into the arms of a religion that inspires no faith in me.
The Great Deculturation
Mr. Camus is as worried about the degradation of French culture as he is about the replacement of the French people — and sees them as inseparable:
I certainly could not say whether the collapse of culture was caused by antiracism. . . . or the contrary, that it was the collapse of culture that led to the triumph of antiracism. . . . All that one can note with certainty . . . is the chronological coincidence of these two phenomena . . . .
[A] living culture, in the full sense of the term, would never have tolerated the triumph of antiracism. . . . A people who knows itself — let us say, who knows its “classics,” to keep it brief — such a people does not accept death because that is what is asked of it.
Mr. Camus admirably refrains from imputing motive:
The organization of ignorance, the teaching of forgetting, the re-savaging of education, and cathode-ray decerebration, were absolutely necessary sine qua non conditions for the establishment of antiracist society in the form in which it is sadly prospering before our eyes. But, once again, I am in no way claiming that the pioneers and champions of antiracism consciously desired this forgetting and deculturation. . . . Like the pioneers of communism, the pioneers of antiracism were often men and women of great intelligence. . . . Nor do I believe the converse, that the advent of antiracist society was the sole or even principal cause of the cultural collapse. . . .
Mr. Camus notes that antiracism calls anything “culture:” rap culture, drug culture, criminal cultures, the practices of savages. The word should mean everything that “had formerly been encompassed by the words art, knowledge, reading, education, research, and humanities.” French culture was “linked to its indisputable status as a national culture, that is, its status until recently as the hereditary culture of a given ethnic group, what one called the French people, in the now narrow, and archaic (and forbidden) sense of this expression.” Today, “having been mixed into every sauce and asked to mean everything and its opposite, I suppose the word has ceased to mean anything at all.”
Mr. Camus argues that what he calls “deculturation” may have been independent of antiracism, and a result of what he calls “hyperdemocracy,” or forcing equality where it does not belong: “Those who claim to harmonize culture and equality, education and equality, and to introduce equality (even if just some), into culture and education are deceiving themselves, or deceiving others, or both.” Equal access to culture can perhaps be imposed but it is “equal access to inequality,” to “the radical inequality, the labyrinth of primordial inequalities, that is culture.” It is not possible to spread culture to all people, any more than it is possible to give them all good taste: “Equality is as absent from culture as it is from nature. . . . Ninety-eight percent of culture or more is in the hands or minds of one or two percent of the population.”
Forcibly distributing culture degrades it:
Knowledge is not a raw material. To spread, extend, broaden, or disseminate it among the public should have no effect on its volume or consistency, nor on the quantity of accumulated reserves. And yet, it unfortunately appears that culture is a raw material after all, for some poorly understood law of social physics would seem to dictate that, while culture may be moderately increased, it may by no means be indefinitely expanded.
Culture is a privilege, and hyperdemocracy hates privilege:
That it is a privilege to enjoy, alone or nearly alone (as at the Villa Medici), the silence and solitude of a magnificent park in the middle of a great city, is undeniable. One may, as a matter of democratic conviction, abolish this privilege by opening the park to the public at all hours. There would be no more privilege in effect. But there would also be no more silence, no more solitude, no more contemplation in surroundings of absolute beauty.
Culture is transmitted through education, which is not the same as the brute transmission of knowledge: “To educate is to educate in the manners, rights, and ways of speaking (and which threaten to become ways of thinking and even of feeling) of the educated class.” Those not of the educated class must learn “rules, codes, principles, tastes, values, language, and interests foreign to those of their origins.” This is hard doctrine to someone of a different class, and must be done:
without telling him explicitly, that his parents speak poorly, that they express themselves poorly, that they reason poorly, that they are interested in the wrong kinds of things, or at least that he should not imitate them in his speech, self-expression, ways of thinking, and personal interests. . . . [He] is more or less firmly called upon to unlearn what he owes to his place of origin, his family, his father and mother.
This could be done when France was still French, confident of its culture and sure of itself, at a time when only a small number of talented people from uneducated classes were trying to join the educated class. Mr. Camus continues: “For culture to survive, for it to be spread within a people, there must be a sufficiently large but not-too-numerous cultivated class, constantly replenished by new recruits.” For those not born to that class, “it takes two or three generations to produce an individual of thoroughly accomplished culture. Such was the serene conviction of nearly all earlier centuries.” Culture is open to all, but:
at its center . . . it must nevertheless contain a hereditary core. As this idea or observation or conviction is extremely unpleasant, it is generally agreed that it must be false. . . . If it were shown that heredity and culture were closely linked, we [in antiracist France] would still prefer to sacrifice culture out of a horror of heredity, which is anti-democratic par excellence . . . .
