When one considers the question of so-called “hate speech” and of so-called xenophobia, one has to keep in mind that there are two distinct dimensions to the matter. On the one hand, one may see “hate speech” and xenophobia as elements of an ideological narrative “manufactured” by the mass media with the aim of warning citizens to stay away from such politically “immoral” thinking – as a dominant ideology, it wants to threaten and manipulate civil society so as to repress whatever popular responses to real material circumstance (such as the mass influx of illegal immigrants – an influx which seems irreversible). On the other hand, both “hate speech” and xenophobia are real popular sentiments among sections of European civil society, and are therefore a spontaneous grassroots response to such real material circumstances. The implication is obvious: popular xenophobia, which may also take the form of “hate speech”, is a set of sentiments completely independent of the ideology churned out by the ideological apparatuses of the EU.
1. “Hate speech” constitutes a negative definition of one’s self as a people – it is therefore a negative form of self-defense against the possible “invasion” of one’s national culture by the mass influx of carriers of non-European (or even anti-European) cultural values.
2. “Hate speech” is a denial of one’s identity as a European people nurtured on the values of thinkers such as Descartes, Kant, Nietzsche or Mazzini.
3. Even more importantly so, it can be a denial of the values of one’s own nation and its history.
4. It can further express an absence of respect for other national cultures, and as these are practiced in their own home ground.
5. All “hate speech”, by definition, is an emotionalist reaction that can be self-destructive.
6. Its emotionalist nature is a by-product of post-modernist apolitical ideology. Such apolitical ideology has been expressive of the demise of rational thought and analysis, and has gone hand-in-hand with the veritable end of social theory. It has been the end of social theory that has prepared the ground for such apolitical, emotionalist “hate speech”. Emotionalism is a self-defeating disorganization of the popular “common νους”.
7. At the grassroots level, “hate speech” may yield its opposite amongst other sections of civil society – viz. “anti-hate speech”. But such “anti-hate speech” – also a by-product of post-modern irrationalism – is itself characterized by an essential ambiguity, it being “phobic” itself (of whatever references to “national consciousness”). The end-product of such potential conflict within European civil society is a vicious circle which is itself self-destructive for a people. Such vicious circle needs to be broken by a superior discourse beyond whatever “hate” or “anti-hate”, and which should be based on objective social and historical analysis.
1. Whatever be its present-day weaknesses, xenophobia – as a popular ideological sentiment – must be understood as an important historical phenomenon both of the past and of the present. It has expressed – and presently expresses – either significant minorities within a country or even the majority of a country’s population. As such, the phenomenon needs to be explained in strict socio-historical terms.
2. It is absolutely important to stress that, historically speaking, the sentiment of xenophobia has not only been expressed by the so-called “reactionary Right”. In fact, xenophobia has cut across all ideologies since the start of the 20th century – it has been as much expressive of “Left-wing” working class consciousness. Such consciousness, wherever it manifested itself in Europe, had never been a “pure” and “innocent” socialism. As the communist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, has pointed out, “worker internationalism” had always been a “myth” (cf., especially, his “The Age of Empire”).
3. One can enumerate an almost endless series of historical phases in which xenophobia had come to express either States, or the popular masses, or important groupings within such masses of people. We shall here merely present a few samples of different forms of xenophobia.
4. To begin with, we know that countries such as the USA and Japan – in their different phases of capitalist development – had adopted economic nationalism, protectionism and isolationism so as to boost their economic development.
5. Yet another form of xenophobia in history has been linguistic nationalism, which at times had manifested itself as a popular movement amongst the whole of the popular masses, be these peasants, workers or the middle classes. An excellent example of this is of course Irish nationalism, and we know that intellectuals such as W.B. Yeats would be embroiled in just such nationalist struggles (Celtic versus English language). Linguistic nationalism has also appeared in countries such as Spain and Belgium.
6. Hobsbawm has recorded in much detail the rise of working class xenophobia in various countries of early-20th century Europe. One of the causes of such worker sentiments having been the competition over jobs, and which was a competition between workers belonging to different ethnic groups.
