The Jonathan Bowden Interview

Posted on 5/19/2012

The following video is a fifty minute edited segment of a three and a half hour interview I filmed with the British author, artist, and orator, Jonathan Bowden, back in 2009.

The location was a bar in a private members' club for ex/serving military personnel, in Waterloo central London.

Sat surrounding JB, in a horseshoe shape, like attentive listening disciples around a besuited sage were fifteen members of the London New-Right; the pragmatic English take on France's GRECE/Nouvelle-Droite, that was founded in 2005 by Troy Southgate. The interview itself had taken place shortly after Bowden had closed a successful NR meeting with a memorable and energetic talk about the historical and cultural significance of Punch & Judy; a favourite subject he'd covered previously in essays and a film entitled Grand Guignol.

Forever the performer, Bowden enjoyed the attention and answered the myriad of questions put to him instantaneously,  like an actor delivering lines from a well rehearsed script, but in his case, they were questions he had been contemplating for most of his adult life.  The topics ranged from a damning critique of The Conservative party, UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) the BNP (British National Party), Islam, Christianity, Paganism, the Middle-East, Israel, the EU, Feminism, and the social decline of the working-class ethnic-English in the post-industrial north.  

In-between questioning we broke for coffee and I decided to keep the camera running. For myself, this was the most interesting part of the whole proceedings because it allowed Jonathan's humour, complaisance, and knowledge of British popular culture and subcultures to come through. There were also some humourous anecdotes thrown in about an ex-tabloid newspaper columnist and characters that Bowden had crossed paths with over the years. Due to their potentially libellous nature I promised Jonathan I would edit them out if the interview ever saw the light of day.

JB: Cut all that stuff out I said about G**y Bu***ll, would you?

As is now widely known Jonathan passed away in March of this year (2012) from coronary failure - not long after suffering a nervous breakdown - and a month shy of his 50th birthday. As was commented about his death elsewhere online, "when you push your mind to those sorts of limits something has to give". Jonathan Bowden, a Nietzschean 'til the end.

A full DVD interview (minus personal details and libelous comments) will be available soon from this site. Below, Christopher Pankhurst discusses Jonathan's work and legacy, and following on from that, Michael Woodbridge, the benefactor of Bowden's estate and founder of The Jonathan Bowden Foundation, has kindly transcribed his recent memorial talk that he gave in London. 

(NB) Black Gnosis claim legal and moral right to the above footage. Published transcriptions, in part or whole, are not permitted. Embedded links are acceptable if you acknowledge

With the sad passing of Jonathan Bowden the New Right has lost one of its most gifted advocates and humanity has lost its most gifted orator.  Like other commentators who have written about Jonathan in the few weeks since the announcement of his death, I regard Jonathan's unique contribution to have been his erudite, entertaining and inspiring speeches.  Whilst there is no substitute for hearing a great speaker in the flesh, it is happily true that a great deal of the power of Jonathan's oratory is communicated through the many videos that were made of his talks, and which are currently available to view online.  This enduring legacy is largely due to the foresight of a Black Gnosis member, who took the trouble to film many of Jonathan's speeches at the regular London New Right gatherings.

I first became aware of the power of Jonathan's oratory when someone on an internet forum asked Troy Southgate if the transcript of a particular speech could be made available.  Troy replied that Jonathan never prepared or consulted notes when he spoke.  This intrigued me.  In the modern world of endless noise and distraction how many people have the mental capacity to deliver an hour long speech without notes or preparation?  When I found the speech in question online and listened to it, my intrigue grew to an immense respect.  'Heidegger and Death's Ontology' taught me a great deal about Heidegger, a philosopher I had found too daunting to ever try reading, and it inspired me to begin exploring his work.  It also taught me a great deal about Jonathan: about his encyclopaedic knowledge; about the laser precision of his eloquence; and about his ability to enrapture an audience with a forbiddingly abstruse topic.

The facility with which he could engage his listeners was remarkable to behold.  All the more so considering the fact that he never talked down to an audience.  Indeed, he expected his audience to do a great deal of work in following his various trains of thought, his labyrinthine sub clauses, and his perfectly formulated parentheses.  The complicated structural form of his talks was never a barrier to understanding them; it just seemed to be a necessary means to incorporate the vast array of ideas and illustrations that were required for him to express what he had to say.  And what he chose to emphasize again and again was that we are engaged in a cultural struggle at all levels of social activity.

