Traditionalism, Liberalism and Neo-Nazism In the Current Political Space

"Struggle for Tradition": a New Form of Political Legitimacy

Aleksandr Shchipkov

< previous part
next part >

Tradition is an invaluable capital of history. This is a mechanism for maintenance of moral standards and the accumulation of ideals of collective experience and cultural and social achievements. From the point of view of modern traditiology, tradition makes "the explanation by a social subject of the selected future behavior through the reference to the authority of the past" possible. [12, c. 5]

The main problem in the development of this resource in Russia and other "developing" countries (in other terms, semi-peripheral countries) is associated with ideological dogmas of the market society. More precisely, with serious losses of governing corporate and oligarchic layer in the event of substitution of the liberal economic course for the principles of long-term development, which is the socioeconomic imperative of traditionalism. Nevertheless, sooner or later, this "development fee", that is, the payment for the rejection of an already degrading liberal project, will become obligatory.

This can be directly applied to the sphere of social sciences. The Western scientific community has already recognized "the turn to tradition" which is gaining momentum as a trend. In Russia, a great amount of researchers are traditionally committed to yesterdays theoretical schemes.

For example, A.S. Akhiezer, S.G. Kirdina and other representatives of the outdated view of Russian society argue that there is an evident "entirety split" involving "the fight of opposite ideals the veche (cathedral, liberal) ideal and authoritarian (absolutist, totalitarian) ideal." [12, c. 52]

The split of society certainly exists, but it is not symmetrical. The designation of the opposite poles is incorrect and internally contradictory. Therefore, collegiality (the principle of the social majority consent) has nothing in common with the liberal principle of power delegation to elites fighting against each other. Political competition of minorities and the democratic majority are clearly not the same thing keep in mind the sensational and cautionary vote on the building of minarets in Switzerland. The majority decision was attacked as "an archaic, inefficient and immature democracy".

Moderate authoritarianism of domestic policy (but not totalitarianism) in peripheral countries – especially in Russia – provides the movement of a country towards the European space. Liberal elitism, on the contrary, usually throws a country back to the Asian "context". This dialectical connection revealed itself intensively in the Ukrainian crisis in 2014.

The above-mentioned statement is the result of an archaic, inadequate and outdated categoric apparatus of liberal political science. This theoretical relict preserved since the Cold War, has long been unable to "grasp" the realities of modern politics, which ultimately results in a theoretical collapse: instead of real politics description, we observe the examples of pseudoscientific myth-making.

Thus, the inclusion of historical tradition into the field of social studies and the social development scenario (these processes are interrelated, of course) is about timing. The only question: in what form and in what way will the tradition be perceived and used? It depends on the approach to tradition. It should be mentioned that the forms of traditionalism can be different. Discussing the situation in Western Europe, it is likely that the ruling elites will try to extract the mechanisms, allowing them to conserve the worlds social inequality on a new basis. De facto, this would be a return to what the liberal theory used to call "backwardness of the old regime".

The overcoming of "religious and class prejudices" was considered a merit on the part of bourgeois revolution and was classified as a foundation of a new state and new society established after 1793. "The era of democratic freedoms" originated from these events. Today, in the name of Western world preservation, the rehabilitation of what was recently called prejudice may be needed. It may happen that such rehabilitation would become the official manifesto of a new post-secular society. Why is that?

The reasons are not hard to extract. Liberalism is in a profound crisis, and figuratively speaking, the movement along the socialist (leftist) path will finish this obsolete social model off. It might be the best thing for Europe as a whole, but not for the ruling yet "liberal" elites. Therefore, there is a serious possibility of an alternative scenario. The turn to re-examination of tradition and historical heritage can be regressive both socially and morally. Even today, an appeal to tradition involves the actualization of certain elements of neopaganism or extreme fundamentalism. We can trace it in many examples – from new age cultural, pseudoreligious movements like The Third Testament" and Age of Aquarius to the political and military support of fundamentalist and Nazi movements (Syria, Ukraine) with the US and European capital. For example, the forces of Sunni radicals, especially the Wahhabis, and al-Qaeda (hostile until recently) are used in the Middle East against regimes unsubmissive to the United States. However, control of these forces takes place in some cases ("Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant") with support of Shi'ite radicalism.

The whole complex of the above-mentioned ideas and events is associated with the most ancient and inhuman elements of Middle East and European traditions (for example, Ukraine with its cult of Bandera and Shukhevich). To play the radical card in appropriate cases is what modern Western elites do best.

It should be remembered that in contrast with conservatism of 18th-19th centuries, the right-wing traditionalism of the 20th century is "conceptually "archaic"... and is oriented to the restoration rather than conservation." [13, p. 25]

Below are signs pointing at a multidimensional (and still far from positive) "turn to tradition" – political and socio-cultural trend of the new time:

1) The phenomenon of "financial feudalism" and parting with classical bourgeois;

2) Negative actualization of tradition in the form of fundamentalism and Nazism;

3) The union of the liberal establishment, Nazism and radical Islam;

4) Ideas of new colonialism: artificial regime change ("Arab Spring"); interpretation of European integration like "the war of civilizations" and "the conflict of mindsets;"

All of these points are not a political exoticism or any sign of global deterioration in morals. It is just a sign of a new and strong dependence of peripheral countries on the global economic center. This development is based on the pretext of modernization and "catching-up of development" and can be expressed not only in ideological but also in material terms: the EU Association Agreement signed by Ukraine, as well as the attempts to tackle economic problems of this country by a strong dependency on loans and recommendations of the International Monetary Fund are quite telling.