7. Xenophobia was evident even amongst members of the working class organized in the European socialist movement – Hobsbawm points to socialist intellectuals of the early-20th century who had no choice but openly espouse working class nationalism (leaders such as Liebknecht and Bebel, or Connolly and Maclean). The Socialist Party of Finland, the Mensheviks of Georgia and the Jewish Bund, amongst others, organized workers on the basis of their ethnic identity.
8. Perhaps the clearest form of nationalist-xenophobic consciousness has always been amongst immigrant workers themselves – on concentrating in some foreign land, they would cluster tightly together so as to protect their particular interests and salvage their national identity. Excellent examples of such immigrant xenophobia include the cases of Poles, Slovaks and Italians in the USA.
9. The Chinese Boxer rebellion in 1900 was thoroughly xenophobic (against all things European).
10. The Mexican peasant revolution of 1910-1920 was itself characterized by xenophobic sentiments (against the Americans and wishing to revive an Aztec-based traditionalism).
11. The whole of the Arab world has been characterized by religious nationalism and anti-Western xenophobia. Of course, the pivotal figure of such fanatic ideology has been Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928.
12. It is obvious from the above that xenophobia has a history. Its carriers have been different subjects in history, depending on socio-cultural circumstances. From the point of view of objective social history, the phenomenon of xenophobia is neither “negative” nor “positive”: it is a phenomenon that is objectively explainable. On the other hand, one may assess whichever xenophobic movement in terms of its long-term consequences. German mass xenophobia of the 1940’s led to the destruction of the Third Reich; in contrast, Chinese mass xenophobia in the early-20th century set the foundations for the rise of a powerful Chinese Nation-State espousing an assertive State-led ideology of Chinese nationalism (cf. B.J. Darr, S. Zhao, and other analysts). Further, whether or not the specific ideological content of a particular xenophobic movement is “acceptable” or “repulsive” simply depends on which side of the mountain you are on.
13. The point is that xenophobia not only has a history – it has in fact had a very rich and varied history, having taken a variety of different forms. Certain forms of xenophobia have been informed by a highly sophisticated theoretical tradition – take, for instance, Max Weber’s strong anti-Polish sentiments (cf. Wolfgang J. Mommsen, “Max Weber and German Politics, 1890-1920”, Chicago, 1984). Other traditions of xenophobia have acted as historical catalysts for a rich anti-colonialist struggle – a perfect example is that of Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950’s, which was explicitly anti-White and had tried to revive Kikuyu traditional values (it has been dubbed a “xenophobic movement of a messianic type” by historians such as Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch). Similarly, various strands of Pan-Africanism and the Black Consciousness Movement have themselves been characterized by elements of xenophobia (“Black Supremacy” versus “White Supremacy”, etc.).
14. With respect to the present, we know that elements of xenophobia are evident in mass political parties such as the Front National in France and UKIP in the United Kingdom (both Parties have attracted voters traditionally belonging to the “Left”). Xenophobia is also evident in mass spontaneous sentiments expressed in countries such as Austria, Denmark, Poland and elsewhere. Further, there is also the Dresden-based Pegida movement (the “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West”), with offshoots across Europe. This movement, mainly rooted within elements of the youthful middle classes, can be more prone to what the German State has dubbed “hate speech”. Generally speaking, xenophobia as a spontaneous emotionalist ideology is spreading throughout Europe, and cuts across all social strata and most political tendencies of the “deep society” of European countries (one can, for instance, encounter elements of xenophobia amongst supporters of UK’s Conservative Party, Germany’s Christian Democratic Union and even the Social Democratic Party of Germany).
15. What needs to be stressed is that all such tendencies and forms of xenophobia, and especially when expressed via formal organizational structures, are in the process of enriching and organizing their own discourse – for instance, political organizations such as the National Front and UKIP are steering clear of mere “hate speech”. Precisely because xenophobia is a historically-rooted force responding to specific historical circumstances, it develops and evolves as the present historical conjuncture gradually unfolds itself.