One example of this will suffice.  During one particular speech Jonathan claimed that Pol Pot, the future leader of the Khmer Rouge, heard lectures given at the Sorbonne by Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.  When these existentialist intellectuals discussed notions such as the necessity of destroying the family as a bourgeois construct, Pol Pot interpreted them rather literally and carried out their ideas with Maoist zeal.  Thus, Jonathan described a political spectrum of Marxism stretching from the feminism of The Second Sex to the killing fields of Cambodia.  And this, of course, is the dirty secret of liberalism.  When it requires a face of tolerance and humanity to succeed then it will wear that face; when it requires bullets, the mask is changed accordingly.  The hypocrisy is mostly hidden due to the hegemonic influence of the Left across all political and cultural institutions.

Jonathan often described the New Right as an alternative university, one free from this hegemony of Marxism.  His desire was to see everyone on the New Right raise their game and begin to address these cultural issues directly from our perspective.  To a great extent this is a lesson that has to be learned from the praxis of the New Left.  We are at a stage where political censorship and demographic change have made it impossible (or at least unlikely, if one is being optimistic) for us to regain control of our political institutions by the usual channels.  The role of the New Right, as Jonathan delineated it, is to explore the realm of ideas at a higher level; to face the intellectual reality of New Left hegemony and challenge it head on; and to provide a cultural space wherein young people, whose ideas may not yet have been totally corrupted, can find an alternative current to the materialistic doctrines of contemporary Western societies.  This is a project that can and should be pursued at all levels of cultural activity.  Whether in the creation of fine art; the reviewing of popular films; or the exegesis of complex philosophical ideas, we should be attuned to our position as European men and women resisting the current of materialism and liberalism.

Jonathan pursued this cultural project vigorously, producing a great many paintings and books, and also a couple of films.  It is true that some of these works are difficult to locate within a conventional 'right wing' discourse, but I do not think that this is a failure of those works.  Instead, they represent a desire to create a new aesthetic space in which works which are expressive of the ethos of Western man could be produced, without the necessity of either craven apologetics to the liberal elite or self-imposed submission to a didacticism of the right.  His paintings in particular, which look like a sort of cross between Egon Schiele and Francis Bacon gone wrong, can seem deeply rooted in post-modernity, but in reality they express a sense of projection into a more autonomous artistic future.  The distortion of the figures and the claustrophobia of the composition are relieved by the vivacity of the colour palate and an associated sense of strength and belief.  I believe that many of these pictures represent the caging and etherization of the European spirit at the present time and the ultimate indefatigability of that spirit, and I suspect that they will come to be more admired as time goes on.

Whenever Jonathan spoke in public he wore a wooden runic pendant to express his pagan beliefs.  The symbol on the pendant was the odal, or eðel, rune.  This is representative of 'home' or 'homeland'.  A home is a space that is won by one's ancestors and that must be vigorously defended by the descendants or it will be destroyed.  Within the home it is possible to be oneself, to experience a real and hard-won sense of authenticity and autonomy.  But the price for this is constant vigilance.  The integrity of our Western homelands has now been breached; the causes for this are manifold, and so the methods of our resurgence must be manifold.  This seems to me to encapsulate Jonathan's weltanschauung, and to provide a blueprint for us to continue to manifest his legacy.

Christopher Pankhurst 2012


JONATHAN BOWDEN (A living memory)
by Michael Woodbridge 

Ladies and gentlemen/Meine Damen und Herren,

As I'm fond of telling people, I used to attend Theosophical meetings in Letchworth. There in large letters across the front of the stage was the legend, "There's no religion higher than truth". So what I'm going to do today is to tell the truth about Jonathan Bowden.

As Jonathan would have concurred, there is at heart two kinds of truth. There are the truths we feel inside ourselves and there are the outside truths which we discover through impartial observation. The inside truths are the emotional values we give to things and which are of our very essence, while the outside truths represent the factual reality by which we have to live. In fact, although separate, we depend on finding an equilibrium between both kinds of truth for our survival. Yet, however we regard truth, it's my contention here that Jonathan Bowden's memory, above all others, can withstand the spotlight of truth.

