Together with the New Right against globalisation?

They speak of solidarity with the Indians and call for cultural diversity. They want to get rid of capitalism and globalisation. And they have read right-wing and left-wing political classics. The Dutch intellectual vanguard of the extreme right have joined their forces with the discussion magazine Studie, Opbouw en Strijd (study, organise and struggle, SOS). They call themselves the New Right, after their comrades in France and Belgium. But how new are their ideas? An analysis of two articles written by the central ideologists Rüter and Veldman, published in the summer 1998 issue of SOS.

Now that most of the old extreme-right parties in Holland are falling apart, a discussion is being started in SOS on building a new right. The extreme-right think tank Voorpost and the Nederlandse Studenten Vereniging (nationalist student organisation, NLSV) are also joining in on the discussion.

The New Right especially focuses on the weak spots of the "left liberal ideology", as they call it. They try to connect to all sorts of left-wing movements and search for possibilities to give the basic ideas of these movements an extreme-right twist. With sardonic pleasure Rüter and Veldman frequently quote "left-liberal" opinion leaders saying doubtful things, giving them an honorable place in their new-right nationalist ideology. In this way they use Tom Lemaire, Hans Koning, Albert Stol, Umberto Eco and Stella Braam to prove their own right-wing ideology right.

Rüter and Veldman present their political renewal project very eloquently, and with daring and bravery, effectively shedding the old-fashioned bigot image. But basically they still heavily rely on the traditional fascist Blut-und-Boden (blood-and-soil) ideology.

A cultural revolution

New Right leader Rüter is a fan of the ideas of Gramsci, the communist who was buried alive for years in Mussolini's jails. According to Gramsci revolutions can only succeed when the culture of a country also fundamentally changes, when the "cultural hegemony" of the elite is broken. Therefor a "cultural revolution" is first needed, and that is precisely what Rüter wants. He wants to subvert the now fashionable "left-liberal consensus". According to Rüter, that consensus is forced upon us by "grand capital" and organised by the state. Rüter wants the societal organisation and our ways of thinking to become based on his new-right nationalism.

Rüter calls for an end to the "mondialisation" and sympathises with the struggle against the Multilateral Agreements on Investments (MAI). His readership is advised to get acquainted with the left-wing campaign against MAI. The nationalist students apparently liked it so much that they decided to link their homepage to that of the campaign.

Rüter quotes Marx saying that the will to "mondialise" is inherent in capital itself. And global capitalism also sells culture, Rüter writes. Capital "colonises the imagination", which leads to a global "uniformisation of the ways of life" and "an uprooting of collective identities and traditional cultures". Therefore Rüter wants to curb the power of "grand capital" and calls for a "participative" or "direct democracy", just like the anti-MAI activists do.

Rüter and Veldman especially dislike the thinking in terms of progress, which they say is hegemonic in the capitalist system. Veldman: "Nowadays the most fundamental political differences are not anymore between the left and the right, but between, on the one hand, the people arguing for unhindered economic growth and progress, to whom people are just consumers and the earth an object, and, on the other hand, those who, as Rüter says, "want to share the whole cosmic living space with the animals, plants and matter, and want to hand it over unharmed to the next generations"." Veldman speaks of solidarity with "peoples that struggle to save their own identity and with all those offering resistance against the destruction of flora and fauna, against the limitless power and influence of multinational companies and against the international consumption society."

Indian nationalism

The North American Indians are high on Veldmans list of cuddly peoples. In his long article "Indian nationalism, the hatchet is not yet buried!", he sketches the destruction of the "culture and identity" of the "original peoples" of America. This destruction is caused by the "massive immigration of people who do not care about the culture and religion of the indigenous peoples". According to Veldman, especially Christian culture and progress are responsible for the injustice done to the Indians. He likes to quote the famous Indian writer Vine Deloria jr. saying that he doesn't want any more contact with Christianity, capitalism or left-wing solidarity. It's all just import, he is said to have said. "Most Indians are nationalists, meaning that in the first place they think of the development and stability of the tribe", Deloria is quoted.

Copying left-wing activists, Veldman supports Indian activist Leonard Peltier, who by now has been held captive for some 24 years. And Veldman also makes propaganda for the magazine Nanai-notes, published by the Dutch Indian solidarity movement. In this way, Veldman and the New Right want to profit from the sympathy enjoyed by this movement.