16. But present-day “hate speech” goes even beyond what we have described thus far. The EU (and especially the German) élites have systematically expressed a form of “hate speech” against the Greek popular masses with the advent of the economic crisis and attempts at implementing their Memorandums of Understanding. As is well-known, such specific form of anti-Greek “hate speech” has come to be known as “Greek-bashing”.
17. Further, the European “Left” (but especially so in the case of the Greek “Left”) has itself been “phobic” of the “national sentiments” of “deep society”, which basically constitutes the vast majority of the middle classes in the various countries of Western Europe. Of course, the “communist Left” has long been weaving its own version of “hate speech”, and which by now takes the rather frivolous form of “class hatred”.
18. Finally, and speaking of xenophobia in the early-21st century, we cannot but mention the case of South Africa. Here, the single most important anti-racist (and working class) movement of the 1970’s and 1980’s in the world – the Anti-Apartheid struggle – has ultimately come to yield an extremely violent form of xenophobia against black non-South Africans that have entered the country as immigrants. Again, the phenomenon calls for a careful objective analysis attempting to explain the causes that lie behind it.
1. At present, there is a rampant and instinctual feeling amongst the average Greek citizen that his country is being “bombarded” from all sides. More specifically, many Greeks have this almost fatalistic feeling that their country is somehow falling apart. One need be no political scientist to be fearfully aware of a thoroughly tangible reality unfolding right before one’s eyes. Which is that reality?
2. We may very roughly describe the situation as follows: The massive and uncontrollable influx of Muslims into the country seems to lead, not only to the gradual demise of the Greek nation-state as one had experienced it thus far, but also to an almost inevitable implosive chaos within the borders of the country.
3. Such influx is happening in a country characterized by the following factors: a) a destroyed industry and almost non-existent primary sector, and with a large-scale, structural unemployment; b) a collapsed or collapsing social infrastructure (including social welfare networks); c) an ageing population incapable of renewing itself, and especially given the attack on the Greek Family Unit (and its reproductive capacity) by the imposed Memorandums; d) the Greek brain-drain to countries such as Germany and elsewhere; e) the limited “space” of the country as such, and so on and so forth. Very simply, we have the on-going, massive influx of foreigners into a country which cannot adequately cater for its own people. (For a truly excellent analysis regarding the question of the mass influx of Muslims in Greece, cf. Pericles Nearhou, «ΟΙΚΟΝΟΜΙΚΗ ΚΡΙΣΗ ΚΑΙ ΜΕΤΑΝΑΣΤΕΥΤΙΚΟ – ΕΚΡΗΚΤΙΚΟ ΜΕΙΓΜΑ ΓΙΑ ΤΗ ΧΩΡΑ», «ΕΠΙΚΑΙΡΑ», Issue No. 328, 19/02-25/02/2016, pp. 14-17).
4. Almost everyone can see and feel this: the spontaneous reactions of citizens at Kos, Lesvos, Pella or Diavata protesting against the presence of immigrants on their home grounds are symptomatic of the situation. The perpetual tensions at Idomeni, on the FYROM border, are a further manifestation of the explosive situation.
5. For the moment, such reactions are essentially localized and whatever xenophobic sentiments are, presumably, only latent. They express a popular consciousness of the need for self-survival in the face of practical, material problems.
6. But localized popular reactions could, in the long-run, possibly mutate into a generalized, nation-based xenophobia depending on developments and especially if citizens are ideologically provoked by certain political forces within Greece.
7. By this we mean something very specific. Anti-immigrant “hate speech” in Greece is indirectly and unwittingly being provoked by a small section of the population (not more than 3%-4%, if not even less) which adopts specifically anti-Greek values in its struggle to assert its so-called “Left-wing” ideology of “open borders”. This grouping, highly vocal and aptly manipulated by the mainstream media, actually despises the very idea of “Greekness” and whatever values are associated with it. Just one example of such provocative rejection of Greek cultural values is the manner in which this so-called “Left” sees the matter of «φιλοξενία» (Greek hospitality) vis-à-vis immigrants. What concerns this grouping is not whether or not the natives of Greek islands demonstrate their hospitality towards in-coming Muslims – for them, the very cultural value of «φιλοξενία» as such is to be rejected, it being – according to them – a popular Greek ideology aimed at “controlling” immigrants.