During his life Jonathan was a complete enigma, a mystery which is only now beginning to unravel since his death. Those of us who knew him well were never invited to his home - except in my case at the very end - after his breakdown. And those of us who enjoyed the privilege of his company on a one to one basis, often through driving him around the country, will recall that on dropping him off he would sometimes walk in a different direction to throw us off the scent as to where he actually lived. Now, after his death though I think we should respect his dignity and not speculate over much as to the reasons for such subterfuge. The best thing to do is to recognize that while not only was Jonathan an intensely private man above all, as I shall explain, he also created his own reality.

He was fond of referring to Mycroft, the fictitious Sherlock Holmes' fictitious brother. A character who was virtually a disembodied brain having only a tentative connection with physical reality. Like Mycroft, Jonathan existed largely through his own thoughts and imagination. The material world, apart from a sometimes hearty appetite, was almost extraneous to his life. On many of our long walks beside the River Thames, I would be brimming over with wonderment at the variety and beauty of nature, wanting to share my joy of the outside world with him, but although never unappreciative, Jonathan's eyes would always remain firmly fixed on the conundrums within his mind. Side by side with Jonathan's intellectual understanding was the joyful wisdom brought to him through his intellectual courage; courage to face objective truth and so conquer new realms of knowledge. Jonathan epitomised the Aryan tradition because like Prometheous he dared steal fire from heaven. 

When I first got to know Jonathan well I would ferry him around on the back of my motorbike which is all I had in those days. Sitting pillion with his large furled, golfing umbrella, wearing my spare crash helmet (which would never have passed the health and safety commissars) and completely fearless as we winged our way around country lanes, he always reminded me of some Don Quixote tilting at windmills. Perhaps we both were!

It was only once I'd bought a car that I started to drive JB to political meetings and it was in his speeches that he displayed his complete disregard, contempt even, for political temporizing. Asked on a Red White and Blue platform whether he was an ethno-nationalist he replied, that he wouldn't lie to the British people; he was a racial nationalist! On another occasion, in front of the assembled British National Party leadership he would declare for the "Aryan Race". Nick Griffin's thoughts were palpable, "We've got a right one here", I could hear him thinking. Or we may recall how Jonathan upset Party functionaries for instance, by asserting at a meeting in the North West that he was a Fascist and White Supremacist! Shocking though such sentiments may seem (well to some people anyway) Jonathan would reason -  how can we attract a leadership corps, how can we appeal to a much needed new elite if we refuse to take honest cognizance of our historical context? Furthermore, how can we take our country back for the White British people if the White British people are not supreme in their own land? Without White supremacy "British jobs for British workers" is just a hollow phrase.

Jonathan Bowden, we miss you!

Yet there was no trace of pettiness in Jonathan's attitude towards other races or anything else for that matter. Behind his assumed Nietzschean facade was a very sensitive and understanding person. Not for him conspiracy theories either, whether true or untrue. Jonathan saw life only as an idealistic battle of ideas: between elitism and liberalism, between aspiration and degeneracy; not between vested interests,  Zionist, financial or otherwise. If he were ever a materialist it would have been of the ethereal variety!

In every way Jonathan stood leftist presumptions on their head. Take the liberal idea of tabula rasa for example - the idea that as individuals we are completely innocent. Our brains are a clean slate upon which our experience and upbringing writes its unique story and shapes our character. Yes! Jonathan looked at his own tabula rasa as a completely clean slate, but, instead of allowing the chance happenings of the outside world write his story he would assume complete control. He would write his own fictitious story. Jonathan decided from an early age to write his own life story.

That doesn't mean that real things never happened to him, of course they did, but his creative imagination allowed him to recreate, reinvent himself. He recreated himself as the principal protagonist in his own novel. Although I suspect his breakdown eventually proved his undoing, his first words to me after he realised what was happening were, "Good, just like Nietzsche!".

As Jonathan's medication gradually allowed the outside world to replace his inside world so it shattered his life's creation. Those who saw him more recently could tell that whilst he had lost none of his intellectual vigour, he had lost some of his old confidence. Some of the ghost had already left the machine.

Many of our circle are courageous. (I can think of more than one in this room today). As individuals we defy conventional norms as dealt to us by a degenerate society.  But, Jonathan Bowden was unique in that he detached himself entirely from the contemporary world of dross and compromise to reinvent himself as his own hero. A true romantic, and for us a true hero also. Thank you.

Michael Woodbridge     
(The London Forum. 19/05/12)

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