Sunday, March 5, 2017

Operation Rex: Can the Anti-Islamics Be Saved?

I mentioned in my last post the subject of the 'chav' and 'bogan' nationalist who tends to gravitate towards the anti-Islamic 'patriot' movements. In Britain, these 'patriot' gangs comprise the EDL, the Pie and Mash Squad, the North-West Infidels, the South East Alliance, Pegida UK... The gangs serve as a street force, perhaps the equivalent of the mobs of Clodious and Milo in ancient Roman times, for the anti-Islamic populists, of whom Wilders is the most famous example. We can find a few chapters of the Wilders Anti-Islamic International: in Britain, the two most prominent of these are Paul Weston's Liberty GB and Paul Golding's Britain First (a thuggish organisation which itself veers towards being a street gang).

Many from the nationalist scene have looked at these groups - which are comparatively new - and asked if the members can be steered towards a more 'hard', traditional nationalism; the old-time nationalists don't regard the doctrine of the anti-Islamics, who subscribe to multi-culti, gay rights, civic nationalism, Zionism, as satisfactory. You could describe this distaste of the traditional nationalists for the anti-Islamics as an ecumenical rivalry: the patriot gangs are recruiting many working class men (who often have shaven heads) who would, if not for the 'patriots', be joining skinhead gangs and other neo-Nazi outfits. The problem then becomes one of how to rescue these wayward souls from the clutches of the Zionist civic-nationalists. They need to be (in Alt-Right parlance) 'red-pilled'.

To the Far Left and the political establishment, the 'patriot' gangs appear to be 'hard' nationalist enough as it is - fascist (or neofascist) in fact. The more raffish of these outfits - the EDL, for example - meet what liberal academics call the fascist minimum, a checklist of characteristic traits of a typical fascist movement. The EDL 'vilifies' ethnic and religious 'minorities'; it makes a practice of street confrontations with the Left; it uses flags, banners, pennants, symbols; it makes 'hate' propaganda, often apocalyptic in tone and evocative of strong, negative emotional reactions, against the liberal democratic establishment, the politicians, the internationalists, the liberals, the pacifists, the bankers... The members of the 'patriot' gangs don't wear uniforms and don't organise themselves along paramilitary lines, but they verge upon both. The 'patriots' in Britain owe a great deal to their antecedents the BUF, and the National Front and British National Party in their street-fighting days. Long time British nationalists look at the 'patriots' with suspicion, then: they see the 'patriots' as johnny-come-latelies who have appropriated much of the style and rhetoric of British nationalism but have watered it down to make it more 'acceptable'. Some even believe that the British 'Deep State', working in conjunction with the 'anti-fascists' of the Far Left, were responsible for setting up the EDL as a front group with the intention of stealing away the limelight from the BNP (which, at the time of the EDL's founding, was electorally successful and did pose a real threat to the British establishment).

I think that this allegation - that certain of these 'patriot' and anti-Islamic groups have been contrived by the 'Deep State' - possesses merit, and I myself have met at least two individuals (both of whom are members of the Australian 'patriot' movement) who I believe are informants who work for what Joe Owens calls the 'Secret State'. The British nationalist scene seems to be riddled with informants, spies, agents provocateurs, and one can't blame Joe Owens for being paranoid; at the same time, I see his line of attack as being counter-productive. You can't win over nationalists and 'patriots' over to your cause by denouncing the groups they belong to as contrivances of the 'Secret State' and the leaders of those groups as 'spies' and 'snitches'. It doesn't work that way. For one thing, you need to take pride and vanity into account: no-one likes to admit that they've been led by the nose by a con-man. Besides which, any debate becomes one of the virtues (or vices) of one's opponent - whether or not he is of low enough moral character to be a 'snitch' and a 'traitor' - and not his ideas. If enough people believe in the efficacy of an organisation's ideas, then that organisation - suspicious as it is in its provenance - will continue to survive and attract followers. Combat 18, which was most definitely a front group set up by the 'Secret State', continues to flourish, and its members don't seem to care that it was founded by agents provocateurs.

The ideal outcome would be to persuade the 'patriots' and anti-Islamics to join your side. The question then becomes: what's your side? How does your 'racial nationalism' or 'white nationalism' or 'National Socialism' or whatever you want to call it differ from the civic nationalism of the 'patriots' and 'anti-Islamics'? That question has become especially pertinent for the Americans in the movement, who daily fill up message boards and comments sections with musings on how to 'red pill' Trump supporters, Republicans and 'Alt-Lite-ists', Trump being the closest America has come - and ever will come - to a European-style civic nationalist and populist.

Once one undertakes this task, one is confronted with an intellectual puzzle. How do you distinguish your ideas from those of the anti-Islamics? How does your product differ from theirs?

I would argue that Wilders is a nationalist of sorts - he certainly rejects Moroccan immigrants, for example, on grounds of their nationality - and one can detect certain elements of fascism in him (just as one can find a trace of it in the EDL). Wilders would furiously reject the comparisons to fascism, just as the EDL did - they filmed their burning of a swastika flag to prove their 'anti-Nazi' and 'anti-fascist' credentials -but anyone with an ounce of objectivity can see the parallels. You may object, 'But Wilders loves the Jews, and he hates white nationalism' - true enough, but adherence to white nationalism and anti-Semitism alone doesn't make one a fascist.

