Too little, too late. Perhaps that is the only certain thing we can say about the recent elections for the European Parliament. Certainly, Eurosceptical and anti-immigration parties have won an unprecedented number of seats in the European parliament, but to make a real difference, these victories should have come at least ten years earlier. Later generations will undoubtedly consider this episode somewhat farcical: only when Europe began to break down, the timid electorates could muster the courage to at least vote for some of the “right-wing” parties. However, the problem with these right-wing victories is not only, as commonly reported by analysts, that they will find it extremely difficult to form a coalition with all their internal divisions. The first difficulty, which only a few observers have seemed to notice, is that many of the so-called “right wing” parties are not right-wing at all. As we shall see, the reason for this is the simple fact that the Europeans, except the French, still have not sufficiently overcome their timidity to be able to discern the stark options that Europe faces today, and prefer to vote for “respectable” right-wing parties, which, however, by their very nature will degenerate into establishment parties if ever they get into government. Another cloud on the horizon, equally unnoticed, is the threat that the more outspoken right-wing parties in certain countries can further degenerate into fascism, and thus ultimately bring about the destruction of European civilization which they wanted to prevent in the first place. I will analyze these two phenomena here: such analysis can provide us with crucial insight into the future of Europe, and not simply in the immediate future of the European parliament, with which most journalists occupy themselves.
Let us begin with a short description of the results of the Belgian federal elections, because in this case they reflected the tragic European realities very sharply. The big winner of the elections was the center-right New-Flemish alliance (N-VA) that attracted many former voters of the anti-immigration Flemish Interest (VB). On the left, many were delighted that at last the “racist” Flemish Interest had been defeated, although some thought it wise to ask the winning party for a guarantee that it would not pursue a more “extreme” course with all those former “racists” among their voters. These progressives understood very well that these former Flemish Interest voters had not really voted for another party because they had fundamentally changed their opinions, -and thus, that their had been no shift towards “tolerance” or faith in the multicultural experiment- but because they hoped to achieve more through a party with a respectable image and larger chances of participating in or leading a government. They hope that somehow, they can have the respectability of a mainstream party, combined with the thorough measures advocated by the “racist” parties.
But the left need not worry: the N-VA is, by all objective standards, a leftist party that is perfectly integrated in progressive mainstream culture. The leftists make the correct analysis, but draw the wrong conclusions: the N-VA is not a conservative party with a modern image, as they maintain, but a modernist party with a conservative image. The N-VA will not move to the right to please its new voters, but will disappoint them by pursuing roughly the same policies as the other establishment parties today do. The absurd and tragic thing about this whole situation, however, is that left will go on considering the N-VA a “conservative” party, and will keep attacking it as such. Of course, this is an old tactic of the left: the left creates its own enemies, because you can unite most easily when fighting against an enemy; thus they gain in strength by unity, while they know very well that this imagined enemy is not capable of any real resistance to the march of progressivism. The ideological “battles” between left and right are in fact carefully staged spectacles. The result is that the real Right that is committed to dealing with the most burning issues, is further marginalized.
The problem of the Flemish Interest is that of anti-immigration ideas in general: it is not that people cannot be convinced of their arguments and program. A poll of the Flemish national television showed that immigration ranked second in a list of most pressing concerns among Flemish voters. Apart from a few marginalized leftists, it is difficult to find any people who are really committed to multiculturalism. The real problem is that people, and especially the middle classes, are afraid of admitting they have right-wing ideas; thus, the core of the problem is not convincing people that there is a problem, but convincing them to throw off the yoke of leftist cultural hegemony. Most people hope someone will do something about things like immigration and Islam (or crime) soon enough; but they will never lift a finger themselves out of sheer terror at the thought of being ostracized by their bien-pensant neighbors. This analysis goes to the heart of the European predicament: we are not dealing with a practical, but with a wholly moral problem. It is essentially the same as with communism in the past: at any time, if the productive segments of the Western population would decide to end their problems, the problems would vanish in no time. If we would decide to halt immigration and Islamic infiltration tomorrow, we have all the means to do so. Only the will is lacking. The victory of the N-VA in Flanders, far from being a victory for the Right, was the ultimate manifestation of the middle class mentality, that craves respectability above all else, even at the cost of neglecting real problems.