"It isn't logical that the explicit identity politics of almost extinct or destroyed minorities, and 'undangerous' mini-peoples, get a lot of praise, whilst the same set of values are distrusted immediately when supporting the vigorous nationalism of a somewhat larger people", Veldman says, simply disregarding all history books full of "minorities" being killed by "a somewhat larger people" propagating such "vigorous nationalism".

Spiritual genocide

Veldman also tries to sell us his "vigorous nationalism" by quoting the ideas of Trudell, the most influential Indian leader of the seventies. Trudell hated Christianity and saw it as a "spiritual genocide" that not only brainwashed Indians but also the white people themselves. It all started, Trudell said, in the European Middle Ages, even before the Christian religion was exported to America. That was when the original European identity was crushed, according to Trudell. So, when Veldman says: "the Indian struggle is our struggle", he feels like a sort of Dutch Indian. He thinks that just like the Indians, the Dutch must rediscover their own identity and "in the first place become nationalists".

Long-time left-wing activist Stella Braam is famous for her relentless activities within the Dutch Indian solidarity movement. In her book "Voices of the earth" she wrote: "The land is basic to our existence. It saves the roots of their culture and the holy places of their ancestors". That quote of course made new-right Veldman very happy. "Seeing that so many well-meaning people value the culture and worldview of indigenous peoples, it is amazing that Europeans who also dislike progress and also try to recover their cultural roots and identity, get confronted with so much distrust and resistance by the people who say that they share the same values."

Pre-Christian traditions and religions are at the centre of the discussions within the New Right. Researchers like Koenraad Logghe explore medieval texts for signs of the assumed original white European identity. Logghe sometimes reports his findings in SOS and the summer issue contains a very positive review of his latest book "The holy grail: between pagan and Christian heritage." A Dutch publisher was recently stopped by De Fabel van de illegaal from marketing this book. Using this sort of research, the New Right also tries to tap into the fast-growing part of the new-age movement that specialises on "old Nordic traditions", a potential new-right constituency.

A feudal ideology

How new really is the New Right? At first sight the old-fashioned crude racism seems gone. Veldman even professes solidarity with indigenous people, as long as they stay where they are. He even says he dislikes the "blind solidarity with white folks around the globe", again distancing himself from extreme-right traditions. But, in the end, all remains the same. The New Right still longs for a pre-civilisational mythical past in which everyone knew his or her "natural place". They dream of a golden feudal period in which "peoples" were still "ethnically pure".

According to Rüter, modern man has been "uprooted" and cut off from his "natural origins" - the "organic community". "People, wherever they live, are connected to a piece of land, a piece of the earth which they see as their own, and they are always willing to fight for the independence and integrity of it." Rüter also believes in "a right and duty of self-defence on the level of the natural society of which every human is a part, starting with the family. It is the drive to conserve ethnic and cultural diversity, against uniformization and monolithic structures". In this way Rüter's new-right nationalism ends up as an old-fashioned crude biological racism: "as social beings, humans have a natural instinctive drive to identify with others who look the same."

The growing popularity of new-right ideas uncover the vulnerability of a left-wing ideology that is getting more and more vague these days. It is a shame that the New Right doesn't even have to play around with left-wing quotes to use them for their own purposes. The absence of a clear and consistent left-wing alternative and ideology might give the New Right opportunities to start attracting new generations of activists. Therefore left wing activists should be very clear about their arguments, if they decide to protest against for instance globalisation. And what they really want if they argue for cultural diversity. Hopefully not this new-right ideal of a static society, dominated by the past and a rigid vision of natural laws. Bigot ways of thinking in which the one whose ancestors have lived longest in a certain area gets the biggest say in politics and cultural matters.

Left-wing activists should rather strive for a society that can change, and in which all newcomers can equally participate. The left should strive to develop autonomous internationalist cultures of struggle, such as Gramsci really envisioned. Left-wing activists should not protest against a globalisation of solidarity or a global exchange of cultures and ideas. And most certainly not against progress. The real struggle is about the direction in which we are going to progress, and most important: who is going to decide about that.

Eric Krebbers
De Fabel van de illegaal
October 1998

Some editing of the English translation by Alain Kessi

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Last updated 1999-07-30