Saturday, 13 November 2010

The New European Political Racism, Pt. 3: From Nationism to Conditionalised Citizenship to Ethnic Cleansing

In the first part of this series, I distinguished the rhetoric of the new racism from its actual ideological core, as it appears from analysing original, concrete and comprehensible policy suggestions. These being mainly about conditions for citizenship, what transpired was that the ideology of the new racism is about, what I called, Nationism; the idea that states have a basic moral reason to make a fundamental moral distinction between people who are born of citizens of this state (or who meet some similar immediate citizenship condition) and other people (who need to perform according to some conditions to attain citizenship). At the same time, the new racism is indeed wielding a lot of classic ethno-racist rhetoric. However, as it turns out, this is only a smokescreen for what is the real deal. This is shown, besides the fact that the rhetoric makes no comprehensible mark on what is actually suggested with regard to policy, by the way in which the new racists immediately back down from the ethno-racist claims as soon as they are being challenged. On this basis, I made the point that one of the reasons for the recent success of the new racism in elections is that the nationist ideology has not been adequately seen, exposed, explained and distinguished from ideas about making a difference between different people with regard to citizenship for purely pragmatic reasons (the latter supporting far less drastic conditions for citizenship for people who do not become immediate citizens). The new racists have been able to triumph simply because of the uncertainty of voters and political opponents on this basic point.

In the second part of the series, I continued to demonstrate that this, what looks as the new racists' best political weapon, is actually also their weakest point. This since the strategy of ducking away from objections to the ethno-racist rhetoric is only smart as long as the nationist ideological core is not clearly visible and thereby provides a sort of political hideout camouflaged as something far less sinister than what it in fact is. When we see it for what it is – nationism – we can also see that the joint political message of the new racism is genuinely paradoxical. Nationism is, as a matter of fact, contradicting ethno-racism, and vice versa.

So, suppose that the nationist ideology is effectively exposed (as it surely will be, eventually). Where will this lead (besides having the new racists loosing votes faster than you can say "citizenship test")? Well, the new racism will then have to face the nationist - ethno-racism paradox head on. Facing a contradiction they will, of course, as Robert Nozick once observed, have the option of remaining inconsistent. That, however, will surely lead to the effective end of this sort of political movement for a long time. Simply put, being openly inconsistent is not a trait being favored by very many people - not even with regard to immigration policy. And I'm sure that the leaders and strategists of the new racism are perfectly aware of this. So, then, what will they do?

Well, besides remaining inconsistent, the only available way of reacting to a contradiction is to reject one of its sides. That is, the new racism will have to purify its message into one that is about nationism, and nothing more than that, or drop the nationist ideological core and wander down the more well-known ethno-racist route.

My suggestion is that an openly nationist political movement with no access to further rhetorical sources will not win the hearts of many voters. This for three reasons. First, nationism, when seen clearly is a basic moral position as reprehensible as the idea thatpeople have a right to treat other people much worse just because they happen to have another hair colour, another birthday date, living on another street, et cetera, compared to oneself. It doesn't help very much here that the new racists perform the universalisation trick and thereby avoid the most obvious objection of being simply arbitrary in singling out themselves, their own group, yard, neighbourhood (or what have you) as enjoying a moral privilege that nobody else does. This was one of the factors that made the racism of the first half of the 20th century unsustainable under any other condition than war (which tends to make us all into infantile 1st person egoists). When universalised, nationism avoids this by acknowledging the same moral privilege to all states visavis their own citizens. But since we are not here talking about favors to citizens based on the need for pragmatic adaption to the condition of a multinational world, but of nationism (see part 1 for more about this) clearly spelled out, I suggest that not many people would be attracted to this evolved version of the new racism. In particular, and this is the second reason, they would understand immediately that nationism actually professes measures that are clearly against the national interest as well as the interests of most citizens! How this is so is developed in part 1 as well. Third, part of the success of the new racism surely has to do with the pull that the ethno-racist rhetoric exerts on some people. Without it, the new racists have lost a significant lever of popular seduction.

So, that seems to leave the ethno-racist route, but with some crucial differences to what used to be possible for the new racist movement to do politically. First, the new racism will not hold up for very long if they try to support ethno-racist policy claims with various alleged pragmatic arguments (as they have been trying to do in their recent rhetoric). Not when they no longer have have a nationist ideological core that nobody else sees clearly to hide behind. This means that, rather than a shallow rhetoric, the ethno-racist claims have to become the new ideological core. What will that imply?

As I explained in part 1, and elaborated further in part 2, ethno-racism as an ideology is about making a fundamental moral difference between people sorted in different groups in terms of some selected socio-cultural signifiers, "muslim" being the latest term of division in a long line. Also this idea can be universalised with regard to ideas regarding conditions for citizenship, effectively stating that every state has a basic moral privilege (not implied by pragmatic necessities in a multinational world, but of value in itself) to award citizenship only to people who belong to the group defined by the socio-cultural signifier selected. This is the origin of the idea of a citizenship test that needs to be passed in order for citizenship to be awarded, as well as the notion of revocable citizenship. Now, as demonstrated in part 1, recent new racist policies of such tests are in fact not ethno-racist but nationist, since people who are born by citizens are not required to take any test or conform to any standard of behavior to attain or keep citizenship. However, it is perfectly possible to modify these sort of policies so that they fit perfectly with an ethno-racist ideological core. The only thing needed is that the ethno-racist conditions of citizenship are applied to all people - also those who are born by citizens.

In other words, the ethno-racist ideological turn will force the new racism (at pains of being caught in another paradox) to advocate the idea of conditionalised citizenship all across the board. No one, born in the country or immigrant, can become a citizen unless they are demonstrated to conform to some sort of socio-cultural standard. Moreover, even if they do so and are awarded citizenship, they can be stripped of it if demonstrated to depart significantly from this same standard. This, of course, is the same cluster of ideas where we find the notion of more or less enforced repatriation programmes and, of course, ultimately, ethnic cleansing. Luckily, not many people will be attracted by such suggestions, unless we have a socio-economic meltdown of the sort occurring in continental Europe during the 1930's and a subsequent period of serious violent conflict. Hitler, in his way, understood this perfectly - thus, the gradually sharpened provocations to boost the emerging chaos of Germany.

This is where I end my attempt to understand the ideology of the new European political racism and its role in current, as well as forthcoming, politics. Hopefully, by reading this blog or by just thinking for themselves, political parties and people in general will soon pick up on the trick I tried to expose in part 1 and see what measures are needed to have the new racism caught with its pants down rather soon. This means that the sort of critical reflections on the prejudices residing within the shallow ethno-racist rhetoric so popular among anti-racist, liberal or left-leaning intellectuals are, perhaps not bad or unnecessary, but of secondary priority. Some new topics, such as the crucial difference between nationism and pragmatic accommodations to a multinational world, need to be addressed and some new tactics need to be developed on the basis of that. Godspeed!