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National Populism is Here to Stay

[1]5,346 words

This is F. K.’s transcript of an extemporaneous lecture that was delivered at the Blue Awakening Youth Conference in Tallinn, Estonia on February 25, 2019. It has been heavily edited and augmented. I wish to thank the organizers for inviting me to speak.

According to the Left, the peoples of the world are about to join hands and step together into a new age of global government and multicultural harmony under the rule of benevolent, cosmopolitan elites. But there has been a little bump in the road to utopia, namely the rise of National Populism: Brexit, Trump, Orbán, Salvini, the Yellow Vests, and so on.

But many establishment voices assure us that these are just temporary setbacks. National Populism is merely a matter of a few charismatic demagogues who popped up out of nowhere. Or it’s merely the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis, although that is more than a decade old. Or it is just a temporary reaction to the migrant crisis.

But, they insist, demagogues come and go. The old, white, male voters who put them in office are going to die soon, and they’re going to be replaced by tolerant, open-minded Millennials and Zoomers and, of course, non-whites. Once non-white immigrants replace all these uppity, problematic white people, we won’t have to worry about populist demagogues anymore.

I guess they also think there will be no more sudden mass movements of people. Nor will there be any more economic crises. Emmanuel Macron was supposed to be the centrist, globalist answer to National Populism, and that didn’t work out exactly as planned. But still, they assure us that the march toward global liberal democracy will be back on track any day now.

I want to argue that the globalists are wrong. National Populism is not a flash in the pan. National Populism is the wave of the future, and ethnonationalists can surf that wave to power and influence.

I highly recommend the book National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy [2] by two British political scientists, Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin.[1] [3] There has been a spate of recent books on the threat of populism to liberal democracy. I thought National Populism was going to be just another book saying that there’s nothing more threatening to democracy than listening to the will of the people. But I am pleased to report that I was completely wrong.

Although Eatwell and Goodwin are clearly men of the Left, they are also clearly anti-liberal men of the Left. Thus they have no patience for liberal cant about National Populism. So they open their book by relentlessly tearing down liberal delusions about the imminent demise of National Populism. They marshal some impressive empirical studies that indicate that National Populism is here to stay; it is the result of a number of social and political trends in Europe and the United States. These trends are deep-seated, going back several decades, and they show no sign of abating any time in the near future.

One of the most amazing statistics they cite is from the World Values Survey. In Europe and the United States, an average of 82% of respondents say that “they feel strongly attached to their nation.” An average of 93% “see themselves as part of their nation.” An average of 90% “would be willing to fight for their nation” (p. 146). Those are remarkable numbers, and they indicate that we’re not about to leap into globalism any time soon.

Eatwell and Goodwin also cite polls about attitudes towards European identity in the European Union: 71% of the elites in the EU feel that they benefit from the European Union, whereas only 34% of the overall population in EU countries feels that way (p. 104). Among EU elites, 50% believe that politicians don’t care what the people think, whereas that figure is nearly 75% among the general public (p. 104). More than 70% of politicians in the European Union say that they feel very strongly about their European identity. Only about 50% of Europeans in general say they feel very strongly about their European identity (p. 101).

I’d wager that some people who feel strongly about their European identity are ethnonationalists, but we don’t mean it in quite the same way that EU boosters do. It would also be interesting to learn what percentage of people like the EU for “Last Man” reasons, e.g., a single currency and passport-free travel make for better shopping. Finally, it would be interesting to know what percentage of those who like the EU do so because they regard it is an instrument of coercively imposing Left-wing values.

Eatwell and Goodwin analyze four factors that they think are contributing to National Populism. They call them “the Four Ds.” The first is Distrust, namely the breakdown of public trust in government. The second is Destruction, specifically the destruction of identity, the destruction of the ethnic composition and order of societies due to immigration and multiculturalism. The third trend is Deprivation, referring to the collapse of First-World living standards, especially middle-class and working-class living standards, due to globalization. The final trend is Dealignment, meaning the abandonment of the center-Left, center-Right duopolies common in post-Second World War democracies.

Distrust

Why does distrust contribute to populism? Populism is based on the distinction between the people, who have legitimate interests that are not being represented, and the corrupt governing elites, who serve their own interests – or foreign and minority interests – at the expense of the people.

