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Nationalist Individualism


For some, reading the mix of nationalist and individualist ideas in Anders Behring Breivik's manifesto might be a novelty.

But to Latin Americans, the unity of fascism and individualist neoliberalism expressed by Breivik, the Norweigian ultra-right terrorist of Oslo and Utoya, is nothing new. Indeed, it has been around since Pinochet's coup in Chile, when the shootings of leftists were accompanied by the visits of Milton Friedman and the rest of the Chicago School, who arrived carrying their heavy doctrinal tomes.

In the US the extreme right since at least the 19th century has connected beliefs in free trade, free import, slavery, KKK-style racism against African-Americans, and opposition to state intervention in the economy.

In Europe, however, the image of fascism always invokes the state-driven ideologies of Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco. These classic fascist movements occurred at a time when laissez-faire liberalism lay in the ruins of the Great Depression. The extreme right then – as now – trumpeted nationalism, racism, and the need to crush Marxism. But at that time, the extreme right advocated state intervention in the economy as the only way out of the crisis and, especially in Germany, as a strong mechanism for war.

Since the 1970s, however, the international Right has associated itself completely with neoliberalism, opposed to “statist” social democracy, trumpeting reduction of state intervention in the economy. The Right succeeded in the 1980s and won the privatization of the majority of enterprises and services in many countries. The extreme right has espoused the hardest neoliberal line since then. This was made evident in the coup d'etats in the Southern Cone of Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, and today it is even more clearly seen in US and european neofascism.

The North American right has focused its attack on public health and against the right to health, while mounting a more general attack against all social investment and welfare. The Tea Party of the United States has taken this discourse to the extreme, associating it also with racism against immigrant workers and their families. In Europe, in the middle of the economic crisis, the extreme right is gaining support and votes with its anti-immigrant proposals.

21st century fascism is built on neoliberal and racist discourse and exacerbated by the restoration of what Samuel Huntington called the “central culture”. For Huntington, the restoration of the role of the “central culture”, Anglo-Christian, is fundamental in renewing national identity. In Spain, Portugal, and Latin America, long ago, the Right espoused an equivalent concept, that of “Western Christian (catholic) civilization”. To Huntington, however, a fundamental aspect of this “central culture” is individualism, as opposed to collective or group rights. For the new right, any deviation from individualism toward collective consciousness or collective rights is an attack on the “central culture” and an attack on the right to work.

For this new Right, the enemies of the “central culture” are internal and external. In the interior, the immigrants and their multicultural influence. In the exterior, the enemy in the Clash of Civilizations is Islam (and eventually the Chinese).

Neofascism takes these claims and adds violence, attacking not only supposed enemies identified by the right-wing ideologues, but also the supposed “traitors” who are permitting the enemy (immigrants and muslims) to advance. From there, against the “statists” who refuse to reduce the economic role of the state, who insist on collective rights and destroy individualist ethics. The Oklahoma City bombings that killed children at a state day care center; the massacre at Tucson of January 8, 2011, attacking political event for public health; and the massacre at Norway of July 22, that attacked the Labour Party youth, were all extremes of neofascist violence, but there are daily displays in Europe and in the US as well.

Repeated physical attacks against immigrants or gypsies on subway trains, stations, and streets have become institutionalized with new laws against immigrants in the US and Europe, including laws banning the veil and various cultural forms of gypsies as well as laws restricting bilingual education.

Islamophobia is not shared by all neofascists. In Hungary the Jobbik and its “Hungarian Guard” maintain the unifoms and symbols of Hungarian Nazis of the 1930s and 1940s as well as a furious racism against Jews. Some of Jobbik's friends, including Eduardo Rozsa and his Hungarian-Rumanian group tried to start a war to separate Santa Cruz from Bolivia, have declared themselves Muslims. As against the Norweigian neofascists who admire Serbian nationalists, the Hungarian Nazis supported the Bosnian Muslims in their struggle against the Serbs and they are anti-Israel. Hungarian Nazis share with the Tea Party and the Norweigian fascists hate immigrants, state intervention in the economy and the welfare state. They all love free trade.

While the Hungarian Nazis unleash violence against gypsies who have lived in the country for generations, France has approved laws to expel migrant gypsies and Kosovo, Australia, Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have all seen a rise in racist attacks against gypsies. The Hungarian Nazis assault immigrants and in Spain the neofascists beat Africans and South Americans.

The politicians of Italy's Liga Norte, like Francesco Speoni, of France's National Front, like Jacques Cutela, have unsurprisingly come out to defend Anders Behring Breivik's ideas as defenders of “Western Civilization”. Pure hatred, of immigrants, muslims, arabs, jews, gypsies, blacks, indigenous…

Amidst all this, the reduction of the state that the Right trumpets and the neofascists try to impose by way of intimidation seems to only affect social programs. It is related, however, to the unbelievable growth of military budgets and of wars, that grow the public debt and fiscal deficit. A greater insanity than that of one lunatic terrorist.

Hector Mondragon is a Colombian activist and economist.

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