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A Defense of Nationhood

[1]2,926 words

Martin Lichtmesz
Ethnopluralismus: Kritik und Verteidigung [2]
Steigra: Antaios Verlag, 2020

Lack of terminological clarity is a problem inherent to political discourse, no doubt because so much of it is manipulative rather than communicative in intention. The word “nationalism” is a case in point. To many it still evokes the revanchisme of a France humiliated by the loss of Alsace-Lorraine, or Hitler’s various territorial demands of the 1930s: i.e., demands on behalf of particular nations that could only be satisfied at the expense of other nations.

But today’s self-described nationalist is fundamentally concerned with threats to nationhood as such, whether from demographic replacement or from the ambitions of a globe-trotting managerial class. Faced with such menaces, the territorial disputes between the nations of the Western Oikoumene which so roused our great-grandparents are likely to appear to us as pernicious distractions. Our ancestors could take for granted the continued existence of nations because the idea of world government was then no more than an intellectual hobby for a few utopian dreamers.

Ethnopluralism is a word of relatively recent coinage which attempts to avoid the ambiguities inseparable from an inherited term such as nationalism. It may be broadly defined as the view that nations — groups of more or less genetically related human beings who in most cases share a language, territory, historical memories, and way of life — are natural, good, and worthy of preservation.

The Austrian Martin Lichtmesz is a leading figure of the German-speaking New Right and the author of a new “critique and defense” of ethnopluralism, Ethnopluralismus: Kritik und Verteidigung, published by Verlag Antaios in 2020. He begins his study by pointing out that etymologically, the word ethnopluralism signifies a “many-ness of nations or peoples,” and casts his own net widely to include “all approaches which defend nationality as such as a good.”

This is viewed as a radical position in today’s Germany. A search on the German version of Google tells the inquirer that ethnopluralism is part of the worldview of the “New Right,” yet not one of the results listed by Google actually comes from any site affiliated with the New Right. Lichtmesz drily comments that “a member of the New Right can learn all sorts of interesting things about himself and his own outlook” from these webpages.” For example:

So much for Google. The contemporary world’s second-most authoritative oracle of truth, Wikipedia, is no better:

Ethnopluralism spreads “social Darwinist ideas” and “traditional völkisch positions,” champions “the cultural homogenizing of state communities”, is a “racism without races”, “substitutes innocuous vocabulary for concepts burdened historically by National Socialist genocide.” Profound contrary voices are mentioned: “Critics say the definition of a nation is difficult. Thus, it is impossible to speak of the identity of a nation.” And quite especially important: “The concept should not be confused with the superficially similar but really fundamentally different theories of cultural pluralism and multiculturalism.”

As the author notes, “Not a single one of these assertions is supported with an original quote from a representative of ethnopluralism.” Any attempt to rectify the situation is swiftly deleted by the tireless watchdogs who administer Wikipedia with a warning about “disreputable sources.” Alain de Benoist, e.g., would be considered a “disreputable source,” while the cerebral excreta of nearly any Left-wing dilettante may get treated as authoritative: the bar for becoming a publicly recognized “expert on Right-wing extremism” is exceedingly low in Germany.

The result, as the author writes, is a “mixture of misinformation, value-judgments, interpretations, and sheer nonsense,” a Left-wing ideological product barely disguised as an objective, quasi-Linnean system of description and classification. As can be seen above, much of it consists in unsupported assertions that the Right means something different from what it actually says. Any asseverations to the contrary are treated as further proof of insincerity. Under such conditions, constructive dialogue is obviously out of the question.

When the Left condescends to make charges which are not intrinsically unfalsifiable, Lichtmesz responds effectively:

When it is asserted that the Right aims at a “homogenizing” of society, cause and effect are being switched. The Right is rather reacting defensively to the intentional ethnocultural heterogenizing of homogeneous nation-states through consciously-introduced replacement migration, which in the eyes of its supporters is meant to usher in a new historical epoch.

He also clarifies the fraudulence and hypocrisy of the multicultural celebration of ethnic particularism:

Superficially considered, multiculturalism appears as a kind of anti-universalism, but in fact is a weapon of globalism against the homogeneity of European nations considered as an obsolete form of particularism to be overcome. There is no other reason why the same society which wages an endless propaganda campaign on behalf of a form of ethnic pluralism also designates ethnopluralism an enemy. The essential difference is that multiculturalism brings in the ethnocultural diversity of nations in order to attack its own nation, while ethnopluralism uses it as an argument for the defense of what is our own.

This is the true reason why, as a Leftist source quoted above warned its readers, ethnopluralism “should not be confused with the superficially similar but really fundamentally different theories of cultural pluralism and multiculturalism.”