We believe that government is legitimate if it governs in our legitimate interests. We believe that a government is more likely to govern in our interests if it is composed of people like us. In other words, we believe that self-government is real if we are governed by people like ourselves.

When our governing elites are conspicuously different from us, we don’t trust them to govern in our interests; we expect them to govern in their interests. When we arrive at that conclusion, the government no longer has legitimacy and needs to be replaced.

Legitimacy is important because if the state is not seen as legitimate, it cannot secure compliance with its policies without coercing the people. Coercion makes government costlier and further lowers its legitimacy.

Some of Eatwell and Goodwin’s statistics illustrating distrust are quite remarkable. In 1964, 67% of Americans trusted the US government “most of the time.” In 2012, when Barack Obama was reelected President, that number had fallen to 22% (p. 121).

Another revealing poll is in answer to the statement, “Political rulers don’t care about people like me.” In Sweden, 45% agreed with that statement. In Germany it was 52%; in the UK, 58%; the United States, 67%; Poland, 71%; Italy, 72%; France, 78%. Now, the global average of people who agree with that question is 63%, and the global average contains all manner of Third World kleptocracies, dictatorships, and failed states. So in Poland, Italy, and France, there is significantly more distrust than the global average, and the global average is very high, when you think about the kinds of countries that are factored into it (p. 123).

Ethnonationalists want regime change. We want self-determination for all peoples. Thus we want to replace the entire globalist establishment, Left and Right, with a new political establishment that puts the interests of each nation first. To do that, we must exploit and intensify the existing tendency towards distrust of the establishment. And we’re already doing a pretty good job of that by:

Nationalists are really quite masterful at ferreting out, exposing, and mocking such things, contributing mightily to the delegitimization and the distrust of our current elites. We need to keep it up.

But one word of caution: We can’t go full Alex Jones. I think Alex Jones is a reckless liar who promotes conspiracies that he knows to be false because he wants to undermine people’s trust in the social system. Every time there’s a school shooting, it’s always a fake. Every terrorist attack is a false flag. We are asked to believe there are whole armies of crisis actors. The state is so clever, wealthy, and powerful that it can create a completely fake image of reality.

If people believe such stories, it doesn’t just lower the trust in the system, it lowers their trust in logic and their own lying eyes. But there’s a problem with that. Complete epistemological nihilism is very easy to start, but it is hard to stop. You might think the nihilist train will take you to your destination, but when you pull the cord to make it stop, it’s just going to keep on barreling down the tracks.

Such theories also presuppose that the system is basically all-powerful, which leads sensible people to the conclusion that resistance is futile. Frankly, if I were a corrupt and degenerate establishment with no hope of restoring social trust, I would promote people like Jones, because a society where there is zero social trust – even among the people – is a society unable to unite to overthrow its leadership.

What we need is targeted distrust. We need to target our leaders, but we cannot do so by telling lies that undermine people’s ability to believe us or one another. We can’t undermine public rationality – which is never too strong in the best of circumstances – or basic social cohesion, because we’re going to need them. So we have to be truthful and scrupulous in our propaganda.

There are a lot of cynical people on the Right who have an almost cargo-cult mentality; they think they can overthrow our dishonest elites by becoming a dishonest elite of their own. They say, “The establishment lies to us all the time. Why can’t we tell lies?” But we need to guard our credibility, because that’s the greatest asset that we have. So propaganda: yes. Lies: no.

Destruction

How is National Populism promoted by the destruction of identity through multiculturalism and immigration? Quite simply because multiculturalism and immigration are imposed by elites on the populace. The working and middle classes suffer the most from immigration and multiculturalism, because they lack the money to insulate themselves from its consequences in terms of depressed wages and destroyed living spaces. National Populists, however, promise to restrict immigration and preserve distinct national identities from multicultural erosion.

Eatwell and Goodwin cite a number of statistics that indicate that whites are increasingly resistant to demographic replacement, and thus are increasingly open to National Populist messages. Right before the Brexit referendum, 48% of people in Great Britain said that the number one political problem was immigration (p. 148). That is an extremely high number. In the United States, that number has never gone above 19% (p. 147).