Mr. Camus has an arresting definition: “Culture is the clear awareness of the preciousness of time.” Of the cultivated man, he writes:
At every moment he must make choices, which is to say, abandon certain paths, certain books, certain areas of study, and certain pastimes. And he is what he is, as much by virtue of what he does not read, what he does not give his time to, what he refuses to waste his time on — this time that culture renders precious — as by what he reads and what he studies.
Such a man’s culture is:
the result of work, exercise, and the slow convergence of favorable circumstances, of a long exertion of will within himself and by countless others, those who willed and built schools, raised libraries and organized their shelves, wrote books, made art, and spent many hours conceiving, preparing, and delivering their lessons. Because it is so dependent on time, and is perpetually besieged by competing desires, hostile interests, active negligence, and pedagogical error, such labor is no more inexhaustible than is water, natural gas, or petroleum — and neither, in this sense, is culture.
“To become cultivated is to become unequal to oneself . . . . It is also to become unequal to others, to those who are less cultivated.” Now, of course, “antiracism comes to the rescue of hyperdemocracy,” and French culture is “explicitly accused of being an instrument for subjugating immigrants and the children and grandchildren of immigrants.” There is no reason to think that “composite populations are amenable to any common culture, since culture is first and foremost (at least chronologically) the voice of the dead, their creative presence.” Antiracism is therefore always at war with culture.
Even before the Great Replacement, French “republican” rulers tried to lure into museums and concert halls those who had no interest in going. This is why these places offer “vibrancy,” new experiences, themes, extravaganzas meant to drive in the uncultured. Much of the permanent collections of great museums goes into storage to make room for fads. Curators want to host the next blockbuster exhibit that will have a record number of visitors, even though the crowds are horrible, don’t understand what they are seeing, and make it nearly impossible for true lovers of art to appreciate what is being exhibited.
Great museums are now surrounded by what the public really wants and quickly retreats to: shopping centers, cafeterias, even — horrors! — Ferris wheels. Museum shops do a brisk trade in trinkets. Mr. Camus concedes that a very few of the uncultured may come away permanently enriched, but “the losers in this mass incursion into what were once sanctuaries of silence, meditation, and individual intimacy with art and thought are the old regulars, who no longer recognize the places they once haunted and end up becoming sick of them.” He calls such people “a species, a human type, supremely precious to civilization.”
The result: “Knowledge, thought, literature, art, and the poetic mode of inhabiting the earth now exist only on the fringes of the fringes, within the gaps of the system, its moments of inattention, the fragmented territory of its collapses, which are fortunately quite numerous.” Culture, “which can serve as a meeting place for a people or a nation, is to the contrary, a private affair, a hobby like any other, a little eccentric, even a little ridiculous.”
One of the little-remarked tragedies of deculturation is that the only difference between the rich and the poor is money: “Until the last third of the last century, ruin did not entail social demotion, or did so only very slowly, since class membership was not uniquely determined by income level, but also by cultural level and the greater or lesser mastery of certain codes governing bearing, dress, and above all, language.” Hyperdemocracy ensures that “the only rich people left are nouveau riches. And if by chance they are not nouveau riches, their children soon will be, as there is no longer any cultural transmission.”
In the past, most people had very little leisure, and people with leisure were cultured. Now, the poor, especially the poor, have leisure — or, more accurately — are idle, and crave entertainment:
It is the job of the state and of various local authorities to dispense this essential service, without which young people, in particular, find themselves with nothing to do. . . . The present failure of mass education may be distinctly read in the intensity of this bizarre demand, and the quite humiliating grievance that it entails for those who make it, for they are admitting that in a society in which so many of the pleasures of intelligence are free, they are neither free enough nor accomplished enough to manage time for which they have no use.
Our rulers fear that if their subjects are not diverted, they will shoot each other, riot, take drugs, break windows, scrawl graffiti. In America, we have midnight basketball, community centers, and program after program to divert “the youth.” The youth are not diverted, and wreck their schools and neighborhoods. Hyperdemocratic schools turn out “proletarians in the ways of the world and above all in the ways of language. The only thing they do not produce are true proletarians, proletarians still prepared to do the work of proletarians.”
