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Ethnonationalism as a Cultural Revolution

[1]2,095 words

Speech at the Awakening Conference, Helsinki, April 8th, 2018

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

My name is Timo Hännikäinen. I am the editor-in-chief of the online magazine Sarastus [2] and the book publishing company Kiuas. I am also an author; I have published twelve books, mostly literary essays about a variety of subjects like literature, cinema, sexuality, politics, and history. They still get pretty good reviews, though many of my colleagues started to avoid me when I came from the closet as a nationalist some ten or eleven years ago.

So, I am a man of letters, a man of culture, and that is why I would like to say a few words about the ongoing cultural upheaval or cultural revolution in Europe. I have noticed that nationalism, especially ethnic nationalism, has taken the cultural role formerly occupied by the Left — the role of challenger of the liberal system and liberal values. I will try to explain in a more detailed way what I mean.

A few weeks ago I was watching the Academy Awards ceremony on TV. Fifteen minutes was enough for me, because the volume of propaganda was so overwhelming, and its content was so concordant. Almost every actor, director, and pop singer was promoting #metoo, gun control, intersectionality, solidarity for refugees, and so on.

Of course this was just another example of a certain Western phenomenon, but perhaps the most obvious and influential one. Millions of people worldwide were testifying at a political revival meeting where the concepts of the academic Left had become fully mainstream. Every performer chanted his or her part of the liturgy with a bleached smile in ten-thousand-dollar pieces of clothing. There is now no way to deny that the ideas of the radical Left are shaking hands with big business. The old Leftist claim that financial capital and the far Right are natural allies doesn’t hold true anymore — if it ever held.

To put it briefly: there is nothing rebellious in Leftism anymore. As much as the so-called 1968 Generation spoke about perpetual revolution, they were just one lobby group among others. They rebelled to replace one regime with another, and now its once provocative ideas are used as instruments of repression and indoctrination. Descendants of the ’60s New Left failed even in patricide, and now they are the ones who are trying to ban books and concerts, to disrupt political meetings, to make the use of dirty words punishable, and to put people in jail.

Some more intelligent “progressives” have already noticed this. Pekka Torvinen, a leftist columnist in the weekend supplement of Finland’s biggest newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, wrote last February that the modern Left’s puritanism and aggressive moralism has paved the way for Rightist internet trolls and nationalist identity politics.

But even when the Left realizes some of its most obvious mistakes, it does nothing to correct the worst ones. Leftists still believe they hold the moral and rational truth, and that their opponents are only motivated by hatred and nostalgia. And what is even worse, they have no convincing visions of the future. We have already seen state socialism and its consequences. After the collapse of socialism, the Left has had nothing to offer except pipe dreams and some strange panaceas. It has no long-term plans to improve the conditions of the working class or any significant section of society; it only courts marginal groups like sexual minorities, career students, and self-loathing upper class kids.

The ideas of today’s Left are only a more extreme and more absurd variations of those that shook western societies fifty years ago. But they have lost their power to shake. To be feminist or anti-racist today is like being Catholic in the Vatican or smoking pot in Amsterdam. So the Left must go to the most idiotic extremes to maintain the illusion of rebelliousness. And at the same time, it turns into a guardian of moral purity with its trigger warnings, safe spaces, and diversity training.

All this can be explained quite easily. There is no such thing as perpetual revolution. Revolt is not Leftist or Rightist; it is always directed against the powers that be, whoever they are. In time, every idea ceases to be dangerous and becomes mainstream. Originally, the word “revolution” meant cyclical movement. When something turns upside down, sooner or later it turns back into its original position, and a new cycle begins. Or perhaps we should describe it as a spiral: there is some change and development, but some patterns recur eternally. In other words: to survive, every social or cultural revolution must establish new norms and put their endurance to the test.

The cultural revolutionaries of the ’60s attacked every institution and broke every cultural norm, but in the end they had nothing with which to replace what they destroyed. They only created a great vacuum, and that vacuum has now been filled with primitive instincts. Later it may be filled with some foreign cultural or religious system like Islam. To deny this, today’s Leftists represent Western societies the most oppressive systems ever, claim that a new Holocaust waits just around the corner, and pose as revolutionaries. They never admit what they truly are: the militant wing of the liberal system, a political brand, a fashionable lifestyle, an academic sewing circle. They never admit that their so-called rebellion is only a furious attempt to control people’s public and private lives down to the smallest detail and to maintain the cultural and intellectual power the Left has gained. They cannot admit it, because they are more like a religious cult than a political movement. They need their pseudo-Christian faith in unending progress and continuous revolution.

When I was very young, I believed in the Leftist doctrines. A little later, I started to wonder why the modern Left is so intellectually dishonest. Why it is so blind to its own totalitarian tendencies and some of the most fundamental truths about human nature? It had many good points in the beginning, so why has it let itself to sink so deep into decay?