Here’s a poll answering the question, “Does immigration have a positive impact?” In Great Britain, 40% say that, but 45% also say that there are too many immigrants in the country, and 43% say that “immigration is causing my country to change in ways I don’t like.” In Canada, 40% are saying “immigration is changing the country in ways I don’t like.” In the United States it’s 46%, in Sweden 44%, in Spain 46%, in Germany 45%, in Poland 41%. They have a tiny amount of immigration in Poland, but they’re very sensitive about it, which is a good sign. France: 49%, Belgium: 56%, Italy: 63%, and Hungary: 54% (p. 149).

They cite an Ipsos-MORI survey from after Trump’s election revealing that only one in four Americans felt that immigration was good for the country; in France, that number was 14%, in Italy 10%, in Hungary 5% (p. 277).

They also cite a poll about people’s willingness to have a complete ban on Muslim immigration (p. 155): In Poland, 71% are for it, and only 9% would oppose it. In Austria, 65% would want a complete ban on Muslim immigration, and only 18% oppose it. In Hungary: 64%, Belgium: 64%, France: 61%, Greece: 58%, Germany: 53%, Italy: 51%, the United Kingdom: 47%, and Spain: 41%. After Alternative for Germany made electoral breakthroughs, 60% of Germans told pollsters that Islam had no place in their country (p. 277). Poland and Hungary have the lowest numbers of people who would actually oppose a ban on Muslim immigration, and among the highest number of people who would actually support it. I am not seeing a lot of openness to radical multiculturalism in these numbers.

Surprisingly, the authors argue that there is nothing immoral per se about wanting to preserve the ethnic identity of one’s society (pp. 74–78). That is an astonishing concession from men of the Left. They also argue that for many people it is simply common sense to want to preserve a society where they feel at home and to feel that we have greater obligations to our neighbors and countrymen than to strangers. Naturally, very large numbers of people resent it when Leftists accuse them of being racists over such common-sense attitudes (pp. 78, 161–62).

Eatwell and Goodwin also cite studies indicating that significant numbers of people reject the idea that economic performance is the sole standard of national well-being. For instance, when asked whether “strong community and family life is as important to well-being as a strong economy,” 78% of Americans, 79% of Britons, and 83% of Germans agreed (p. 217).

Even in the proverbial “land of shopkeepers,” a very significant number of pro-Brexit voters believed that identity is more important than economics, whereas the anti-Brexit crowd was predicting biblical plagues, economic collapse, and so forth if Brexit won.

A lot of people didn’t believe such predictions. But some felt that even if they were true, it would be worth it get their national sovereignty back, which is quite remarkable. For instance, 60% of Britons said that “significant damage to the British economy would be a ‘price worth paying for Brexit’,” and 40% were willing to see their own relatives lose jobs to secure Brexit (p. 36; cf. p. 278).

These are attitudes that ethnonationalists can build upon. Our movement has been working for decades to raise awareness of the destructiveness of ethnic change. But we can’t congratulate ourselves too much, for our efforts to raise consciousness pale by comparison to the effects of multiculturalism. We may be pulling some people in our direction, but multiculturalism itself is stampeding them toward us.

Thus I think our most important role is less in raising consciousness than in deepening consciousness. We have explanations of why multiculturalism creates alienation and conflict. We can explain who is behind globalization, immigration, and multiculturalism, and why. We defend the moral legitimacy of white identity politics against the widespread notion that white identity politics, and only white identity politics, is immoral per se. That moral taboo is the great dam holding back the tide of national populism. If we can breach that dam, it will unleash the floodwaters of white identity. Finally, we can offer workable and humane alternatives, not just Right-wing civic nationalism, which basically is simply lying about diversity in a different way.

Deprivation

It’s really simple to deepen people’s understanding of deprivation due to globalization. All it requires is elementary economics. Globalization means creating a single world market for labor and goods. A global labor market means that working and middle-class wages and living standards in the First World will drop quite a bit, and wages and living standards in the Third World will rise a little bit, until we reach a global average which will represent the pauperization of all advanced industrial societies, East and West. But global economic elites will grow very rich indeed as they pauperize the First World.[2] [4]

Because the disastrous consequences of globalization can be predicted by basic economics, globalization could never have been put to a vote, because the vast majority of First Worlders would not vote to pauperize themselves. Thus, globalization had to be imposed by elites using every possible subterfuge. Thus, to reverse globalization, National Populists need to overthrow the existing elites and institute protectionist economic policies. We need to reindustrialize the First World.

