Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Seductive Power of Nationism: from Revocable Citizenship to Abolishment of the Citizenship Idea

This week, a development that I predicted in a series of posts on the ideology of the new European racism (here, here, here) has occurred for real in Swedish politics. Often controversial local labour leader in Malmö, Ilmar Reepalu, suggested that criminals who have attained their Swedish citizenship recently, should be expelled from the country after having served their sentence (here, here, here, here, here, here, here). It is rather unclear if the idea of Reepalu is that (a) citizenship should be revocable for some time (how long?), or that (b) citizens should be possible to expel from the country for some time (how long?) after having attained the citizenship. In any case, his suggestion has been applauded by Sweden's own new-racist party, the Sweden Democrats, who quite rightly point out that the idea is a central one in their political program. With a few exceptions, the suggestion has met with massive criticism from within the Swedish labour party, as well as from other parties across the political scale.

Nevertheless, I am not surprised that this sort of suggestion is being picked up by politicians outside of the new racist movement. As described in my first post on this subject, this movement has devised a clever ideological trap that is very easy to be seduced by, and it appears that it is this very trap that Reepalu has fallen right into. However, the sort of suggestion he makes is, as I pointed out in my second post, vulnerable to, what I called, the nationism - ethno-racism paradox. When it comes to the idea about revocable citizenship, this paradox leads to the logic that, as a matter of fact, all citizenships should be revocable all of the time (or, alternatively, that it should be possible to expel all citizens). Here's the line of reasoning:

The idea about revocable citizenship (or a citizenship consistent with being expelled from the country) is motivated by the idea that if you commit (sufficient or sufficiently serious) crime, you demonstrate that you do not have a required allegiance to your country, its culture and its shared values (never mind the haziness of these notions at this point). But if that is the case, obviously, this applies to everyone, also those that have their citizenship due to having been born by (or having a lineage to) a citizen. In effect, logic seems to dictate that it should be possible to expel anyone who commits crime (to a sufficiently serious extent) – citizen or not.

Effectively, this means that the whole idea about citizenship is abolished. 

Now, there is – as I noted in my third post – one way to avoid this conclusion, and that is to go down the pure nationist route. Reepalu would then have to argue that there is a fundamental difference between those criminals who have Swedish citizenship due to birthright (these are the vast majority of criminals) and those who have attained it later in their lives. Reepalu would then need to make probable that labour party ideology supports the notion that the value of a person is (partly) determined by who happened to be his or her parents.

Good luck with that one!


  1. "Effectively, this means that the whole idea about citizenship is abolished."

    Yes, but it remains to be argued that this specific "idea" about citizenship is the right one. Perhaps it is possible to argue (even though I am not arguing for it) that citizenship should be more of a loose connection to a state, like joining (or being expelled from!) a club, or the like.

  2. Mikael: true. And, I must confess, I very much look forward to having the Sweden Democrats launching this idea as a central notion in their next parliamentary election platform! Wouldn't mind having Mr. Reepalu going down that route either, for that matter.