The Right of the Individual to his own Nation

Ryan Andrews

To me, the performance of the Identitarian side on Andy Warski’s live chat last night represented the Alt Right in a nutshell. On the one hand, considering we are drawing from such a small pool, the level of talent on the Alt Right/Dissident Right is astonishing. Richard Spencer is verbally quicker on his feet than anyone the mainstream political nation has to offer at the moment. On the other hand, the continued intellectual sloppiness is frustrating—the alt right movement is almost a decade old now, and at this point we should not be getting tripped up by basic-bitch liberal objections to white nationalism.
The live chat centered almost entirely on Sargon of Akkad challenging Spencer on the merits of ethnonationalism and racial group identity, with a revolving cast of characters choosing one or the other side. Spencer’s side got the better of the first half of the argument, but the opposition were a bunch of goofballs and he/they should have run up the score by a lot more. And by the second half of the debate (which dragged on for hours), Spencer decided to take an absolutist anti-liberal position, and as a result his arguments turned ridiculous and undercut his previous positions. JF Gariépy kept trying to throw him life-lines, and he kept batting them away, preferring to drown rather than concede any legitimacy to Sargon’s liberalism. Earlier, Spencer justifiably scoffed at Sargon’s cartoonish characterization of ethnonationalism and the silly logic of his “autistic” anti-collectivism arguments. And he also explained that the ethnostate is a long-term teleological ideal. But by the end he was insisting, farcically (autistically), that ideas play no role in history.

Maybe Spencer still came out-on-top in the eyes of any hypothetical neutral observers on the strength of his agility as a speaker, but I think his style of argument obscured what should have been a clear victory. Maybe he decided on an “art of persuasion” strategy: ridicule the opposition and concede as little as possible, but I tend to think that style only works with a sympathetic audience willing to fill in the blanks for themselves, and most of the world is not sympathetic to us. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe the strategy worked brilliantly, but either way,  I think Sargon’s questions (well, some of them) are worth answering.

Spencer is right that Sargon’s objections were tedious and peripheral, but they were not irrelevant, nor were they all that difficult to answer. I know Sargon raised concerns beyond the following, but I am more or less satisfied with the answers the alt right side had for those.

–Sargon asks who qualifies as white enough to live in the ethnostate. Spencer and Millennial Woes responded as if Sargon were suggesting that the white race does not exist, hence their Lawrence Fishburne and Uma Thurman comparison, but that is not what he was saying. His point was that there are borderline ethnic groups and people who are mostly white, but not entirely, so what is the cutoff? All they had to say is, ‘Well, we’ll have to choose some cutoff point. The average self-identifying white American is something like 98% white so maybe 90% white is a good cutoff point. That’s not a major focus for me right now, but yeah, of course, we’ll have to choose some cutoff point. The natural world is a continuum, but civilized man is capable of dividing it into coherent categories.’

–Sargon asks how the ethnostate keeps out leftist troublemakers. (Sargon’s specific example was a white-presenting Jew, but the implication goes far beyond that.) Answer: ‘Every responsible country attempts background checks on potential immigrants, and the ethnostate will be no different.’

–Sargon and Styxhexenhammer666 ask how an ethnostate can be achieved in racially diverse North America without massive bloodshed and/or forced relocation. Answer: ‘The ethnostate can be created in an area that is already overwhelmingly white and sparsely populated (relative to the population of white identitarians). We may offer the non-whites incentives to leave, but we won’t force them out. If they don’t want to leave, no big deal, we’ll just swamp them demographically.’

Allowing some time for back and forth, all of Sargon’s questions could have been answered within half-an-hour. If we’re going to devote four hours to arguing about the ethnostate, those questions are worth that much time. In refusing to give straight answers to them, the alt right side ended up spending for more time on them than they deserved.

Certain of Sargon’s questions deserved no time at all and Spencer was right to dismiss most of those with a cutting remark or two. I wish he would have also dismissed Sargon’s request that he define “white culture,” or what white culture should be in the ethnostate. I understand the impulse to have an answer, especially because obviously there is such a thing, but the extent to which whites’ culture is or is not distinct does not have any necessary bearing on the legitimacy of the ethnostate. Relatedly, if you have some clear vision of a preferred cultural arrangement in the ethnostate, that’s fine, but having one is not a requirement.

If you spend much time browsing your local bookstore’s history racks, you will quickly notice that the same stock phrases pop up again and again in the promotional blurbs—”magisterial,” “humane,” “a balanced portrait.” My personal favorite is “sure judgement.” If, for example, you are going to attempt to cover 500 years of history in a 500 page book, you had better be good at paring things down. So the historian of “sure judgement” doesn’t just understand the natures of x and y, and why or why not x led to y; he also understands which subjects require greater emphasis and/or further explanation, which points can passed over parenthetically, and what can be excluded altogether.

The peripheral questions asked by Sargon deserved parenthetical responses, no more or less. Instead they dominated the discussion, and the two sides hardly addressed the heart of the matter—why should the individual bind himself to a nation? Spencer very briefly touched on this early on when he said that, unlike mainstream American conservatism, our starting point is race and identity, but he should have put a lot more pressure on that point. Sargon kept screeching about principles; well, that is our first principle, and that point should not have been passed over parenthetically.

So why should the individual bind himself to a nation? I think the individual wants to perpetuate himself, and I think the individual should want to perpetuate himself. In everything he does, the individual is aiming to perpetuate himself. In his day-to-day life, this revolves around satisfying immediate personal concerns, but his ultimate goal is to ‘survive his death’ by connecting himself to some sort of legacy. And he can only realize this ambition if he is part of some larger group. If he has no part of anything beyond himself, then no part of him will remain after his death. At the same time, the group can not be universal because then membership would confer no distinction on the individual and that would defeat the group’s entire purpose. So for the individual to survive, he needs the group to survive, so he creates a structure to defend the group, and there is a word for such a structure—the state. Of all the divisions of humanity, race is the most ancient and inherent, so I choose that group. Others may identify with some other form of group. That is their individual choice.

Pure liberalism, of the kind Sargon supports, is the equivalent of giving a man all the best tools and materials, but forbidding him from ever building anything. Liberalism may be fine as a means, but it can not supply an end.