Apparently, some Leftists even admit their bad faith. A certain “postcolonial theorist” named Gayatri Spivak considers all nations all races and nations “social constructs,” but advocates speaking of supposedly oppressed groups with what she calls “strategic essentialism.” This means that we must pretend that ethnocultural minorities in the West exist objectively — and support their identity politics — until oppression disappears and everybody is equal. Only whites can always be treated as a mere social construct.

I found Lichtmesz’s treatment of the German Left among the most valuable aspects of his book. He devotes several pages to a remarkable document entitled Manifesto for a European Republic (2013) by Ulrike Guérot and Robert Menasse, remarking: “There are few texts which so thoroughly expose the megalomania, unreality, shamelessness, and even the pathology of globalist-multicultural thought.”

Guérot and Menasse begin with the grand assertion that “[e]veryone has a right to a homeland and security.” One might be tempted to think, “So far, so good: the Germans have a right to security in their German homeland.” But alas, what the authors actually mean is that non-Germans have a right to a secure homeland in Germany. The goal is to put European land at the disposal of the rest of the world, which the authors see as no different from today’s movement of commodities and information across national boundaries:

Every person must in the future have the right to migrate across national boundaries and settle wherever he wants, especially as the globalized world is already a single system of interconnectedness for everything except people: from pipelines to broadband, from the high-speed trade of financial markets to supply chains, everything else already functions de facto unhindered by national boundaries.

The goal is to transform Europe into a borderless transit space for global nomads; Guérot and Menasse call this “organizing extra-territorial democracy.” They suggest refugees might be granted farmland near European cities, yet not so near that their precious “cultural differences” might be threatened. Cities with names like “New Damascus” and “New Diyarbakir” would arise across the continent. Gradually,

the new arrivals would go to work in nearby European cities or open their shops and trade their products. Residents of the native cities would become curious. The new arrivals have interesting food, this or that unfamiliar spice. Artists come to look, paint, and write. Hip cafés would arise; students looking for cheap living quarters would set up their residential communities in New Damascus. Then the first love affairs would develop, afterwards the first children, then the first parental visits.

The final result will be “a colorful Europe, a respectful next-to-one-other [sic: Nebeneinander], a compound of difference under the same European law, a creative network of diversity.”

So far as Lichtmesz’s quotations indicate, this idyllic vision is never once darkened by any fear that conflict might arise. I see, however, that four years after co-authoring her Manifesto, Ms. Guérot published another pamphlet entitled The New Civil War: The Open Europe and Its Enemies. So she is obviously gearing up for an extremely serious conflict with somebody. This combination of infantile utopianism with deadly serious hostility against ideological enemies is fully comparable to twentieth-century Communism. As the French-Jewish public intellectual Alain Finkielkraut has put it, “Antiracism is the Communism of the twenty-first century.”

A more serious German thinker, Rolf Peter Sieferle [3] (1949-2016), some of whose work has been presented and discussed here on Counter-Currents (see here [4], here [5], and here [6]), offers a more sober description of our current peril. He compares the West to

a plateau of affluence surrounded by barbarians who covetously and enviously look upon the rich countries and would be glad to penetrate them. But in these countries live only “last men” in Nietzsche’s sense. They are soft and without strength, convinced they have reached a historical end-stage of democracy, human rights, environmental consciousness, equality, and social redistribution. This domain of the last men exercises an irresistible attraction on men from regions not so well-provided with prosperity and security. These latter men are now making their laborious way toward the conquest of Europe — and Europe has nothing to oppose to them, since they are just “people like you and me.”

This pending colonization of Europe is taking aim at Europeans’ softest spot: their moral conscience. But for the childish last men, the awakening is going to be rough. Conquest, seizure of power, conflicts over spoils and territory tend not to proceed peacefully or without violence. The last men will be amazed how many everyday conflicts are resolved with knife or gun. In the end, Europe will lose everything which made it attractive to immigrants: prosperity, justice, order, the welfare state, relative internal peace. Finally, the process of globalization will devour all the nations which have shaped the history of the last millennia.

Lichtmesz reports that the very word race has become taboo in the German-speaking world in a way it hasn’t in the Anglosphere. The book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, a black resident of the United Kingdom, became Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Skin Color in German translation; Barack Obama’s Story of Race and Inheritance became The Story of My Family. Perhaps the German practice is more consistent with official race-denial; or perhaps our own practice of letting blacks pop off about race all they like is merely a form of “strategic essentialism.”

The author appeals to his fellow-countrymen Konrad Lorenz and Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt to argue that tribal identification is adaptive in the evolutionary sense, and that xenophobia is a necessary part of tribal identification. Nationalism has historically occasioned civilizational progress by encouraging men to identify with groups larger than the tribe. And a certain xenophobia seems to be a necessary part of tribal and national identification, the flip side of love of one’s own.

