Charles Bukowski is the Poet Laureate of the Alt-Right
—an essay by Tom X Hart

The German conservative revolutionaries had Ernst Jünger, Vichy had Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Quisling’s Norway had Knut Hamsun, and the US alt-right has Charles Bukowski.

Bukowski — drifter turned LA post office clerk, perpetual beer swiller, poet, novelist, whoremonger, Sibelius listener, gambler on horses, lover and hater of women.

A deplorable before there were deplorables.

Everything Bukowski did was small-time. A small-time gambler on the track. A small-time Post Office worker. A small-time writer with minor presses. A small-time lover (though he certainly looked for value when it came to whores).

And yet, and yet, and yet.

The small-time man’s time has come.

Bukowski died in 1994, but every year a few more posthumous titles roll from the press. Every year his books sell.

And what is the greatest literature? Why, I say to you that it is the novel that is uncanny, uncanny because a person you never met has replicated your thoughts and feelings. You no longer feel so alone. There is a truth out in the world to be found.

Bukowski’s truth has found a million Bukowskis since he died.

Bukowski wrote about what he knew, the desperate lonely men in their apartments and rented rooms. The perpetual bachelors. The drifters from menial job to menial job. The barflys. The alimony groaners. The fathers who haven’t seen their son in…it must be…five years now? The unpromoted for six years. The regular faces at the bar. The college drop outs. The family failures unmentionable at Christmas. The dreamers with a new get rich scheme every week. The embarrassing uncles. The two sentence obituaries in the local newspapers. “Paul Davis, 64. Mr Davis worked at Car-u-Rite for seven years as an administrator. He lived in Los Angeles for twenty years”. The van drivers. The carpet salesmen. The guy who owns a fifteen-year-old car. The obsessive sports fans.

Smart, but unlucky – or just too deformed to be popular. Too lazy to be hen pecked by wives in the suburbs.

In California everyone is golden, everyone is young, everyone is sexy — except these guys, slinking from the adult movie house in a mustard-stained, two-day old shirt.

The Crunch (circa 1977) 
too much too little
too fat
too thin
or nobody.
laughter or
strangers with faces like
the backs of
thumb tacks
armies running through
streets of blood
waving winebottles
bayoneting and fucking
an old guy in a cheap room
with a photograph of M. Monroe.
there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movement of
the hands of a clock
people so tired
either by love or no love.
people just are not good to each other
one on one.
the rich are not good to the rich
the poor are not good to the poor.
we are afraid.
our educational system tells us
that we can all be
big-ass winners
it hasn’t told us
about the gutters
or the suicides.
or the terror of one person
aching in one place
unspoken to
watering a plant.
people are not good to each other.
people are not good to each other.
people are not good to each other.
I suppose they never will be.
I don’t ask them to be.
but sometimes I think about
the beads will swing
the clouds will cloud
and the killer will behead the child
like taking a bite out of an ice cream cone.
too much
too little
too fat
too thin
or nobody
more haters than lovers.
people are not good to each other.
perhaps if they were
our deaths would not be so sad.
meanwhile I look at young girls
flowers of chance.
there must be a way.
surely there must be a way that we have not yet
though of.
who put this brain inside of me?
it cries
it demands
it says that there is a chance.
it will not say
Loneliness is dulled in the crowds, of course.

Among the uniforms, among the chants one is still lonely, of course — but now at least they know you exist.

They know you exist for the first time — and what is more they are afraid.

And who are “they”?

Why, the people who have overlooked you over the years: The big shots with perfect hair and college degrees; the snooty women with PhDs who laugh at your poems; the rich Jews who live off other people’s hard work; the illegal immigrants who smile stupid smiles despite it all; the know-it-all journalists with less talent than the toe nail clipping you chewed on after cutting it off last week; the guy who cut you up on the freeway; the college professors who went from private school to Ivy League university, but love the poor they’ve never met so much — oh, you could tell them stories about their beloved poor.