French history is now upside down. Students used to learn that in the 19th century Paris attracted artists from around the world because it was the mecca of art. Now they learn that Paris became the mecca of art only because so many foreign artists moved there, and they are not to wonder why they moved.
Our rulers have a vision, writes Mr. Camus, “but it is a vision to prevent us from seeing.”
The Great Replacement of the French is often explained as the inevitable consequence of empire; France must pay the price for unspeakable sins, especially in North Africa. And yet, truly oppressed people don’t like to stay under the administration of their oppressors. “One would [therefore] be forgiven for thinking that France had not left such a bad memory on the other side of the Mediterranean. After all, hardly had the yoke been lifted than her former subjects, with nothing more pressing to do, rushed to her soil.” And not just North Africans. France is now “the country we once believed was ours, and that we are day after day told, is actually open to whomsoever wishes — that is, to no one — but to us a little less than to others.”
Colonization by the French was an unforgivable sin, but colonization by the colonized is a moral right, even as they “endlessly criticize the natives for not sufficiently welcoming them.” On reflection, the word colonization is “too flattering for these masters-in-waiting. For to colonize would be to develop, order, give shape, and build, all things for which our colonizers have shown no particular inclination.” The French must never point out how violent they are: “It seems terribly unjust to them. It infuriates them. Hardly do they hear it then they smash everything, they loot, they plant bombs.”
When Algeria became independent, after 132 years of French rule, it was unthinkable that a population one tenth the size of the indigenous population — French men and women who may have lived there for three generations — should be allowed to stay. Algerian policy was “the suitcase or the coffin,” and the world found this entirely proper. Now, France has officially accepted what Algeria found intolerable: the presence of a foreign population that may be 20 percent of the native population. It has accepted what, for 15 centuries, Frenchmen were prepared to die to prevent — as have so many other Europeans: “It took Spain 700 years to free itself from a yoke that it now seems once again to seek.”
Foreigners beget children while the French do not: “France is now like a spinster who raises other people’s children, children who are strangers to her culture . . . . who in many cases have learned from their families and places of origin to hate that culture.”
Welfare speeds the Great Replacement because “social transfers” are ethnic transfers, and “Europe is the first continent to pay for its own colonization.” Biologists obsessed with biodiversity never worry about the disappearance of the European subspecies.
Mr. Camus is a man of peace, but survival is the first law: “If by some misfortune the only alternative left us is submission or war, we choose war, a hundred times war. And there would be nothing civil about it . . . .” War would be “in keeping with the great tradition of struggles for the right of peoples to determine their own fates, for the liberation of their territory, and for decolonization. We must finally exit the colonial period, about which our colonizers speak so much evil even as they colonize us.”
Mr. Camus notes that the Arab Muslim empire is the only one that has never been decolonized.
This book seldom discusses Jews, but what may have been the greatest scandal of Mr. Camus’s career erupted in 2000, after the mainstream publisher, Fayard, released his 1994 diary, under the title The Campaign for France. Mr. Camus expressed reservations about a program that was broadcast on state radio, France Culture:
No, I’m not anti-Semitic. And yes, I think that the Jewish race has brought humanity one of the highest spiritual, intellectual, and artistic contributions that has ever been. And yes, I think that the Nazi’s anti-Semitic crimes probably constitute the most extreme point of abomination that humanity has ever attained. But no, no, and no, I do not think it is suitable that a discussion that has been prepared and planned — that is official, in other words — about “integration” in our country, on a public radio station, during a program of a general character, should take place exclusively among five Jews . . . .
Mr. Camus added, “And I believe I have the right to say so. And if I do not have it, then I am taking it. I am taking it in the name of that old culture and that native French civilization that are my own . . . .” Jews should not be excluded from such a conversation, but they should not monopolize it.
Laure Adler, the boss of France Culture, pronounced herself outraged, and threated to sue Fayard, which withdrew the original printing and deleted the offending passages. Only a few people, including Alain Finkielkraut, defended Mr. Camus, who refused to retract a single word. He has always made clear that he has never considered Jews, in general, responsible for the Great Replacement.
Now, 23 years later, Renaud Camus is better known than ever. Thanks to this translation, his influence will only grow. We are immensely fortunate to have a man who, by speaking so eloquently for France, speaks eloquently for all of us.