Today I think that the present decay of the Left is a good thing. It is great that the Left is so narrow-minded, humorless, and deranged. In its contemporary form, the Left deserves no future. It is beyond repair. The sooner it ends up in the wastebasket of history, the better. If its death leads to the birth of a smarter Left without multicultural fantasies and with a more realistic idea of man, that is a good thing too. Then we would have a Left we could consider an ally. In this situation, the nationalist Right can only win.

Nationalists, especially ethnic nationalists, are now the only cultural force that can be considered revolutionary. This conference is the hottest event in Finland this year. No political party dares to touch it. Media has called it “nazi” and “white supremacist,” and whoever takes part in it risks his job or friends or at least his reputation as a good citizen. The left has given up its aura of dangerousness and passed it to us on a silver platter. And that is a huge advantage we should utilize in every way.

First they ignored us, then they laughed at us, and now they have started to fight us. No political movement can advance without facing strong resistance. The more nationalists are demonized, the more they seem interesting. Crude indoctrination rarely works the way it is meant to work. Every time there is some scandalous article about the wicked far-Right, more people read our blogs and magazines to find out what we really have to say.

But we also have other advantages. If there is any truly inclusive political movement at the moment, it is the nationalist Right. The Left draws its support almost entirely from the young, urban, educated middle class. And its obsession with orthodoxy drives many of its old supporters away. The nationalist movement, on the other hand, is diverse: a typical nationalist can be young, middle-aged or old, educated or working-class, wealthy or poor. We know who we are, but are ready to welcome new people to our ranks despite differences in social background, religious convictions, economic views, style of clothing, aesthetic or sexual preferences, and so on. And best of all, we can, in turn, be populist and highbrow, refined and crude, matter-of-fact and transgressive, whatever we want.

It has been said that the communist student movement flourished in Finland in the 1970s because they had the best parties and the most beautiful women. Today, the nationalists have far better parties than the Left, because in them you don’t have to constantly watch your language to avoid microaggressions. And I suppose that the Right is starting to have the domination in female beauty too. Just look at Lauren Southern, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, or the Finnish nationalist presidential candidate Laura Huhtasaari. In any case, the situation is much different than, say, ten or fifteen years ago, when Right-wing women either did not exist, or they only dated paratroopers.

At the moment, ethnic nationalists have no significant political power. Even the Right-wing populist parties stand, at least officially, for civic nationalism, and ethnonationalists are in opposition even in their home field. In the near future changing demographics will make the questions of ethnicity, identity, and race more urgent, and our voice will be heard more widely. But until ethnonationalism can be a successful political movement, it must be a successful cultural movement. At first, we must make our presence felt in intellectual discussions, in political happenings, in philosophy and art. After that, our influence will leak into the party politics. But now our revolution is a cultural one.

Those politicians who are trying to obstruct the flow of Third World migrants into Europe are doing tremendously valuable work. But they are also tied by the rules of the political game. They are dependent on public opinion and vulnerable to attacks in the media. Their aim is to make fast concrete changes, however small or big. But we, as cultural revolutionaries, can and must ask painful questions and provoke people to think. We can and must say things that would ruin any politician’s career.

Our movement cannot have a future if we restrict ourselves only to pragmatic party politics. If this fight could be won with rational arguments and realistic alternatives, we would have won it already.  We must be creative and visionary; we must arouse strong reactions. People do not want only politics and pragmatic solutions; they also want beauty, intellectual challenges, and sense of belonging. That is why contemporary nationalism needs philosophers, artists, and writers as much as it needs politicians and demagogues. The Leftist movement and the Green movement have been so successful in the past because they had the most creative and intelligent minds on their side. And such was the case with the 19th-century nationalist movements, too. Today we cannot imagine the Finnish national identity without the paintings of Gallén-Kallela, novels of Kivi, poetry of Kramsu, symphonies of Sibelius, and philosophy of Snellman.

So, we should organize more conferences and concerts, publish more books and studies, make podcasts, create paintings, and compose music. And we should come out of the internet and meet each other amidst hobbies and mutual projects. Sooner or later ethnic nationalism will become part of every party platform, just like ecology and social justice today. I can guarantee that. The soil is fertile; we must only cultivate it.

Finally, I’d like to say few words about our greatest advantage. Our greatest advantage is that we represent belonging. The Left offers a contradictory mixture of extreme individualism and extreme egalitarianism. They speak of emancipation without any idea of what comes after that. We already have our homes, our families, our nations, our histories and traditions. Our lives have meaning, because we are part of something larger than ourselves. And that is why we, unlike liberals and Leftists, do not need the ideas of history’s end or perpetual revolution. We only want the survival of our civilization, our nations, and our race. We know that when we win our struggle, our ideas will be the new normal. And we also know that someday our established ideas will also be challenged. But we don’t have to worry about that, because the future conflicts will be totally different and the struggle between the Left and the Right, globalism and nationalism, will have no meaning anymore.

Today, my friends, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Thank you very much.