There are two countries where the European election results resembled those of the Belgian federal elections: the United Kingdom, where the UKIP was triumphant, and Germany, where the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) achieved an unexpected success with 7% of the vote. In the British case, the parallels stand out most clearly. People vote for UKIP because they are dissatisfied with mass immigration and the European Union, and because UKIP is the most respectable party that promises to solve these problems. However, as in the case of the N-VA, the voters do not seem to realize that the UKIP is in fact not a conservative party at all: it is composed mainly of left-libertarians for whom immigration and cultural disintegration are not burning issues, and it conveniently focuses on white, Christian immigration from Eastern Europe, while totally ignoring Muslim and Third World immigration, a much larger problem in the long term. The party seems terribly afraid not to hurt the feelings of Muslims or to break the politically correct consensus, so it is improbable that when in power it will turn out to be anything other than establishment party. Right-wing no doubt, but the Right wing of the establishment. In Germany, the situation is more difficult to asses, but disenchantment with mainstream political parties over several issues undoubtedly contributed to the success of the AfD. But in both cases, the essence is that people who actually want to see tough solutions introduced, voted for pseudo-conservative parties in the hope that toughness and respectability can go together. Of course, this is just daydreaming.
Eventually (it may only take a few years now) the middle classes will realize that help is not forthcoming from these quarters, and that nothing less will do than naming the precise issues that have to be dealt with as soon as possible. But by then it will probably be too late, and perhaps some will never really understand what was at stake, and which mistakes they made.
The second evolution in European politics that we should follow up closely is the radicalization of the extreme right in countries like Greece, Italy and Hungary. These parties form a threat for the survival of Europe just as much as the passivity of the middle classes, because their behavior will probably determine which impression future generations will have of the current struggles. Just like middle class behavior in the face of the Islamic threat resembles their behavior in the face of the communist threat, the extreme right is reacting in the same way to Islam and immigration as it did in the inter-war years: namely, by mutating into a new ideology, fascism.
As we all know, fascism is often seen as one of the great riddles in history; it is difficult to find an exact set of criteria that a political movement should match to be described as fascist. Perhaps it is easier to provide a historical description of fascism. Libertarians often say that fascism and communism are both left-wing movements, because they are both collectivist. This is true, up to a certain point. However, if communism and fascism were essentially one and the same thing, the question naturally arises why there was ever such a division within leftism, and why both sides loathed each other so vehemently. Why didn't Hitler become a communist right away, if Nazism and communism resembled each other to such a large degree? The answer is easy if we study the facts, but is always overlooked in popular discussion of the subject. Fascism and Nazism did originate in conservative and reactionary circles; however, what changed their outlook and swiftly set the fascists apart from their erstwhile political allies, was their growing contempt for the timidity and inertia of the mainstream conservative movements. Like today, conservatives in the inter-war period could never effectively resist, let alone conquer, the communist threat, because they shared their altruist moral premises with the communists. The fascists, with Hitler as the best example, not only concluded that bourgeois inertia had to be overcome, but gradually drew another conclusion from the situation: the Western countries deserved no better than being overrun by communism, because the decadent, materialistic, bourgeois democracies did not know how to defend their culture. The fascists developed a certain admiration for the vitality of communism, and began to adopt some of its characteristics. And most importantly, the enemy was now no longer solely Bolshevism, -which they saw as an equal opponent- but the decadent democratic West itself, and above all the decadent elites: the capitalists, the liberals, and, above all, international Jewry. One could say that the fascists wanted to be so right-wing, that they became extreme left-wing.
