Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 20, 2016

Ricardo Duchesne: the Marxist-Hegelian who became a White Nationalist

Filed under: Fascism,immigration,racism,transition debate — louisproyect @ 6:05 pm

Ricardo Duchesne

Yesterday as I began reading the penultimate chapter of Anievas and Nisancioglu’s “How the West Came to Rule”, one which deals with the “great divergence” between the West and Asia, I was surprised to see a history professor at the University of New Brunswick in Canada named Ricardo Duchesne mentioned as a believer in the “miracle” of the West. Like the more straightforward believers of Western superiority covered by Jim Blaut in “Eight Eurocentrist Historians”, Duchesne attributes its domination of the rest of the world to its “higher intellectual and artistic creativity”.

The last time Duchesne came to my attention was in September 2003 when I commented on a critique of the Brenner thesis that he had written for Rethinking Marxism.

Duchesne’s article is not only worth tracking down as a very effective rebuttal to Brenner and Wood but as a rarity in the academic world: a witty and highly readable essay that entertains while it educates. For veterans of PEN-L, it might come as some surprise to discover that he has written such an article for in the past he was one of the most vociferous opponents of James M. Blaut, both on that list and other lists where the origins of capitalism was a hot topic. For example in January 1998, he wrote the following on PEN-L:

“Now consider the dilemma Blaut finds himself: why did Europe came to dominate the rest of the World? Answer: geographical proximity of Europe to the Americas(!) gave it access to its metals and labor leading to the industrial revolution. Obviously the notion that European capitalism developed as a result of the exploitation of the Third World has been so roundly refuted I need not elaborate this here. Just a handy, if incomplete, stats: At most 2% of Europe’s GNP at the end of 18th century took the form of profits derived from commerce with Americas, Asia, Africa! (I think source is K.O’Brien).”

However, Duchesne now believes:

“The major drawback of Wood’s Origins is its Eurocentric presumption that explaining the transition to capitalism is simply a matter of looking for those ‘unique’ traits that set Europe or England apart from the rest of the world. Marxists can no longer rest comfortably with the story that England and Europe emerged from the Middle Ages with an internally generated advantage over the rest of Asia.”

As it turns out, his dissertation was on the “transition debate”. Written in 1994, it claimed that it would apply a “Hegelian” procedure to resolve a debate that reached an impasse in his view. His dissertation adviser was Robert Albritton, a Marxist scholar generally associated with the anti-Brenner camp. He also thanks David McNally, who we assume was on his dissertation committee, as being “helpful” despite their differences over deconstruction. Since I had just heard McNally paying loving tribute to Ellen Meiksins Wood yesterday, a person who never met a deconstructionist she wouldn’t have had for breakfast, I wondered what that was about.

Out of curiosity, I downloaded Duchesne’s dissertation that is titled “All contraries confounded: Historical materialism and the transition-to-capitalism debate” and turned to the conclusion. It certainly confirms his approaching the “transition debate” from a Hegelian standpoint, as this gibberish from his final paragraph would confirm:

Throughout this movement, however, it is crucial that we do not lose sight of our initial object of knowledge, our explanadum. Our explanadum must be the point of departure for the construction of our concrete whole: it sets the site of over-determination. It is the point from which we will derive a totality which is pertinent to our object of study, as opposed to an indifferent totality in which everything is related to everything else. It is also crucial that we remember our starting point in order to avoid the conclusion that this process of concretization is a reconstruction of history or society as such. Marx’s method of political economy comprehends one area of what Hegel called objective spirit, namely, socio-economic life. Our totality will be a part of a larger and still more complex whole – a totality which will always remain incomplete.

Having followed Duchesne’s interventions around the Brenner thesis on two different mailing lists in the early 2000s, the Hegelian influence is obvious to me seen in retrospect. I state that as someone who studied Hegel’s “Phenomenology of Mind” in 1966 at the New School when I was dodging the draft. Key to Hegel is the dialectic, which poses one set of ideas against another in an ongoing struggle that finally resolves itself in the Prussian state that Hegel bowed down to. Whenever Hegel’s name came up on Marxmail, Jim Blaut raised a stink since he considered Hegel an arch-reactionary and urged us to steer clear of him. Whether Duchesne was a Marxist at the time was open to question but there is little doubt what he turned into today, a vicious racist who has the same worshipful attitude toward the Canadian state of his dreams—one that is devoted to Western values and the White Race–that Hegel had toward the Prussian state.