8. Consider a representative text published in the important “Left-wing” journal, «ΣΥΓΧΡΟΝΑ ΘΕΜΑΤΑ», and which refers to the matter of immigrant presence on the island of Lesvos and how the “Left” would wish Greeks respond to it – the text reads as follows: “… επιχειρείται οι σχέσεις με τον ξένο στο μικροεπίπεδο της κοινωνικότητας να οικοδομούνται στη βάση της ισότητας και της αμοιβαιότητας και όχι στο πλαίσιο μιας βαθιά ιεραρχικής σχέσης, όπως η φιλοξενία που, καθώς έχει δειχτεί, σε τελική ανάλυση αποσκοπεί στον έλεγχο της επικινδυνότητας του «ξένου»…” (cf. K. Rozakou, «ΤΟ ΠΕΡΑΣΜΑ ΤΗΣ ΛΕΣΒΟΥ: ΚΡΙΣΗ, ΑΝΘΡΩΠΙΣΤΙΚΗ ΔΙΑΚΥΒΕΡΝΗΣΗ ΚΑΙ ΑΛΛΗΛΕΓΓΗ», in «ΣΥΓΧΡΟΝΑ ΘΕΜΑΤΑ», Issue No. 130-131, July-Dec. 2015, pp.14-15).
9. The implications of such a position are obvious and well-known to the Greek public, and which makes such a position highly provocative (thus generating “hate speech” against both the “Left” and immigrants). What is the “Left” telling us? First, we are told that «φιλοξενία» constitutes a “deeply hierarchical relationship” denying foreigners a mutual relationship of “equality”, it being a cultural practice that wishes to “control” people which it sees as “dangerous”. Thus, Greek cultural practices are “phobic”. By extension, Greek traditional culture is ipso facto “racist”. By further extension, Greek islanders are by definition “racist” (since immigrants are not by definition “racist” themselves, they are more equal than Greeks).
10. But the implications of such a position go even further, and these truly epitomize all of “Left” thinking. To counter an “inequality” manufactured by an ideological practice such as «φιλοξενία», the “Left” itself manufactures its own «ανθρωπιστική διακυβέρνηση», meant to constitute the “alternative” to «φιλοξενία» – viz. «αλληλεγγύη». Through “solidarity”, we have the establishment of an absolute “equality” between Greeks and non-Greeks. What we ultimately also have, of course, is an «ανθρωπιστική διακυβέρνηση» of “multiculturalism”. And thus we end up with a total denial of the “nation-state” (which is precisely what the EU is itself aiming at).
11. Very few Greeks would deny that all people are “equal” as humans, be these Arabs or Greeks, or whatever. On the other hand, the vast majority of Greeks would demand that their legal status as citizens of the Greek nation-state ought to be a “privileged” status. Denying such “privilege” is to deny them their own identity as a nation. That, however, is precisely what the “Left” – as also German State Nationalism – wishes to achieve. Hence the provocation, which can – as it does – boomerang in the form of an emotionalist “hate speech” in the interest of self-survival.
12. On the whole, what we have is a serious provocation on the part of the Greek “Left” that amounts to a racist attack on Greek civil society as such, and at the values that such society espouses. Such “Left-wing phobia” of all things Greek is encapsulated in Rozakou’s insinuation that «φιλοξενία» is, in the last instance, «μισοξενική» (ibid., p. 15).
13. But the provocation of a besieged Greek civil society does not only come from the so-called “Left”. In fact, there is an almost complete convergence between the “Left” position and that of mainstream TV channels such as SKY and MEGA. All such TV channels stigmatize whatever reactions on the part of civil society to immigrant presence as the work of a minority instigated by the Golden Dawn Party, the insinuation being that all such reactions are at least quasi-“fascistic”. Such convergence between the “Left” and the mainstream media is explainable: both espouse, for their own separate reasons, the EU ideology of “multiculturalism”. Both choose to completely ignore the objective causes of such popular reactions.