It’s every petty boss who was more stupid than you. Every superior woman who turned you down because you didn’t say the right things (but really it was because you didn’t earn enough money). Every editor who scoffed at your work. Every petty bureaucrat who made you wait for the hell of it. Every hotel receptionist who gave you a dirty look before handing over the key. Every bouncer who threw you from the bar for being pissed on a Saturday night.

A common misconception on the political left is that the poor, the working class — put it how you will — are basically stupid. Exploited, for sure. The harbinger of a better world, well, that goes without saying. But nonetheless stupid because they let people exploit them.

Sure, the sturdy proletariat has been deluded. False consciousness, as the Marxists say, has blinded the worker to his true interests. But, no matter, with intellectuals to lead the working class — a Lenin, for example — the workers’ eyes will be opened.

That was a very Marxist way to put it, but the same idea is current among the non-Marxist left as well. I do not mean to say here anything so crude as that US liberals are Marxists or inspired by Lenin — they certainly are not.

But there is a common attitude between those political currents and an approach towards the working class — perhaps it is merely because any political movement led by intellectuals will inevitably have such views. I don’t know.

Anyway, US liberals have long been shocked, shocked that a substantial section in the US working class votes solidly Republican.

But why? It’s against their rational (whatever rational means) interests to vote Republican! Why, oh why? What’s the matter with Kansas?

So went the liberal cry. And it is a cry even more amplified now that the same demographic has delivered up a Trump presidency.

In fact, the liberals don’t even pretend to care for these working class oiks anymore — they are disgusted, and perhaps they always were disgusted.

What the liberals failed to understand is that these people are perfectly intelligent. The millions upon millions of Bukowskis may not have made it to college or made a pile of money — but that doesn’t mean they’re not smart.

Sure, they’re not refined. They’re not sophisticated.

They can’t play the contemporary middle class games around ethnicity, sexuality and gender.
And they know it. And they know the middle class know it. And they know the middle class despise them for not being able to do it.

Once it a question of being a member of the deserving poor, with scrubbed doorstep and at least one clean suit.

Today, well, one wouldn’t want to appear too white would one — it just isn’t decent.

What this goes to show is that economics is not enough to move people in the political realm, even if liberalism or socialism delivered the working classes a better economic future it would not be enough.

People have pride, envy, jealousy, resentment, passions, prejudices (reasonable and unreasonable), desires, aspirations, self-consciousness, wit, verve, courage, despair, ennui, desire for appreciation — and so on.

The working class no more want to jump gratefully to the liberal tune than to their boss’s tune at work.

And in many ways voting for the party that cuts against your economic interest is preferable to voting for people who despise your habits and way of life.

Exploit me, sure. Just don’t ridicule what I am, okay? No need for the liberal to rub it in, eh?
You’ll never be rich, so why abase yourself before the liberals?

And, anyway, most Bukowskis are smart enough to know that politicians never changed shit anyway. The liberals will get cushy government jobs and cut you cold while saying they’re doing it for you.

Pious frauds. The Republicans are mean bastards — but they don’t pretend to be saving the world.
The deadbeats have their theories about the world, too. A pampered middle class liberal can believe in universal brotherhood, say the Bukowskis. It’s easy with a degree, a fancy house, a good childhood, a sexy wife to say all men are brothers.

Did these guys ever try working in a suburban call centre? Amid the farts and public hate and stench from half-eaten McDonalds the workers not so cordially stab each other in the front. The girl over there with hula hoops in her ears has fucked half the staff, and now three goodish men are down with crabs. It’s a beautiful world, isn’t it?

All men are brothers? Give me a break. I don’t think even the liberals who say that believe it. I see it in their eyes. They say the right platitudes because they want another cookie come annual review.