The first indication that Duchesne had thrown in his lot with the Eurocentrists was a 2005 article taking issue with Kenneth Pomeranz, the author of “The Great Divergence”, a book that held that China was superior to Britain in many respects in the 18th century, and that if not for British access to New World plunder and the availability of coal in the early stages of the industrial revolution it would have remained subordinate to China. Duchesne’s article remained within the parameters of scholarly norms, even though one might wonder whether it harbored a willingness to break ranks with the anti-Eurocentrists that the capricious scholar had tenuous ties to.

But it was the next article that appeared that year that amounted to a “coming out”. Titled “Defending the rise of Western Culture against its Multicultural critics”, it was the sort of article that you would expect to read in The New Criterion or The Weekly Standard. From that point on, everything that Duchesne has written is in the same vein with a brazen disregard for scholarly impartiality. It culminated in a 528-page book titled “The Uniqueness of Western Civilization” that was published in 2011. It has a chapter titled “The Restlessness of the Western Spirit from a Hegelian Perspective” that is a reminder that Blaut knew what he was talking about. It is followed by one titled “The Aristocratic Egalitarianism of Indo-Europeans and the Primordial Origins of Western Civilization”. I am sure that you know that Aryan is another word for Indo-Europeans.

But nothing would prepare you for Duchesne’s personal blog that is a blatant defense of White Nationalism of the sort that is tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Political Research Associates and other groups that follow the KKK, neo-Nazis, et al.

The blog is titled Council of European Canadians and describes its goals as follows:

We believe that existing strategies for immigration reform have not been successful and must be abandoned. We believe that assimilation (of non-Europeans in the current state of mass immigration) would be fatal to our European heritage, and that if we aim to enhance European Canada we must rely upon the current mechanisms afforded by multiculturalism while it lasts. Multiculturalism recognizes the right of ethnic groups to preserve and enhance their identity and cultural heritage.

We are against an establishment that is determined to destroy European Canada through fanatical immigration, imposition of a diversity curriculum, affirmative action in favor of non-Europeans, and promotion of white guilt. The domination of the cultural Marxists is so deeply seated, so entrenched inside the psychology of Canadians that we cannot engage only in ordinary party politics.

It has racist articles by Duchesne and crosspostings from other fascist-minded filth such as Tim Murray, the author of “Ban Muslim Immigration? Trump Is Right” and “Students for Western Civilization”, a group at York University that was formed by “White/European students to challenge those arguments about the inherent illegitimacy of our civilisation’s existence.”

Over the past couple of years, Duchesne has become a public figure in Canada for his racist views. On May 26 2014, he wrote a blog post titled “Chinese Head Tax, White Apologies, and “Inclusive Redress” that assailed Vancouver City Councilor Raymond Louie for urging that discriminatory laws and policies imposed on Chinese immigrants in the city between 1886 and 1947 be investigated. For Duchesne, this was a “cultural Marxist” assault on the city’s White values. (I should mention that his use of this term is consistent with the way it was used by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.)

Kerry Jang, another Chinese-Canadian councilperson, complained to the administration at Duchesne’s college that predictably defended his academic freedom. Meanwhile, some of his peers wrote a letter to the Toronto Star disassociating themselves from Duchesne:

The principle of academic freedom has long been established in Canada and continues to be a cornerstone of the Canadian university system. As such, Dr. Ricardo Duchesne has a right to use that freedom as a member of the Sociology Unit in the Department of Social Science, University of New Brunswick, Saint John.

However, academic freedom entails neither a right to be listened to, nor a right to an audience. We, the undersigned, also exercise our academic freedom and state categorically that we reject Dr. Duchesne’s expressed views on “Western civilization” and consider them void of academic merit. His views are his alone and are not shared by the ten signatories below from the Department of Sociology, UNB Fredericton.