14. Of course, the alignment of forces against Greek civil society goes even further, such alignment being effected under the all-encompassing umbrella of “humanism” and the ideology of “political correctness”. All State Apparatuses, all the organs of Government, all Political Parties (bar Golden Dawn), all NGO’s, etc., stigmatize whatever reactions to the mass presence of immigrants as “phobic”. If they do not openly stigmatize, they in any case simply ignore local reactions. A representative case of this is that of Diavata: on February 24, 2016, simply disregarding the public protests of Diavata residents (including the takeover of schools by pupils), the government “surprised” locals by quickly moving more than 2,000 immigrants into a former military camp in the region. Popular sentiment against “hotspots” has yet another dimension to it: all are being established in the more degraded areas of the country and nowhere near “élite” suburbs. People find it bitterly ironical that a “radical Left” government chooses not to disrupt the lives of the Greek social élites. Generally speaking, it seems that it is only certain members of the Local Authorities who are prepared to speak out in the name of residents. We thus have a polarization between, on the one hand, the “humanism” of the State in general and, on the other, the everyday realities faced by civil society. This can only but generate “hate speech” (something clearly evident on FB popular discourse – cf. SafeLine.gr referring to 2014-2015 statistics).
1) Perhaps the best method in which one can gauge the spread and sway of any grassroots discourse (in this case that of xenophobia) is to observe the effect it has on dominant ideology – the extent, that is, to which it is able to force dominant ideology to yield to “compromises” and “adjustments” in the face of such spreading grassroots discourse.
2) The dominant ideology of “multiculturalist humanism”, which has long been espoused by both the German State and the European “Left”, has had no choice but partially yield to the demands, on the part of European civil society, for the protection of its European and especially national self-identity. In the Greek press at least, such yielding to grassroots pressure has best been analyzed by Stavros Lygeros (cf., for instance, his articles published in «ΠΡΩΤΟ ΘΕΜΑ», 10.1.2016 & 31.1.2016).
3) The vast majority of the German popular masses reject Merkel’s pro-immigration policy (meant to serve the labour-needs of big capital) and explicitly assert that the influx of Muslims into Germany «θα αλλοιώσει την πολιτισμική ταυτότητα της Γερμανίας και ευρύτερα της Ευρώπης» (Lygeros). In fact, only 16% of Germans sees the presence of immigrants in a somewhat positive light. It is precisely this grassroots pressure that has forced the German Party Political System as a whole (bar Parties such as Die Linke, with only 8, 6% of the vote) to adopt an anti-Merkel stance on the question of immigration.
4) The assertion that European and national culture need be salvaged in the face of the Muslim “invasion” is of course not at all limited to German civil society – it runs right across Europe. As Lygeros observes: «Είναι ένα επιχείρημα που βρίσκει ολοένα και μεγαλύτερη απήχηση όχι μόνο στη γερμανική, αλλά και στις υπόλοιπες ευρωπαϊκές κοινωνίες».
5) Throughout much of Europe, therefore, we can see grassroots anti-Muslim sentiments being diffused from the “bottom” and permeating the governments of European countries, whatever be their “ideological” orientation. The sheer impact of material reality is forging a “European consciousness” and a concomitant “nation-state consciousness” that simply cannot be contained by European States. To the extent that the influx of illegal immigrants cannot be held back, so too the rise of so-called xenophobia can also not be restrained. This should be seen as an objectively-determined phenomenon: we know that to each action, there is always an equal and opposite reaction. The reaction has not been exactly “equal”, but it has been powerful enough to force the European political élites to “compromise” their ideology of “multiculturalist humanism”.
6) It is precisely within such context that one needs to understand the popular rise of xenophobia within the Visegrad Group: popular grassroots sentiment wishing to avert a “clash of cultures” has forced the Visegrad States to adopt a quasi-institutionalized “xenophobic” policy.