History is repeating itself: in Greece and Italy, the Golden Dawn party and the Five Star movement of Beppe Grillo are fascist movements in the sense described above. These parties owe their existence to resentment of mass immigration and the threat of Islam (at least in the Greek case), but nonetheless, they do not view Islam as their main enemy; they don't even consider the left as their main enemy. Instead, they heap all the blame on the corrupt Western liberal order, on the United States, and of course on Jewry and Israel. As I remarked before, these parties believe they are risking their lives for their opinions and that they are really telling the truth that nobody dares to utter. But in reality, they are just cowards: criticizing everybody but the Muslims for the problems of Islamic immigration in Europe of course brings the huge benefit that they don't need to take on Islam directly, which could cost them their lives. Also, the growing contempt for the Western liberal order goes hand in hand with a kind of silent admiration for Islam, because Islam possesses cultural cohesion and vitality, qualities so lacking in our own civilization. For these new fascists, Islam is the equal enemy, like Bolshevism was the equal enemy for the fascists of the inter-war period.
Note that the altruist morality plays a hidden role in this story: that a certain group would ever blame their own cultural elites for the appearance of an external threat, is unthinkable in most other cultures, and is typical of the Western altruist ethics inherited from Christianity. The reader will notice that what these fascists are saying comes down to the same as what the leftists are saying: somehow, the behavior of the Soviet Union is our own fault; Islamic terrorism is caused by blowback of American and Israel misdeeds in the Islamic world. Muslims are peaceful people, but the Western liberal political elites and the Jewish banking interests have provoked them into violent behavior, etc. Hitler was supposedly the man who knew no guilt, but blaming Western democracy for the onslaught of communism was nothing else than a confession of unearned guilt.
The rise of fascist movements damages the Right, and will distort history for future generations, because when these movements begin to lead an own life, they tend to obscure the fact that their original cause lies the reaction against Islam. Today, fascism and Nazism are still presented as sui generis movements, part of the broad anti-enlightenment, and the fact that they originated in the reaction against communism is mostly forgotten. The worst thing that could happen is that centuries from now, people would blame a European civil war between Europeans and immigrants on the “racism” of the Europeans, because fascist parties arose to counter immigration.
Ironically, the party that was until recently most often described as fascist in the foreign press, the Front National in France, is moving away from the old party line under the leadership of Marine Le Pen, and is now turning itself into a more mainstream anti-immigration and anti-Islamic party, like the PVV of Wilders (the Flemish Interest party went through the same evolution.) Marine Le Pen must be credited with strategic insight; and the fact that she can combine this insight with real power, makes France the pivotal country in Europe at the moment. Le Pen has understood that the antisemitism of her father has always been foolishness, and that these days, when the threat is coming from Islam and mass immigration, the most foolish thing to do would be to side with Muslims on this issue, like many Christian anti-semites tend to do. As Eric Zemmour noted, the FN and the French Jews are now on the same side, and that is the Defense of the West, however reluctant some people on both sides will be to admit it. Besides Geert Wilders, Le Pen is the only right-wing leader with a real European vision, and like him, she is returning to the best elements in the Western tradition. This is no coincidence: France and the Netherlands, as the core areas of Western civilization, saw the birth of the Western mentality; perhaps these countries will also see the birth of a solution to the contradictions in Western culture. That said, there are enough remaining problems with the vision of the FN: the socialist economic program, the anti-Americanism and curious foreign policy statements. Let us hope Le Pen has the good sense reform the party further, or at least to water down these parts of the party ideology.