Professors Gary Bowden, Dan Crouse, Tia Dafnos, Nick Hardy, Catherine Holtmann, Jacqueline Low, Nancy Nason-Clark, Paul Peters, Lucia Tramonte and Maria Costanza Torri, Department of Sociology, UNB, Fredericton

I don’t know enough about Duchesne personally to speculate on how he could have ended up as White Nationalist except to say that he was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Apparently the colonial condition was insufficient to keep his head screwed on right. In contrast, Jim Blaut had a very close connection to the island that sustained him until his death. He was married to America Sorrentini-Blaut, whom he met when he was teaching at the University of Puerto Rico. She was a central leader of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, a group that he strongly identified with and no doubt that influenced his decision to take up the question of Eurocentrism. Long after riffraff like Ricardo Duchesne are six feet under, serious scholars will be reading Blaut to get ideas on how to understand the phenomenon that Mahatma Gandhi once described in the following terms when asked what he thought of Western Civilization: “I think it would be a good idea.”

 

16 Comments »

  1. We must protect the academic freedom of ugly racists. If we don’t communists will be tossed out en masse. We already saw a pro Palestinian get kicked out.

    Comment by Rolph — January 20, 2016 @ 11:48 pm

  2. That’s ironic, right . . . ?

    Comment by Todd — January 21, 2016 @ 3:15 pm

  3. Lou, I brought Duchesne’s trajectory to attention on my facebook page a year and a few months ago, and you commented on it. Apparently you’ve forgotten that episode.

    Gulick: Wow, this Ricardo Duchesne. I vaguely recall him from academic left listservs about 15 years ago, as a more or less orthodox Marxist scholar offering decidedly Eurocentric explanations of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. I just rediscovered him in the last 24 hours, and he’s now peddling Nietzschean pseudo-historical sociology interpretations of the “cultural superiority of the West” — dubiously tracing the heroic Western lineage back to the proto-Indo-European, horseman warrior tribes of the Pontic-Caspian steppes. More revealingly, he now rails against enfeebling, elite university-based “political correctness” and “liberal multiculturalism” — deploying Anders Brevik’s language of “cultural Marxism” in so doing — and is actually leading a public campaign to curb Chinese immigration into Vancouver, BC! He also seems to have quite a following at various “race conscious” white nationalist websites and online journals. (Vdare and such.)

    Proyect: Egads. I remember him from his pro-Brenner days and then when he veered in the exact opposite direction. All that oscillation must have made him psychotic.

    Gulick: I completely missed his morphing from a paleo-Marxist into a paleo-con (as it were). To me, it’s a fascinating trajectory. My understanding is that his 2011 book isn’t completely junk, although he relies on a lot of bogus history, makes many unsubstantiated assertions, etc. [I might actually use a little of it in a comparative civilizations course I begin teaching in two weeks, as a counterpoint to Frank (whom I’ve read) and Goody and Hobson (whom I haven’t).] I sense that his further degeneration into reactionary crank since 2011 has something to do with how his book was received in “politically correct, liberal multicultural” academia — it was mostly ignored. He is now vulgarizing his act and actively courting the racialist right.

    Proyect: The more I see of academia, I thank god I didn’t complete my PhD and became a programmer instead.

    Comment by jg — January 22, 2016 @ 5:37 am

  4. You might be interested in a review of Duchesne’s book which is trash at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2304174

    Comment by GS — November 13, 2016 @ 7:08 pm

  5. Maybe he read “The Culture of Critique” by Kevin MacDonald. It’s a well known red pill and essential reading in understanding the trajectory of Western civilisation during the 20th century and beyond.

    Comment by Avi Marranazo — November 18, 2016 @ 12:43 pm

  6. Lost all credibility describing someone as “racist”. Classic ad hominem fallacy. You can’t rest your arguments on a proposition that assumes mental illness of its subject, especially in light of the fact that “racism”, so-called, is practiced by everyone in the world who isn’t a European (persecution of minorities, slavery, etc is still practiced in the non-western world). Is most of the world diseased minded? Unless its the case that you consider only the European as someone who has this mental disorder, a thesis of the Frankfurt school. If one wants to ground system of ideas in the humanities (that necessarily makes value judgements) it must do it with a proper understanding of human nature. It is simply untenable to make Europeans exceptional in this regard, with all the evidence mounting that social identity and ethnocentrism is universal. Ideologies cycle through life stages with birth, senescence, and death. Cultural Marxism (or any form of Marxism) as an obscurantist ideology of a coterie of alienated Jews to dispossess whites from power is turning the corner to the final stage (my accusation buttressed bv the universal human practice of ethnocentrism and social identity, or what Kevin MacDonald calls “group evolutionary strategy). It will not be mourned. The 20th century can die (https://www.google.com/#q=the+jewish+century) and we might be able to get along with business like adults (eg space exploration).