Dinosauria, We (1992) 
Born like this
Into this
As the chalk faces smile
As Mrs. Death laughs
As the elevators break
As political landscapes dissolve
As the supermarket bag boy holds a college degree
As the oily fish spit out their oily prey
As the sun is masked
We are
Born like this
Into this
Into these carefully mad wars
Into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness
Into bars where people no longer speak to each other
Into fist fights that end as shootings and knifings
Born into this
Into hospitals which are so expensive that it’s cheaper to die
Into lawyers who charge so much it’s cheaper to plead guilty
Into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed
Into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes
Born into this
Walking and living through this
Dying because of this
Muted because of this
Because of this
Fooled by this
Used by this
Pissed on by this
Made crazy and sick by this
Made violent
Made inhuman
By this
The heart is blackened
The fingers reach for the throat
The gun
The knife
The bomb
The fingers reach toward an unresponsive god
The fingers reach for the bottle
The pill
The powder
We are born into this sorrowful deadliness
We are born into a government 60 years in debt
That soon will be unable to even pay the interest on that debt
And the banks will burn
Money will be useless
There will be open and unpunished murder in the streets
It will be guns and roving mobs
Land will be useless
Food will become a diminishing return
Nuclear power will be taken over by the many
Explosions will continually shake the earth
Radiated robot men will stalk each other
The rich and the chosen will watch from space platforms
Dante’s Inferno will be made to look like a children’s playground
The sun will not be seen and it will always be night
Trees will die
All vegetation will die
Radiated men will eat the flesh of radiated men
The sea will be poisoned
The lakes and rivers will vanish
Rain will be the new gold
The rotting bodies of men and animals will stink in the dark wind
The last few survivors will be overtaken by new and hideous diseases
And the space platforms will be destroyed by attrition
The petering out of supplies
The natural effect of general decay
And there will be the most beautiful silence never heard
Born out of that.
The sun still hidden there
Awaiting the next chapter.
Misanthropy. A common theme to Céline, Hamsun and Bukowski. And Bukowski admired those two writers, for sure.

There is a sourness to fascism — for all the uniforms and muscular marching men fascism is a political movement for the unhealthy, deformed and the bitter.

Unable to love, unable to be realistic and accept limitations the fascist sweeps everything away.
If I cannot have universal adulation let the world end! No limits! No restraint! All is corrupt and I am corruption too, so let it all end! Viva la muerte!

So goes the fascist refrain.

Bukowski was okay with Hitler — as with most fascist writers he was not too serious about the politics. He was not so crude as to be a joiner — and besides he hated people too much.

Stormtroopers have to get up early for long marches. Bukowski advocated sleeping in bed all day as a cure for having to interact with people so often.

It was enough for him to dangle the name ‘Hitler’ and make liberal journalists squirm uncomfortably — an amusing game.

The Charles Bukowski Tapes (1985) №16 
Bukowski: “I’ve admired all men like Adolf Hitler. All gross, evil creatures have something because they don’t believe in the rules. I mean you’re supposed to…this is not right. These guys just come out and say, “I’ll do, well…” You know? They have escaped from all teachings and so the rest of humanity says they’re insane, they’re insane.
Interviewer: What happens when these evil men start attracting followings?
Bukowski: Well, if enough evil men attract enough followers and the followers spread all over the Earth and they become good men. Then we need new evil men to overthrow.”

The final sentiment is Nietzschean. What is “good” or “evil” is determined by the herd, perhaps influenced by a few extraordinary individuals.

But even these exceptional rule breakers will probably be pulled down by the mass. All is hopeless and moving towards entropy in our indifferent universe.

A few animal pleasures, our absurd, comical fucks, our drunken blabbing punctuated by music’s exceptional beauty, are the best we can hope for.

What keeps a man alive is his compulsion to steal and kick his fellow man in the face.

So wrote Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht in the Threepenny Opera, but for these leftists the compulsion was short-term, local to capitalism.

For Bukowski it is the human lot forever.

In another video Bukowski states his belief that all men are rapists and murderers. It is merely social conditioning that makes us “good boys” — sometimes.

He imagines a man who has broken through the rules — raped a women, murdered her, and then sat under a tree eating chocolate cake as her blood flows into a river.