We could say that what is, in the end, haunting Europe today, is its culture itself, or more precisely its ethics. The big mistake that the right is making, is to regard recent Western history as a battle between progressive and conservative, between left and right. In fact, as I mentioned before, this is a false dilemma: right and left are two manifestations of the same mentality, and if the West is to be rescued, a solution must be found beyond the concepts of this mentality. Many historians have agreed that there are two basic points of view in the Western tradition, both of which go back to ancient Greece: on the one hand, the idealistic one, on the other hand, the materialist one. The idealists believe that man is sinful and that the ideal state of society is to be found in the past; the materialists believe that man is capable of achieving whatever he likes, and for them utopia is to be found in the future. These points of view are not opposites, but corollaries: in Ayn Rand's words, the first is the intrinsicist concept of value, and the second is the subjectivist concept of value; both refuse to judge the facts of existence objectively. A similar false dilemma in ethics is the Western belief that there are only two ways to treat your fellow men: the altruist way (sacrificing yourself to others) or the “egoist” way (sacrificing others to yourself); the concept of pursuing one's rational self-interest had to be stated by Ayn Rand. Throughout Western history, one will notice that the frenzied search for philosophic truth, the often absurd and ridiculous solutions to ethical problems proposed by all kinds of thinkers, and the vicissitudes of Western political and social life, all originate in these false dilemma's. Western culture, with all its achievements in all domains of life, can be compared to a gigantic, high-powered machine that has gone out of control, and that will inevitably crash if nobody manages to guide it. A new, objective ethics has to guide this machine.
So far, we have only seen a repetition of the age-old pattern, with all sides basing themselves on altruism in one form or another. The left is directly implementing the crudest form of altruism; the middle classes dare not resist their cultural hegemony. The fascists are either hidden altruists, or think that the alternative to self-sacrifice is to cast away morality altogether and sacrifice others to oneself, which is just the other side of the same coin. And then there is the liberal conservative anti-Islamic right, which believes in holding the middle ground, dispenses as much as possible with moral discourse, and wants to defend Western culture simply because it is obvious to everyone that it is superior to other cultures. But man is a moral animal, and in the last instance will always follow the leader who can convincingly claim he has morality on his side, whatever the material consequences involved.
In this light, the European Union may not turn out to be the greatest threat we face. The EU is partly an ideological project, but since ideology has been dead in Europe for decades now, it is mainly driven by politicians and bureaucrats interested in feathering their nests. Although like all expanding states, the EU state will do all the possible to tighten its grip on European countries, and to ward off possible attacks, it lacks the moral vitality that a really new ideology would have brought to it- like communism brought vitality to the Soviet Union in its first decades. If resistance to the European project and other practical problems in its implementation prove too large, it may well be that the European elites will abandon the effort, and make the best of it by salvaging as much of their sinecures -if not real power- as possible in a dissolution of the EU or else a serious downsizing of its role in Europe.
But once this should happen, the separate European nation states would still have to deal with the same moral problems as the EU; the EU was simply a handy instrument to carry out progressive-altruist policies on a larger scale, but it did not invent this ideology. And most importantly, it did not create the ethics that permitted it to indulge in altruist policies like equalization, centralization, and implementing their multicultural blueprint. The simple fact is that today, the moral vacuum reigns in Europe, and the default mode in Western ethics is blind altruism, because everyone has been brought up in that ethical tradition from his earliest days, whatever his professed ethical or philosophical convictions may be. Therefore, the advocacy of the sovereign nation state by many conservatives does not really make sense, in the end. They also seem to forget that the leveling, collectivist concept of nationalism was one of the precursors of the international socialist state. The mere fact that a past form of government worked better than the current form, does not mean it was good in itself or that it is the only viable option; here, once again, we can discern the conservative idealism that says we should never hope for better than the proven methods and forms of the past. If we dare to do this, we will become leftist Utopians. This is nonsense: we should objectively study the possibilities that human life brings, and not turn to either random, mystic pessimism, or mindless day-dreaming.
In short, the West should pursue a policy of rational self-interest. The outline of what this means has already been given by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged. First of all, the middle classes should withhold their sanction of the evil that the statists want to impose on them. The middle classes are in fact the key to the solution of the Western predicament. The progressives themselves are not the problem: there will always be evil or mentally unstable people, but the reason why they get the chance to destroy the West is because the middle classes cannot resist their altruist assumptions. Once the middle class is ready to defend its own interests, the leftist intelligentsia will be hopelessly defeated. And with the productive classes once again in charge of Europe (and the West), we will at last be able to withhold our sanction of the evil that Muslims and other peoples are trying to impose upon us.