7) And it is precisely within this same context that one should understand Austria’s pact with nine Balkan States to halt the influx of immigrants (February 24, 2016 meeting in Vienna).
8) Lygeros himself has observed: «Στην πραγματικότητα, περισσότερο ή λιγότερο, όλες σχεδόν οι χώρες-μέλη διολισθαίνουν ανομολόγητα στην πολιτική του Ούγγρου πρωθυπουργού Βίκτορ Ορμπάν».
9) Symptomatic of the whole situation is that towards the end of February and early March, 2016, the French Socialist Government had no choice but move in and violently tear down the Calais sprawling “Jungle” of 3,500 immigrants.
10) What is of great interest, finally, is that within such context, we see a so-called “radical Left” government in Greece actually accepting the deployment of NATO vessels in the Aegean to help control the number of immigrants crossing from Turkey into the Greek islands.
11) All these events point to the possible looming dominance of a so-called xenophobia in Europe – and yet, this does not necessarily mean that European civil society has won the day. It seems almost inevitable that, at some point in time, big capital (and the political forces which represent it) shall fight back: “humanism” and “multiculturalism” remain its ideological tools.
1) The long-term impact of the mass influx and settlement of Muslims in Europe shall definitely transform much of ideological discourse across most EU member countries. Ideological vacuums shall be created awaiting to be filled by the most politically robust of actors.
2) The irrational, ahistorical “romanticism” of the “Left” shall come to be isolated. Slavoj Žižek’s assertion that what Europe needs is a “blind spontaneity” espousing a “true work of love” towards foreigners cannot possibly survive the impact of reality.
3) The manipulative ideology of “love” churned out by the ideological apparatuses of the EU (the European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, has himself spoken of the need for “love” towards immigrants), shall itself undergo a crisis and will have no choice but compromise, at least in terms of practical policies with respect to the influx of Muslim immigrants (we already see this happening).
4) So-called “hate speech” itself shall not be able to express important segments of European civil society and it in any case will be repressed (cf., for instance, J. Finkle & D. Volz, “Twitter clarifies rules on banned content…”, www.reuters.com; as also “Google, Facebook, Twitter will delete online hate speech at pressure from Germany”, https://www.rt.com).
5) Xenophobia as well, while bolstered by present-day reality, remains too “primitive”, too “chaotic” and ipso facto all too “negative” to be able to organize a wider hegemony within European civil society. Political considerations will force such an amorphous social discourse to undergo mutations.
6) In the last instance, the question of immigration is tightly connected to that of the survival of nation-states in Europe. The issue is whether or not the peoples of Europe shall allow German State Nationalism to feed itself on their own self-destruction as national entities. Here, the thought of Giuseppe Mazzini, the Italian patriotic revolutionary and prophet of nationalist ideology in the 19th century, immediately springs to mind. His position may be summarized as follows: a) nationalism and national self-determination cannot simply be the privilege of a few powerful countries; b) it is the right of any people with a national history and identity to fight for self-determination; c) powerful States wish to keep such privilege for themselves only.
7) Of course, one may wish to counter-argue that Mazzini’s thought only belongs to the 19th century and is therefore outdated. Without wishing to enter into a discussion of post-modern “globalization” and how that is being steered by the hegemony of a few powerful nation-states, we may here simply quote Joshua Landis (head of the Center for Middle East Studies, University of Oklahoma), who has this to say of “nationalism” in the 21st century: “There is nothing more modern than nationalism”, or, alternatively, “Nationalism is new”.
8) The implications are obvious: the peoples of Europe shall have to move from an emotionalist and “primitive” xenophobia (and whatever form of “hate speech”) to the élan vital of national consciousness. Only a cohesively structured theory and ideology of national consciousness could possibly sustain the nation-states of Europe as independent entities of self-determination. Only within such context would one be able to deal with whatever Muslim influx.
9) All alternatives to the élan vital of national consciousness in Europe could lead to one dismal road – that of “mob politics”.
Panagiotis Tourikis (“Nikos Vlachos”), 19.3.2016.
(Also posted Greek translation).