De-alignment

De-alignment is basically the breakdown of the post-Second World War political system in which power was traded between center-Left and center-Right parties, while Western societies drifted steadily toward cultural Leftism, bigger and more intrusive government, and the loss of sovereignty to globalization.

The 2017 French presidential election is a remarkable example of de-alignment. The final showdown did not include the center-Left or center-Right candidates, but instead far-Rightist Marine Le Pen and far-globalist Emanuel Macron. Of course, Macron was simply a rebranded socialist candidate, but the fact remains that the Socialist Party’s credibility was so damaged that a rebrand was necessary.

An even more striking example is the 2019 European Parliamentary elections in the UK, in which Nigel Farage’s newly created Brexit Party won more than 30% of the vote. Labour lost half of its seats. The Tories lost 75% of their seats. And the Liberal Democrats went from one to sixteen seats, simply because some disaffected Labour and Tory voters would not vote for the Brexit Party.

These elections are like an American presidential contest in which the two main candidates are neither Democrats nor Republicans. They represent remarkable changes in political alignments and loyalties in France and the UK.

The main factor behind de-alignment is the increasing realization on the part of voters that there aren’t really any fundamental differences between the parties. There is no real competition. Instead, there is a political cartel. There is a political establishment that has different fronts. The different branches of the establishment agree on all important matters. They disagree only on inessential matters, as a kind of theater that captivates the public and keeps them both politically engaged and politically divided.

A lot of people naïvely think that political power primarily means beating the other team in political contests, like elections. But there’s a deeper form of political power, which determines all the things that the parties don’t fight about and that are never put to the choice of the voters. That’s real power. That’s the power to frame all political debates in a way that makes them safe for the existing establishment.

Ethnonationalists are very good at unmasking the cartelized, fake nature of democratic politics. The political establishment is an exclusive club, and a politician can only join if he swears to represent the interests of the elites as opposed to the voters who actually elect him. Every election, the people send their tribunes to the capitals, only to see them absorbed by the establishment. Thus, when there is a conflict between the public interest and elite interests, it is impossible to believe that our representatives will side with the public. The shameful refusal of the Tories to deliver Brexit is spectacular proof of that. Theresa May had one job as Prime Minister: to deliver Brexit. She did not do it, because she did not want to do it, because the global elites did not want it to happen. Once people see through the charade of the current party system, they will realize that their sovereignty is being systematically negated. Then radical new political alignments become possible.

What kind of government do most white people want? We want a socially conservative, interventionist state, a state that takes the side of the working and middle classes against the elites, and a state that takes the side of citizens against foreigners. They want a mixed economy, not pure capitalism or pure socialism.

Interestingly enough, even in the United States, where Koch brothers-funded, libertarian economics is a dogma amongst Republican politicians and pundits, many Republican voters are very much opposed to dismantling social safety nets. According to Eatwell and Goodwin, 73% of Trump voters were opposed to touching entitlement programs and social safety nets. They were even more opposed than some Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton voters (p. 264).

But the elites want a very different form of government. If the people want a socially conservative, interventionist state, the elites want a socially liberal, globalist oligarchy. Thus, they want to dismantle all the barriers that stand in their way: tariffs, borders, unions, national identities and attachments, and so on. Jonathan Bowden called this global neoliberal system “Left-wing capitalism,” a marriage of Leftist values and hyper-stratified, oligarchical capitalism.[3] [5]

Americans want a socially conservative interventionist state. But we are never allowed to simply vote for what we really want. The Republicans will say, “We stand for conservative values!” But they package them with neoliberal economics. The Democrats say, “We stand for an interventionist state!” But they package it with social degeneracy.

When the Democrats get into power, they give the elites what they want: more social degeneracy. But they don’t touch neoliberal economic policies, because that’s also what the elites want. When the Republicans are in power, they give tax cuts to oligarchs, but they don’t deliver on the really important issues, like building a border wall, because the oligarchs don’t want that any more than they want socially conservative policies.

