Everyone who is troubled by new anti-immigrant populism should make the effort to watch Europa – the Last Battle (Tobias Bratt, Sweden 2017), a 10-episode documentary. It presents in extenso the neo-Nazi version of the last hundred years of European history. According to the series, this history was dominated by Jewish bankers who controlled our entire financial system; from the beginning, Judaism stood behind Communism, and the wealthy Jews directly financed the October Revolution to deal a mortal blow to Russia, a staunch defender of Christianity; Hitler was a peaceful German patriot who, after being democratically elected, changed Germany from a devastated land to a welfare country with the highest living standard in the world by withdrawing from international banking controlled by the Jews; international Jewry declared war on him, though Hitler desperately strived for peace; after the failure of the European Communist revolutions in the 1920s, the Communist center realized that one had first to destroy the moral foundations of the West (religion, ethnic identity, family values), so it founded the Frankfurt School whose aim was to pronounce family and authority as pathological tools of domination and to undermine every ethnic identity as oppressive.
Today, the line of argument in Europa continues, the Frankfurt School efforts are finally showing results in the guise of different forms of Cultural Marxism; our societies are caught in eternal guilt for their alleged sins, are open to unbridled invasion of immigrants, and lost in empty hedonist individualism and lack of patriotism. This corruption is secretly controlled by Jews like Soros, and only a new figure like Hitler who would re-awaken our patriotic pride can save us… When one watches this spectacle, one cannot avoid the impression that, while the authors went much further than our average racist populists would be ready to go, we are getting in Europa a kind of “absent centre” of multiple communitarian-populist movements, the zero-point towards which they all tend and at which they would converge.
When, in my critique of this tendency, I claimed that the greatest threat to Europe are its populist/racist defenders, I was reproached for the obvious absurdity of this claim: how can those who want to defend Europe pose a threat to it? In principle, the answer is an easy one: the Europe these defenders try to save (a neo-tribal Europe of fixed ethnic identities) is the negation of all that is great in the European legacy. The obvious anti-Eurocentric reproach to my claim is, of course, that Europe, the agent of global colonial domination, has no right to offer its ideological foundations as the possible weapon against racism. There is some truth in this: no wonder that the most radical “defenders” of Europe look with distrust at Christianity and prefer pagan (Celtic, Nordic) spirituality. And one can easily see where the problem resides – Orban declared recently the end of “liberal democracy” in Hungary, saying it has failed to defend freedoms and Christian culture in the wake of the migrant crisis. He vowed to build a “Christian democracy” defying EU dictates. “The era of liberal democracy has come to an end. It is unsuitable to protect human dignity, inadmissible to give freedom, cannot guarantee physical security, and can no longer maintain Christian culture,” Orban said.
But are these statements not difficult to combine with those like the following from Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”? And how would Christian defenders of the family deal with the famous passage from Matthew 12:46-50: “While he was still talking to the multitudes, behold, his mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with him. Then one said to him, ‘Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with you.’ But he answered and said to the one who told him, ‘Who is my mother and who are my brothers?’ And he stretched out his hand toward his disciples and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’”?
There is, however, another higher-level counterargument often evoked against immigrants: the point is not that, in their way of life, they are different from us but that they have problems with difference (coexistence of different ways of life) as such. The exemplary case is here that of the Dutch Rightist populist politician Pim Fortuyn, killed in early May 2002, two weeks before the elections in which he was expected to gain one fifth of the votes. Fortuyn was a Rightist populist whose personal features and even (most of his) opinions were almost perfectly “politically correct”: he was gay, had good personal relations with many immigrants, with an innate sense of irony… In short, he was a good tolerant liberal with regard to everything except his basic political stance: he opposed fundamentalist immigrants because of their hatred towards homosexuality, women’s rights, etc.
