“Patriotism is the opposite of nationalism” bleated the poodle Macron at the Armistice celebration as he yipped and yapped and wagged his tail before the German conqueror of Europe. Meanwhile the Front Nationale outpolled the “mainstream” “centrist” parties in municipal elections for the first time and nationalist Italy is telling the European Union to stay out of its financial affairs.
Despite the best efforts of the Davos crowd, the wave of nationalism that is rising over Europe has global resonance. Nationalism is what’s driving the peace process and reunification effort on the Korean peninsula. Nationalism is what’s defying the pretensions of Spain’s chauvinist government and energizing the Catalonian rebels. Nationalism brought down the Soviet Union: it threatens the EU.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. The idea was that, in the wake of the Soviet collapse, the West would gradually and inevitably merge into what the theoreticians of European unity, citing Hegel, dubbed the “universal homogenous state.” And History – capitalize that H! – would quietly and unobtrusively come to an end. “Liberal democracy,” they claimed, was the “final” form of human organization: no ideological challenger was on the horizon nor was one likely to arise in this age of skepticism, secularism, and agnosticism. (I think it was one of Hegel’s European followers, the French professor Alexandre Kojeve, who hypothesized that post-historical music would be like “the buzzing of bees,” a prophecy that certainly sounds accurate to me.)
What happened instead is that all the old crap was simply regurgitated by the same ruling classes who had lorded it over the rest of us since time immemorial. Rather than mellowing out into a kumbaya-esque “end of history”-ish Eloi-land, the US and its allies redoubled their efforts to dominate the world, moving NATO steadily eastward, launching a decades-long invasion of the Middle East, and openly declaring their self-appointed role as enforcer of something called the “liberal international order” – a concept which no countries outside of Western Europe accept, and which the American people certainly never voted for.
Trump is challenging all that, which is why the Establishment hates him: he threatens the intricate web of alliances, cronyist networks, tripwires, and gravy-trains that are so essential for the economic and political survival of our transnational elites. The supra-national architecture of the “New World Order,” which once threatened to harden into a global super-state, is now under siege and being shaken to its foundations by the forces of disaggregation. Trump is the effect, not the cause.
Nationalism is an expression of the natural human feeling of cultural solidarity: it isn’t necessarily wedded to an ideology or a political credo so much as it’s a sentiment, strongly held, that one belongs in a particular place – and that this sense of belonging (and, therefore, this place) is worth defending.
As such – that is, as a sentiment – it can be attached to ideas and movements that are seemingly contradictory. A prime example is the striking contrast between the “isolationist” nationalism of the old America First antiwar movement, which fought to keep us out of the European war in 1940, and the “new nationalism” of Teddy Roosevelt and his admirers around The New Republic magazine, who saw World War I as a glorious crusade and the perfect pretext to roll out socialism in the United States. The former was inward-looking, relatively pacific, and conservative: the latter was expansionist, warlike, and “progressive.”
American nationalism, by the nature of its source, the American revolution, tends to be non-aggressive, inward-looking, and focused on the culture rather than the state, but it ain’t necessarily so. Even a cursory look at American history reveals the dark side of what is after all an emotional attachment and not a comprehensive worldview. Indeed, this sentiment has been married to a number of wrongheaded projects and movements: the Rooseveltian expansionism of the turn of the century, the policy of imperialism in the Caribbean and the Far East, the hysteric nationalism of the Woodrow Wilson years, when dissidents were locked up, tarred and feathered, and censorship strangled the free press.
This form of virulent ultra-nationalism has raised its ugly head periodically in the course of our history: the immediate period after 9/11 is a good example. It took many years for this war hysteria to subside, but a new version has arisen and gripped large sections of the Democratic party. This was manifested in the so-called blue wave that gave the party the House majority in the recent midterm elections.
Typical was the race for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s seat in Southern California, which he’s held for 15 terms, where millions of dollars went into a campaign to paint him as “Putin’s puppet.” We haven’t seen a Russia-baiting Red Dawn-ish bit of demagoguery like this since J. Edgar Hoover roamed the alleyways looking for “treason.”
With very few exceptions, the Democrats are the party of Russophobia, domestic political repression, and war. Their leadership is committed to a conspiracy theory that posits the President of the United States as a foreign agent and is actively seeking to overthrow him with the illegal support of our various intelligence agencies.
With a political agenda like this, militarism is the only possibility. And we’re not just talking about Teddy Roosevelt-style all-purpose braying belligerence: what’s at stake is a life-and-death struggle with a nuclear power. Such a conflict could destroy all life on earth with the push of a single button.
On the civil liberties front, the congressional Democratic majority can be expected to launch a campaign of political repression against its perceived opponents: that means anyone who opposes their crazed cold war agenda of Russia-baiting, rearmament, and NATO expansion. The Democrats have been protecting the illegal activities of the “intelligence community” in their brazen bid to oust Trump, and we can expect the further unleashing of the Surveillance State with absolutely no congressional restraints or oversight. The idea is to link American activists with Russians, by hook or by crook. It’s the oldest scam in the demagogue’s bag of tricks: smear your opponents as foreign spies. It worked last time around: or did it? Will a rerun of the McCarthy-Army hearings really be to the Democrats’ advantage – or will it make them look like the authoritarian cretins they are?
Stay tuned to this space….
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.