Then there is a break, a moment of pathos, Bukowski hopes that what he says is not really so. It was also the case with Céline, his works show man as low, viciously comical, pathetic, without redemption — and yet as a doctor he showed kindness to his poor patients, and sometimes even to characters in his works.

I believe this is because Céline and Bukowski are what all misanthropists must also be — hopeless idealists. It is the spolit child’s attitude to life, which sees that people are low, lusty, greedy and imperfect and so decides to hate all.

But this hatred springs from a belief that people can be better, should be better. But people always disappoint.

And if a perfectionist cannot have second best they will have nothing at all.

This is why misanthropy and fascism are childish — and why Bukowski and Céline flash occasional humanity in their works.

The Charles Bukowski Tapes (1985) № 21 
Bukowski: “As time goes more and more on there seems to be an attrition of natural, creative talent. I guess it is the crush of the numbers upon the Earth, and also the fact we’re all narrowed down through shit like television, newspapers, communication. Communication is the greatest destroyer of talent because it makes everybody like everybody else….The chance for genius becomes less and less. The others say it’s more and more, but it’s the same kind of genius they agree with, you see? The true geniuses like Idi Amin, Adolf Hitler and Charles Bukowski will become less and less and less and less. Further questions?
Interviewer: There is something behind the light.
Bukowski: Huh. The devil’s face [laugh].

The lone genius, another theme from Nietzsche. But not the conventional genius. Not Gandhi. Not RFK. Not Einstein. Not a wet humanitarian.”

Bukowski celebrates diabolical genius.

And he teases us, placing himself alongside the great tyrants. When he does so he is every man who has ever watched a war film, or played a shoot-em-up video game, or debated with his friends down the pub whether a Russian tank could beat an American tank — although the only khaki he has ever seen is his car’s upholstery.

Bukowski never so much as killed a man, and by his own account he couldn’t do it if given the chance.

This is the mind-world such an attitude creates:

It’s fun to be evil, a bit like hating people. It’s like using the word “k**k*” and watching all the pious fucks collapse with shock. It’s like scaring the liberals with a cartoon frog that’s anti-semitic, so they think. Suckers! It makes us feel important. We count at last. People will notice! We’re not losers anymore, we’re dangerous — we’re the devil!

It is a dangerous game to write as Bukowski and Céline did. So much they say is true, well put — humans are such comical, vicious and stupid creatures. So vain and pompous, so desperate to do good — and so cruel when we try to do it. Behind every humanitarian impulse there’s desire for power.

Yes, it’s all true — life is about sex, and sex is about power and money is a proxy for both. And when the sentimentalists and pious try to put lipstick on the pig it is embarrassing, funny and cruel.

Céline and Bukowski are right.

But if life is measured as one foot, 11 3/4 inches are sex, money and power.

And 1/4 inch is love, honour and duty — it is in that 1/4 inch that we really live.

Few authors make crude, direct political appeals in their poem or novels. Their politics are implicit in the way they see the world, as Bukowski and Céline’s fascism is implicit in theirs.

This does not mean we should not read these works, for they still speak truth about the world and help us understand how those drawn to fascism think.

It is not the truth we want to hear, but it is the truth still.

The new Twitter rival Gab has launched with a promise not to censor users as Twitter does.

The Bukowski quote on Gab’s homepage.

Figures who identify with the alt-right, such as Richard Spencer, and those who wish to see the alt-right speak, such as Milo Yiannopoulos, have been removed from Twitter (though Spencer has now been restored).

Gab is the platform of last resort for them.

Notice that pesky frog stands above Gab’s sign up buttons.

And below the sign up buttons, a statement from Mr Bukowski himself.

It could have been Voltaire. It is Bukowski. It is Bukowski because this is the time of the small-time man. This is the time of the Bukowskis.

They do not love or admire their president — but they love the way he sneers at the people who have sneered at them decade-upon-decade.

Bukowskis live on your righteous scorn. Bukowskis are afraid to love.
Listen, big-time man! Listen to the schlubs!

Tom X Hart is a writer based in London, UK. You can read and follow Tom X Hart on Medium.