Gustave Le Bon on immigration

From Le Bon’s book The Psychology of Peoples, 1898, a book which may be unpopular today, but nonetheless is relevant to our present situation.

Warning: it’s a fairly lengthy excerpt, so you’ve been forewarned.

…[I]t may seem that nowadays there are no longer any barbarians, or at any rate that these barbarians, relegated to the depths of Asia and Africa, are too far from us to be very redoubtable. Assuredly we have not to fear being invaded by them; and if they are to be dreaded it will only be, as I have shown in another work, because the time may come when they will enter into economic rivalry with Europe. It is not with them in consequence that we are concerned here, but though the Barbarians may seem to be very distant, they are in reality very close, far closer than at the time of the Roman emperors. The fact is that they exist in the very bosom of civilised nations. In consequence of the complication of our modern civilisation, and of that progressive differentiation of individuals to which I have referred, each people contains an immense number of inferior elements incapable of adapting themselves to a civilisation that is too superior for them. There results an enormous waste population, and the peoples who come to be invaded by it will have reason to dread the experience.

At the present day it is towards the United States of America that these new barbarians direct their steps with a common accord, and it is by them that the civilisation of this great nation is seriously threatened. So long as the foreign immigration was on a small scale, and composed in the main of English elements, its absorption was easy and useful. It has brought about the astonishing greatness of America. The United States are now exposed to a gigantic invasion of inferior elements which they neither wish nor are able to assimilate. Between 1880 and 1890 they received nearly six millions of emigrants, almost exclusively composed of workmen of a low class and of every nationality. To-day of the 1,100,000 inhabitants of Chicago not a quarter are Americans. The population includes 400,000 Germans, 220,000 Irish, 50,000 Poles, 55,000 Czechs, etc. There is no fusion between these immigrants and the Americans. They do not even take the trouble to learn the language of their new country, in which they form mere colonies engaged in badly paid occupations. They are discontented and in consequence dangerous. During the recent railway strike Chicago narrowly escaped being burned down by them, and it was necessary to fire on them pitilessly. It is solely among their ranks that are recruited the adepts of that barbarous and levelling socialism, which is perhaps realisable in decadent Europe, but is quite antipathetic to the character of true Americans. The conflicts which socialism is about to engender on the soil of the great Republic will be, in reality, conflicts between races which have reached different levels of evolution.

It seems evident that in the civil war that is preparing between the America of the Americans and the America of the foreigners, the triumph will not rest with the barbarians. This gigantic struggle will doubtless end in a hecatomb reproducing on an immense scale the complete extermination of the Cimbrians by Marius. If the struggle is at all delayed and the invasion continues, it will become impossible that the solution should be total destruction. In that case the destiny of the United States will probably be that of the Roman Empire that is to say, the breaking up of the existing provinces of the republic into independent states, as divided and as frequently at war as those of Europe or as those of Spanish America.

America is not the only country threatened by these invasions. There is one State in Europe, France, which is menaced in the same way. It is a rich country, whose population does not increase, surrounded by poor countries whose population is constantly increasing. The immigration of these neighbours is inevitable, and the more so as it is rendered necessary by the growing exigencies of our working classes, taken in connection with the needs of agriculture and industry. The advantages these immigrants find on our soil are evident. They are freed from the obligation of military service, being foreign nomads they have few or no taxes to pay, and the work is easier and better paid than in their native territory. Further, they invade our country, not merely because of its riches, but because the majority of other countries are always passing laws forbidding their entrance.

This invasion of foreigners is the more redoubtable, in that it is naturally the most inferior elements, those that cannot succeed in making a livelihood in their own country, that emigrate. Our humanitarian principles condemn us to undergo an ever increasing foreign invasion. Forty years ago there were only 400,000 such foreign immigrants; to-day they number over 1,200,000, and they are always flocking in in increasing hordes. Considered merely in respect to the number of Italians it contains, Marseilles might be called an Italian colony. Italy does not possess a single colony that contains a like number of Italians. If the present conditions do not change, if, that is to say, these invasions do not stop, but a very short time will have to elapse before a third of the population of France has become German and a third Italian. What can become of the unity, or even of the existence of a people under such conditions? The worst disasters on the battlefield would be infinitely less grave than such invasions. It was a very sure instinct that taught the ancient peoples to dread foreigners; they were well aware that the situation of a country is judged not by the number of its inhabitants, but by that of its citizens.

Once more we find that at the bottom of all historical and social questions lies the inevitable racial problem. It dominates all the others.

These invasions being the consequence of certain economical phenomena it is impossible to control, they cannot be prevented. Still, certain measures might be taken which would at least check them: obligatory military service in the Foreign Legion for all foreigners less than twenty-five years of age and counting two years’ residence; military tax on the older immigrants; almost entire suppression of naturalisation; tax amounting to a quarter of the income or salary on all foreigners established in France for less than fifty years. The Deputy who should cause such a law to be voted would be worthy of a statue erected by his grateful country.”


3 thoughts on “Gustave Le Bon on immigration

  1. Timely and relevant quotation.

    LeBon’s book is available on Kindle for a very modest price. Also, in connection with your several recent posts, see Dr. Bertonneau’s July and August essays posted at the Orthosphere entitled Melville’s Typee and the Case for Civilization, Robert Edgerton’s Sick Societies, and Gustave Leon on the World in Revolt respectively. Tom’s essays are very lengthy, so be prepared to devote a fair amount of time to reading them. Following is the link to the Orthosphere main page. Just enter the title or titles in the search bar, and/or click on Dr. Bertonneau’s contributor profile and scroll through his entries.


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