In cases where different races are involved, this xenophobia or mistrust of outsiders will naturally take on a racial character. Lichtmesz writes:

If one considers racism a vitally necessary form of the aggression and self-preservation drive, it cannot be rejected without qualification. When Christian Geulen introduces his History of Racism with the words: “racism is an exaggeration,” he seems to be on the right track. Racism’s twin brother antiracism can also be exaggerated and have destructive effects. While history is filled with excessive manifestations of xenophobia, there are certainly also pathological and self-destructive forms of xenophilia and altruism, including eager disparagement of one’s own group: what Guillaume Faye has called “ethnomasochism.” As in all things, the question of the proper measure should be posed here.

This is the sort of thinking which gets treated as dangerous extremism in today’s Germany.

Much of Ethnopluralismus: Kritik und Verteidigung is not a polemic against the Left, but a historical review and discussion of the ideas of various figures of the last two centuries who might be described as ethnopluralists; i.e., those who (in the author’s definition) “defend nations and nationalities as an intrinsic good.” These include G. W. F. Hegel, Johann Gottfried von Herder, Arthur de Gobineau, Julius Evola, Oswald Spengler, Alfred Rosenberg, Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss, Franz Boas, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Alain de Benoist, Guillaume Faye, and Armin Mohler.

Here we shall limit our discussion to the French-Jewish anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, the thinker who comes closest to Lichtmesz’s own views. This is rather surprising, for Lévi-Strauss was the author of the pamphlet Race and History, something of an anti-racist classic and one of a series of writings sponsored by UNESCO is the wake of its infamous 1950 Statement on Race:

Lévi-Strauss observed two contrary processes operating within the human race “of which one strives toward uniformity and the other toward the preservation or recreation of differentiation.” “In a world threatened by monotony and uniformity,” he opted for the “variety of human cultures behind us, around us, and before us.” Even if not all kinds of difference are equally worthy of preservation or productive, the “fact of variety” itself must be preserved, for the “biological and cultural survival of humanity” might depend on differentiation into ever-new and different political and social systems. A humanity which resolved itself into “a kind of uniform life” would be “an ossified humanity” in which no further development was possible. Lévi-Strauss thus shared Arthur de Gobineau’s horror of increasing cultural entropy through processes of mixing which destroy all distinctions — a spiritual agreement with the “father of racism” which he openly admitted.

In 1972, twenty years after the publication of Race and History, Lévi-Strauss delivered a lecture entitled “Race and Culture,” also under UNESCO’s sponsorship:

Here the author accepted the theory of genetic-cultural coevolution, postulating a mutual influence between genetic and cultural development, and thus no longer completely separating culture from biology. In some cases, “it would be more correct to say that every culture selects genetic potentialities which exercise a reciprocal influence on culture.”

Lévi-Strauss’s UNESCO sponsors were not pleased with these second thoughts:

But the principal theme of “Race and Culture” is a warning against “the dream that one day equality and brotherhood will prevail among men without their variety being endangered.” Racial prejudice and ethnocentrism are ineliminable anthropological constants. Peaceful co-existence is possible only under certain circumstances. The example of primitive peoples in particular teaches that “mutual tolerance presupposes two conditions,” viz., “relative equality and sufficient physical distance.” A variety which produces nothing but mutual recognition and respect is unthinkable, according to Lévi-Strauss.

And even if unlimited mutual acceptance were possible, it would hardly be desirable. If all cultures fell into one another’s arms tomorrow, this blending would destroy the basis of their own existence as well as their attraction for one another. Cultures do not develop only through peaceful exchange but also through antagonism and resistance to such exchange — otherwise there would eventually be nothing substantial left to exchange. The mixture “of populations which were previously divided by geographical distance as well as linguistic and cultural barriers” has destroyed human worlds which had lasted for millennia. Globalism is driving humanity toward a “world culture” which “is destroying those old particularities which we should honor as having created the aesthetic and spiritual values that give life its value,” and which are increasingly packed away in libraries and museums because we ourselves can no longer bring them forth.

This lecture resulted in a scandal, but Lévi-Strauss did not back down: “It is in no way criminal to place a particular way of living and thinking above all others and not to feel attracted to this or that other way of life, respectable in itself, which is distant from the one to which one is bound by tradition.” When the Front National experienced its first great electoral success in 1983, Lévi-Strauss told an interviewer:

These ideas [of the FN] do not seem to me any more illegitimate or culpable than their contraries, whose effects on public opinion we sense. To make a scapegoat of the former without reckoning the dangers of the latter is the sheerest inconsistency. On this subject there exist two contrary errors which mutually engender one another.

Two years later he added:

Our culture is on the defensive against external threats, among which is probably the Islamic explosion. And presently I feel myself single-mindedly and in an ethnological regard a defender of my own culture.

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