Thus, no matter who is in power, the elites get what they want, and the people don’t. Thus, politics and society drift further and further toward Left-wing oligarchy.

Contemporary representative democracy also thrives on negative legitimization. The Democrats in America say, “Vote for us, because we’re not those horrible Republicans!” And the Republicans say, “Vote for us, because we’re not those horrible Democrats!” People get elected not based on what they represent, or even on who they are, but on who they are not. This basically gives them a blank check to do whatever they want when they are in office, so long as they are sufficiently unlike their hated enemies. And, through some strange coincidence, they always find it easier to go along with the establishment agenda of social liberalism and global oligarchy.

When Donald Trump was elected, he struck terror into the hearts of the elites. But what has he done as President? Everything the oligarchy loves: typical Republican policies. But he has not built a border wall. That is very telling. It is the same old pattern. Western liberal democracy thrives on giving people all sorts of choices, except what we really want. Unmasking this pattern contributes a great deal to political de-alignment and the rise of National Populism.

Riding the Wave

Eatwell and Goodwin have a great wave on the cover of their book because they believe National Populism is the wave of the future. They actually go so far as to predict, in the chapter called “The Post-Populist Moment?,” that there won’t be a post-populist moment.

The only way establishment parties are going to be able to compete with National Populism is to adopt National Populist policies – maybe water them down, lighten them up a bit: National Populism lite. But that is a very important admission, because it means that the hegemony of globalism is over. Instead of debating about different forms of globalism, we will now be debating about different forms of National Populism. That creates an opportunity for ethnonationalists to enter political debates and win.

So how do we surf this wave?

First, what do we bring to the table? Ethnonationalists have the most realistic understanding of what nations and peoples are, and what makes them flourish or fail. Based on history, social science, and, ultimately, biology, we argue that societies are strengthened by genetic and cultural homogeneity and weakened by genetic and cultural diversity.[4] [6]

Populism means that the people are sovereign. National Populism means that the sovereign people is a nation. But what is a nation? Our answer is that a nation is primarily an extended family united by a common history, language, and culture, i.e., an ethnic group.

A secondary component of a nation consists of outsiders who have been “naturalized,” i.e., who have become part of the nation through intermarriage and cultural assimilation. Ethnonationalists hold that it is the right of the nation in the primary sense to determine who can be naturalized, and how many. If a nation wishes to preserve and propagate itself through time, it needs to keep naturalizations to a small number of people, and these people need to be as racially and culturally similar as possible to the original population.

Thus, we reject the “civic nationalist” idea that just anyone – much less untold millions of culturally and racially diverse people – can become part of a nation simply by swearing allegiance to a national creed. Civic nationalism, by ignoring the destructive effects of genetic and cultural diversity, is a prescription for alienation and conflict.

Second, to ride the National Populist wave, we have to be genuine National Populists. That means that we need to curtail and discard some features of the contemporary ethnonationalist movement, namely anti-populist forms of elitism and residual free-market liberalism.

There are a lot of genuinely anti-populist ideas floating around the ethnonationalist Right. Many people sneer at the very idea of popular sovereignty, claiming instead that sovereignty should reside in dynasties or priesthoods or elites, not peoples. Others sneer at the idea of democracy. All of these ideas are self-marginalizing and self-defeating.

According to Eatwell and Goodwin, “most national-populist voters want more democracy – more referendums and more empathetic and listening politicians that give more power to the people and less power to established economic and political elites” (pp. xi-xii). We will not capture the allegiance of such people by proposing a return to the Laws of Manu.

It is very easy to dismiss liberal democracy, given how badly it works today. But as Alain de Benoist has pointed out, if we actually had direct democracy on issues like trade and immigration, we’d have much better policies than we do today.[5] [7] If people could vote, day-by-day, with their smartphones, on matters of policy, we’d have better policies than we get with representative democracy. That’s a sobering truth.

In my essay “Notes on Populism, Elitism, and Democracy,” I employ arguments from Aristotle’s Politics to argue that an ethnostate should have a strong element of democracy.[6] [8] The standard of justice is the common good of a people, and a genuine people is an ethnic group. To say that the common good of a people is the standard of justice is equivalent to saying that the people is sovereign.