At first sight, the difference between a conservative and a fascist lies in fascism's authoritarianism - just like the Marxists, the fascists reject classical liberalism and liberal democracy (while touting at the same time a more true version of 'democracy'). But history teaches us the contrary of this thesis that fascism equals right-wing authoritarianism. Franco of Spain and Salazar of Portugal do not qualify as fascists (according to the academic specialists in the subject), even though both their regimes exploited fascism - or rather, the energy and enthusiasm for fascism - at their founding. Both Franco and Salazar rose to power on the back of a fascist wave. But, in the end, history regards them as authoritarian conservatives, nothing more. We can obtain more clarity if we are to look at the example of two Latin American dictatorships of the 1970s which were in part Francoist and Salazarian in inspiration: Chile and Argentina. The rulers of both countries opposed communism and wielded a heavy hand against it, and overturned liberal democracy and replaced it with a right-wing dictatorship; but one can't classify them as 'National Socialist'. One cannot confuse a Pinochet with a Hitler, Mussolini, Mosley.

Imagine - as a thought experiment - a dictatorship in Europe or Australia which was conservative and, furthermore, civic nationalist and anti-Islamic: say, for instance, that the Zio-populist Australian Liberty Alliance took power in a coup (unlikely as that prospect seems) and then ruled like Pinochet. Could such a regime be considered fascist? Neofascist? My answer would be no. One of the distinguishing features of the classical fascism of the 1920s and 1930s was its 'totalitarian' aspect; like the communists, the fascists attempted to insinuate themselves into every nook and cranny of social, economic, intellectual and cultural life. The fascist doctrine had to pervade everything; it exerted itself in spheres which we would regard as non-political. This explains the resemblances between the National Socialist Germany of 1933-1945 and the German Democratic Republic of 1949-1989.

The conventional wisdom supports my point of view, and the distinction I have drawn here - between authoritarian and 'totalitarian' regimes - mirrors the one made by, among others, the neoconservative intellectual Jeane Kirkpatrick (see her landmark essay 'Dictatorships and Double Standards'). Today's nationalists who are self-proclaimed 'National Socialists' would not like it at all: they live in fear of words such as 'fascist' and 'totalitarian' being applied to them, even though their forebears wore those words as badges of honour. And I can see their point of view to a certain extent. Concepts such as 'fascism' and 'totalitarianism' don't evoke positive responses, even in civic nationalists and anti-Islamics (who are wont to compare Islam to 'fascism' anyway). One can't take the line with the civics that 'I want what you want, except that I want you to go further to the Right and become more "fascist" and "totalitarian"' - that will not go down well.

Nevertheless, the leap from ultra-conservatism to fascism can be made. Here is a description of the ideas of Leon Degrelle's Rexist Party (1935-1945) from Wikipedia:

The ideology of Rex, which was loosely based on the writings of Jean Denis, called for the "moral renewal" of Belgian society through dominance of the Catholic Church, by forming a corporatist society and abolishing liberal democracy.[7] Denis became an enthusiastic member of Rex and later wrote for the party newspaper, Le Pays Réel. The original programme of Rexism borrowed strongly from Charles Maurras' integralism. It rejected liberalism which it deemed decadent and was strongly opposed to both Marxism and capitalism, instead striving for a corporatist economic model, idealising rural life and traditional family values.[2]

In its early period — until around 1937 — Rexism cannot accurately be categorised as a fascist movement. Rather it was a populist,[2] authoritarian and conservative Catholic nationalist movement[8] that initially tried to win power by democratic means, and did not want to totally abolish democratic institutions. The party increasingly made use of fascist-style rhetoric, but it was only after Degrelle's own defeat in a by-election in April 1937 that it openly embraced anti-Semitism and anti-parliamentarism, following the model of German Nazism. The historian and fascism expert Roger Griffin only considers the Rexist Party during the German occupation of Belgium as "fully fascist", until then he considers it "proto-fascist".[9]

The interesting thing is that the Rex Party's transition to fascism came at the expense of its electoral popularity:

The Rexist Party was founded in 1935 after its leader Léon Degrelle had left the mainstream Catholic Party which he deemed too moderate. It targeted disappointed constituencies such as traditionalist Catholics, veterans, small traders and jobless people. In the Depression era, it initially won considerable popularity—mostly due to its leader's charismatic appearance. Its greatest success was when it won 11.5% of the votes in the 1936 election.[12] Therefore, the Rexist Party could take 21 of the 202 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 8 out of 101 in the Senate, making it the fourth-strongest force in Parliament, behind the major established parties (Labour, Catholic, Liberal). However, the support for the party was extremely localized: Rexists succeeded in garnering over 30 per cent of the vote in the French-speaking province of Luxembourg, compared with just 9 per cent in equally French-speaking Hainaut.[7] Degrelle admired Adolf Hitler's rise to power and progressively imitated the tone and style of fascist campaigning, while the movement's ties to the Roman Catholic Church were increasingly repudiated by the Belgian clergy. Rexism received subsidies from both Hitler and Mussolini.[ citation needed]

Degrelle ran in the April 1937 Brussels by-election against Prime Minister Paul van Zeeland of the Catholic Party, who was—to avoid victory of the Rexists—supported by all other parties, including even the Communists.[13] The Archbishop of Mechelen and primate of the Catholic Church of Belgium, Jozef-Ernest Cardinal van Roey intervened, rebuking Rexist voters and calling Rexism "a danger to the country and to the Church". Degrelle was decisively defeated: he lost by 20 to 80 percent.[14]

Afterwards, Rexism allied itself with the interests of Nazi Germany even more strongly and incorporated Nazi-style anti-Semitism into its platform. At the same time, its popularity declined sharply.[15] In the 1939 election, Rex's share of votes fell to 4.4% and the party lost 17 of its 21 seats, largely to the mainstream Catholic and Liberal parties.[15]

A study needs to be made of what the arguments were, what rhetoric was used, by Degrelle to lead his fellow Rexists down the path towards fascism and away from conservatism.

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