    Comment by Tim Stevens — November 20, 2016 @ 5:13 pm

  7. a coterie of alienated Jews to dispossess whites from power is turning the corner to the final stage

    —-

    Boy, did your parents ever waste their money sending you to college. You could have stayed at home in their basement reading “Mein Kampf” instead.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 20, 2016 @ 5:41 pm

  8. As a member of the Duchesne family, I totally repudiate my brother’s white supremacist crypto-Nazi positions. We are a family of Puerto Rican, Caribbean heritage.Our father is Puerto Rican, our grandfather was of mixed Afro-Puerto Rican and French descent, our mother was a British citizen of Anglo-Indian descent, born in Calcuta. Ricky was born and raised in Puerto Rico with us. We are proud of our cosmopolitan, plural ethnic heritage. It is ironic that our brother Ricardo, given his background, exposes himself to be attacked by the same white supremacists with whom he identifies himself. We can not explain our brother’s absurd racist politics except as a form of the typical self-hatred or wannabe White anxiety provoked by colonial prejudice suffered by Puerto Ricans who have been historically racialized by U.S. colonialism. — Juan Duchesne

    Comment by Juan Duchesne — November 22, 2016 @ 5:03 pm

  9. Its so funny to watch the reactions against academics that don´t conform to the multiculti norm 🙂

    Comment by Gonçalo Figueiredo — December 25, 2016 @ 11:11 pm

  10. Who is an academic? I am retired computer programmer. You don’t need to be a professor to understand that Duchesne is a knuckle-dragging fascist scumbag.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 26, 2016 @ 12:58 am

  11. Not just Duchesne… Anyone who doesn´t conform to the multiculti norm is a “knuckle-dragging fascist scumbag.”
    Because there are just 2 sides: The right one (the multiculti politically correct, etc) and the wrong one (everyone else)…

    Comment by Gonçalo Figueiredo — December 26, 2016 @ 4:28 pm

  12. I have no idea what you mean by not conforming to the multiculti norm. What don’t you spell out your views on the supposed threat posed to White Identity by immigrants so I can get a better idea of what you believe.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 26, 2016 @ 4:31 pm

  13. Hello.

    The comment of “Juan Duchesne — November 22, 2016 @ 5:03 pm” is intriguing, but how do we know that this is really Ricardo’s brother? Anyone could post this.

    At any rate, I find it quite suspicious that a supposedly “former” “Soviet Marxist” from Puerto Rico is herding “white” people together in Canada to “save” us. What’s his motive? (And moreover, we don’t need saving. We need our constitution back, which was hijacked by Marxists in 1982.)

    In particular since Ricardo has declared his approval for the dismantling of Canada by the secession of Quebec, which is a Communist objective for the purpose of transferring the powers of the parliament of Canada and the Quebec legislature into Soviet-style multicultural city-states.

    Ricardo seems to want the “white” people of Canada to all get together and “negotiate” their new place in the multicultural mix of illegally, meaning unconstitutionally mass-immigrated foreigners who do not fall within our ETHNIC confederation, and who are hijacking the seats in our legislatures, destroying our SELF-government.

    In other words, by claiming to promote the “rights” of “white” people in Canada, Ricardo is really blinding them all to Confederation, which is an ethnic federation in which the founders of the country – including the French-Canadians, have legal rights that are enforceable, to protect their interests. But Ricardo calls it a “mosaic”. A “mosaic” may describe the distribution of population, but FEDERATION indicates the LEGAL structure and the POWER structure. Redistributing population, or unconstitutionally mass-immigration new populations destroys the POWERS of SELF-government of the founding peoples of Canada, which spells our GENOCIDE by depriving us of our institutions, and handing them to others for other purposes.