However, the people’s common good is an objective reality. It is not something that can be determined simply by convention. Therefore, government deliberations do not create the common good; they discover it. Because it is possible for the majority to be wrong about the common good, simply voting is not enough to determine what it is. The common good can only be discovered by rational inquiry. But some people are more rational than others, and the most rational people constitute a small elite.

However, if the determination of the common good is left only to the few, there is a danger that they will pursue their own elite interests at the expense of the body politic. Therefore, to secure the common good, the people need to have a voice.

Thus, we are more likely to serve the common good if we have a regime with both aristocratic (elitist) and popular (democratic) elements, in which the elites can guide the masses toward the truth about the common good, and the masses can deter the elites from ruling at the expense of the common good. Both the elites and the masses need to participate if we are to have genuinely populist government.

Rightists reject the idea that equality is the highest political good. Some on the Right go so far as to make inequality and hierarchy into the highest good. My answer to them is: What kind of hierarchy? Just hierarchies or unjust hierarchies? There can be good hierarchies and bad hierarchies. There can be good and bad, just and unjust, forms of inequality. We should stand for justice. Not hierarchy as such: a just hierarchy. Not inequality as such: a just inequality.

And if our primary focus is justice, there’s a lot to be said for democracy, rightly understood. Ethnonationalists can get almost everything we want simply by perfecting democracy. But we get absolutely nowhere by making a fetish out of inequality and hierarchy.

National Populists also need to genuinely embrace economic interventionism. There is a tendency for people on the Right to embrace free-market economic policies that are subversive of the common good and out of sync with what people want, even in the United States, the country most inclined toward free market capitalism.

Economics is a genuine science, but most of our people believe that identity is more important than economic efficiency. Our people believe that protecting national sovereignty, as well as flourishing working and middle classes, from globalization is more important than free trade. We need to bow to these preferences. These are questions of political values that cannot be settled by economics as such.

There is obviously much more to be said about how ethnonationalists can better align ourselves with National Populism. The first thing we need to do is understand it. Thus, I highly recommend Eatwell and Goodwin’s National Populism to all the big brains in our movement. It’s not the final say on these matters, but it’s a necessary first step.

Beyond that, I think we have to recognize that we’re entering an age of great unpredictability and instability. Times like these are quite resistant to grand designs, to people who think they can figure out how it’s all going to unfold. For instance, when Eatwell and Goodwin wrote their book, the Yellow Vests didn’t exist. What a surprise that was! Although looking at Eatwell and Goodwin’s numbers about the extremely high level of distrust in the establishment in France, it makes sense that the Yellow Vests happened there.

If history is full of surprises, what do we do? Let’s look at the Yellow Vests. It was very much a spontaneous, populist uprising. It was nobody’s grand design. But certain things made it possible. First is the absolute saturation of French society with nationalist-populist ideas. You can’t go anywhere in France without being exposed to national-populist critiques of and alternatives to the current system. Every French person knows about the problems with globalization and immigration. Second are the social networks that allowed people to organize and propagate these protests very quickly and sustain them for months on end.

But fostering ideas and social networks that make political change possible is the task of New Right metapolitics. It is what we are doing right now. So we need to do more of the same, but thanks to Eatwell and Goodwin, we can do so with renewed confidence that our efforts are aligned with deep-seated, long-lasting social trends. There is a great wave rising up behind us, a wave that might carry us, finally, to our goals.

Notes

[1] [9] Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin, National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy [2] (London: Pelican, 2018).

[2] [10] Greg Johnson, “The End of Globalization [11],” in Truth, Justice, & a Nice White Country [12](San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).

[3] [13] Jonathan Bowden, “The Essence of the Left [14],” Counter-Currents, August 26, 2016.

[4] [15] See Greg Johnson, “What’s Wrong with Diversity?” and “Homogeneity” in The White Nationalist Manifesto [16] (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2018).

[5] [17] Alain de Benoist, The Problem of Democracy (London: Arktos, 2011).

[6] [18] Greg Johnson, “Notes on Populism, Elitism, and Democracy [19],” in New Right vs. Old Right [20](San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2013); “Introduction to Aristotle’s Politics [21],” in From Plato to Postmodernism (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, forthcoming).