The reply is, of course, that this argument relies on meta-racism, i.e., on a subtler form of racism whereby we assert our superiority over the Other precisely by claiming that our Other, not us, is racist… But there is another more basic problem we are dealing with here. Asserting openness and the fluidity of identities is not enough, and it is their indeterminacy that is pushing people towards the proponents of populist ethnic identity. The tough question is therefore: what kind of identity is acceptable for a radical Leftist?
Abstract universalism doesn’t work, as was made clear, among others, by Claude Levi-Strauss who, in the essays collected in the second volume of his Structural Anthropology, forcefully demonstrated how a strong assertion of one’s ethnic identity and even of its superiority over others does not necessarily imply racism. He gives the example of many tribes that call themselves “human” (with regard to other tribes denied this quality), i.e., in whose language the word for “human” is the same as the word for “belonging to our tribe.” Although they may appear offensively racist, upon a closer look, their stance is much more modest. It should be read as an implicit assertion of being caught in one’s own way of life: “we are what we are, and for us this is what being human means, we cannot step out of our world to judge ourselves and the others from nowhere, so we also let others be.” In short, their assertion of self-identity is not negatively mediated by others in the sense of envy.
In order to mask its own divisions, populist identity is based on the negative reference to the Other: no Nazi without a Jew, no European without the immigrant threat, etc. However, Political Correctness is also grounded in a negative reference, parasitizing on the sexist/racist “incorrect” Other. This is why the Politically Correct subjectivity is a mixture of eternal self-guilt (searching for the remainders of sexism or racism in oneself) and arrogance (constantly reprimanding and judging the guilty others). The paradox is thus that the problem of populist fundamentalism does not reside in the fact that it is too identitarian (against which we should emphasize fluidity and contingency of every identity) but, on the contrary, in the fact that it lacks a proper identity, that its identity clings onto a denial of its constitutive Other.
Are the so-called fundamentalists, be they Christian or Muslim, really fundamentalists in the authentic sense of the term? Do they really believe? What they lack is a feature that is easy to discern in all authentic fundamentalists, from Tibetan Buddhists to the Amish in the US: the absence of resentment and envy, the deep indifference towards the non-believers’ way of life. If today’s so-called fundamentalists really believe they have found their way to Truth, why should they feel threatened by non-believers? Why should they envy them? When a Buddhist encounters a Western hedonist, he hardly condemns. He just benevolently notes that the hedonist’s search for happiness is self-defeating. In contrast to true fundamentalists, pseudo-fundamentalists are deeply bothered, intrigued, fascinated, by the sinful life of the non-believers. One can feel that, in fighting the sinful other, they are fighting their own temptation. This is why the so-called Christian or Muslim fundamentalists are a disgrace to true fundamentalism.
And what about the assertion of marginal identities in identity politics? Identity politics reaches its peak (or, rather, its lowest point) when it refers to the unique experience of a particular group identity as the ultimate fact which cannot be dissolved in any universality: “only a woman/lesbian/trans/Black/Chinese knows what is it to be a woman/lesbian/trans/Black/Chinese.” While this is true in a certain trivial sense, one should thoroughly deny any political relevance to it and shamelessly stick to the old Enlightenment axiom: all cultures and identities can be understood, provided that one makes an effort to get it. The secret of identity politics is that, in it, the white/male/hetero position remains a universal standard; everyone understands it and knows what it means, which is why it is the blind spot of identity politics, the one identity it is prohibited to assert.
Sooner or later, however, we get the return of the repressed: white/male/hetero identity breaks out and begins to play the same card: “nobody really understands us, one has to be a white/hetero/male to understand what it means to be a white/hetero/male…” What these reversals prove is that one cannot get rid of universality so easily. The obvious old Marxist point about how there is no neutral universality, i.e., about how every universality that presents itself as neutral obfuscates and thereby privileges actual privileges, should not seduce us into abandoning universality as such. If we do this, we obliterate the fact that our very argumentation against false universalities speaks from the position of true universality (which enables us to perceive the position of the underprivileged as unjust). Paradoxically, the assertion of white/hetero/male identity would deprive them of their implied universality and compel them to accept their particularity.