Is there any prospect of a civilized, humane and constructive neotraditionalism?

Indeed there is. Civilized neotraditionalism should not imply the obscurantism of radical ideas. Civilized, historically productive neotraditionalism could involve values, ethical standards and mechanisms of people unification, which were accumulated in the experience of Christianity and other traditional religions and gave rise to different forms of communal solidary society. Christianity should be discussed in the context of European paths. In China, for example, it is Confucianism and Buddhism; in the Middle East, it is traditional moderate Islam.

Unfortunately, any given view of tradition – left or right – will inevitably entail far-reaching political consequences. The right-wing traditionalism perceives tradition as a symbolic capital in pockets of national elites. In some cases, it allows to resist global elites and is a form of "right-wing tradition" similar to the phenomenon of national racism in the Third Reich. It also underlies the philosophy of modern right-wing Eurosceptics. In other cases, right-wing traditionalism is the core of the global neoliberal project. In particular, this is the role of Protestant fundamentalism in the United States.

It is obvious that the involvement of right-wing traditionalism in globalist projects is far more significant in world politics than its support of local European elites. However, symbiotic configurations are possible. Using the example of today's Ukraine, we see how local Nazi traditions become a minion in the hands of global players. During the Ukrainian crisis, American and British capital willingly finance ultra-right forces in the framework of the "Right Sector", which executed the fascist coup on January 28, 2014 in Kiev and other cities.

The analysis of these trends leads to deplorable conclusions. It is quite possible that several Nazi-type states will soon emerge in the Western Hemisphere called "Global North" by adherents of geopolitics. The first state is Ukraine. Without any exaggeration, social racism and civilized racism in the USA should be noted. However, the latent Nazi nature of a "new elite International" has previously been quite obvious.

The scenario of fascist traditionalism is expected to be realized with support of "the great history of mankind". Alas, this is done by bypassig genuine European Christian identity. This unfavorable scenario can only be opposed by a truly Christian tradition based on equality of men before God, humanity and benevolence rather than separation and inequality (here we suggest only the primordial concept of apostolic Christianity rather than historical transformations of church religiosity that often distorted the egalitarian concept of Christianity).

In other words, right-wing traditionalism is a powerful and still not fully enabled resource of liberal totalitarianism. The stiffening of the latter leads to regular use of a neopagan – in particular, neo-Nazi – part of tradition. It is used as a tool to mobilize the consciousness of people and to rouse the ancient level of consciousness ("a new wildness") in them. Such an approach to tradition is a serious obstacle in the path of civilized social traditionalism, which is mastering a Christian and socially oriented view of tradition.

In fact, "right-wing" and "left-wing" traditionalism are mutually exclusive. The first one seeks to bring the West to neopaganism – "the new Middle Ages" without Christianity (mentioned, for example, in a long-time project of "a global electronic village" by information society theorist M. McLuhan). The second seeks to reinstate the Christian moral layer of European tradition rejected by the project of the Enlightenment and integrate it into civilized and socially oriented forms of modernity without any fundamentalist extremes. The future struggle for tradition comes down to a choice between two basic forms of traditionalism.

For example, the United States places its bet in the fight against Bashar al-Assad on the right-wing tradition – radicalism of al-Qaeda and Wahhabism. American elites use foreign fundamentalists in the necessary ideological regime rather than their own. This is a typical attempt to force the myth-making and traditional values to work for the liberal model. Ideologically, such myth-making, as well as the model of Ukrainian Nazism, looks like dominoes: right-wing traditionalism plus traditional liberalism (for example, under a slogan of European integration).

The above-mentioned hybrid phenomenon is one of the possible forms of post-secularism. Because of this hybridism, moral and ethical values are degrading in politics: any party is entitled to use its own "wildness" against any other wildness. In this case, "the tradition code" (Protestant fundamentalism of American hawks) emerges mechanically inside the liberal episteme rather than "the progress code" (as the interests of the financial International).

It is necessary to remember that racial and mystical motifs prevail in modern ultra-right thinking. The differences between liberalism and new right-wing traditionalism display themselves in stylistics and epistemology (on the one hand in mysticism, on the other is rationalism and mercantilism), but not at the ethical level. However, in terms of moral and ethical archetypes, these differences are not as significant as they might seem. Practically speaking, the ethics of the New Right is a retrospection and simplification of liberal ethics up to its primordial origins. The outbreak of Nazism (with its exotic idea-complex) in European history of the 20th century is the result of such a regressive simplification. Today, the "new" right-wing traditionalism should not become a response to the current social request.

It should be pointed out that the future of post-secular society is not so much a turn to tradition as the struggle for tradition. The price tag is high. Liberal right-wing traditionalism can be opposed only by left-wing social traditionalism. The ancient pagan "law of the strongest" faced by the tradition of Christian justice.

The ideological confrontation is inevitable, but from now on, it will be held in the sphere of traditional meanings rather than political doctrines. Anyone who is able to speak on behalf of tradition and make the society give ear to him is going to bring the situation under control. The challenge of healthy social forces is not to abandon the future to destructive neo-Nazi, neo-pagan and fundamentalist tendencies. This goal is attainable.