    Multiculturalism is unconstitutional and illegal in Canada, it has never been legally added to the constitution, nor has it legally replaced Confederation.

    Anyway, I’ve got my eye on Ricardo. He seems to be one of a long line of supposedly “former” Marxists all working to “free” Quebec, or “save” the “white people” while working to dismantle Canada for a Communist system.

    Moreover, our color is irrelevant, our political nationality is British North Americans, and there are not “two races” or “two cultures” who founded Canada, i.e. “French Canadian” and “British”. Each province was founded by a local ethnic majority “long on the continent” in 1867. Therefore, we have a minimum of ten founding peoples, not two.

    Ricardo’s motives are highly suspect. And by the way, we are NOT “white supremacists”, we are British North Americans with an ETHNIC FEDERATION: we are “separatists” NOT “supremacists”; we prefer SELF-government to SHARED government. Thanks for listening.

    Question: when did Ricardo Duchesne come to Canada?
    Question: where did Ricardo Duchesne learn his Soviet Marxism? Just in university? Or in a communist cell?

    https://modernfathers1867.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/the-constitution-101-canadian-federalism-and-self-government-for-dummies/

    https://modernfathers1867.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/official-statement-of-notice-to-all-leftist-genociders-from-their-targets-the-founding-peoples-of-canada/

    Comment by Admin — December 28, 2016 @ 9:15 pm

  14. I would like to reply again to “Juan Duchesne” with new information.

    First, Juan Duchesne (above) said: “our mother was a British citizen of Anglo-Indian descent, born in Calcuta [sic]. Ricky was born and raised in Puerto Rico with us.” His comment was posted on November 22, 2016 @ 5:03 pm.

    However, Ricardo Duchesne was interviewed by John Morgan of righton.net on March 7, 2016:

    https://www.righton.net/2016/03/07/an-interview-with-ricardo-duchesne-part-i/

    In that interview, Ricardo Duchesne said: “it should not be too surprising if I identify racially with Europeans, considering, moreover, that my mother is of British heritage, born in England”.

    So which is it, British mother or Anglo-Indian mother? Was she born in England or in Calcutta?

    And how can we prove which one is true, if either one is true?

    Does Juan have any proof to offer that Ricardo’s mother is Anglo-Indian, born in Calcutta? Birth certificate? Passport with photo? And as to family relations, how about a group photo, Mother, Father and sons Juan and Ricardo?

    Because why would a man lie about his own mother’s ethnic identity and birth place, just to promote his own academic career?

    You don’t have to be Japanese or Cree or African or Russian to be consumed with a passionate interest in the history and culture of another people. But in this case, Ricardo is saying more than that. He’s portraying himself as what he calls “European”, which in my analysis of his academic work online and his postings at the Council of European Canadians, means the caucasian gene pool, i.e. “White”. To support that position, he seems to have described his mother as also “White” using the vague term “British heritage” and England as her birth place.

    Comment by Admin — January 6, 2017 @ 1:55 am

  15. Just found this: http://heritagefh.ca/obituaries/?id=186

    The mother of Ricardo and Juan Duchesne was Coralie Duchesne. Coralie:

    “was born in Calcutta, India from a Welsh father and a British mother who were living in India. Mamá Coralie came with her mother to Stratford On-Avon, England at the age of four. She was educated in boarding schools in the UK.

    Coralie entered the University of Sorbonne in Paris when she was eighteen.”

    Now, it seems to me that Juan Duchesne’s description of his and Ricardo’s mother might have been slanted a bit to make her seem more “Hindu” than “British. So far, Ricardo seems to be scoring on the correct ethnicity and culture of his mother. So, why would Juan Duchesne wish to undercut his own brother’s sense of personal identity?

    Comment by Admin — January 16, 2017 @ 12:23 am

  16. […] The history of ideas is a poor guide to understanding how someone like Reza Jorjani crops up. Or Ricardo Duchesne, the former PEN-L subscriber and tenured sociologist, who started off as a critic of Robert Brenner […]

    Pingback by Enlightenment values? No thanks | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — March 13, 2017 @ 6:04 pm


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