2. Austria. Racism, Nationalism, Elections or a taste of borsch -solyanka
Nationalism and New Racism
Through ideologies, humans, groups and classes try to persuade, influence, reify, hide, distort, promote, legitimate, deceive, misrepresent, or justify dominative interests. Karl Marx (1867: section 1.4) saw capitalism’s structure as inherently fetishistic: The commodity form hides the social character of capitalism behind things. Fetishism is not just an economic phenomenon, but can in class societies be found in peculiar ways in the realms of politics and ideology. Ideology tries to naturalise domination by hiding its social and historical character and dissimulating attention from the power relations underlying heteronomous societies.
An example is the construction of an ideology that claims that “we” national citizens are all together facing society’s problems (unemployment, poverty, crime, precariousness, crises, lack of adequate housing, welfare, education, health care, etc.), that “we” have these problems because of foreign influences, and can as a nation fight these dark forces. The ideological trick in such arguments is to disguise that “we” are not a unitary subject in a class society, but have different positions and capacities in power relations. Nationalism is a particular form of ideology.
It was Rosa Luxemburg (1976) who first used Marx’s notion of fetishism as a political concept to question the fetishistic character of the nation and nationalism. She argues that nationalist ideology “ignores completely the fundamental theory of modern socialism – the theory of social classes” (135). Nationalism is a “misty veil” that “conceals in every case a definite .
Historical content” (135). “In a class society, ‘the nation’ as a homogeneous socio-political entity does not exist. Rather, there exist within each nation, classes with antagonistic interests and ‘rights’” (135). Nationalism is an ideology that in a particular manner veils and distracts attention from society’s class relations and the role they play in society’s problems.
Some common elements of Marxist theories and understandings of nationalism are the following ones 1 (compare: Balibar/Wallerstein 1991; Hall 1993; Hobsbawm 1992; Luxemburg 1976; Özkirimli 2010):
Ideology: Nationalism is an ideology that constructs an Us/Them difference, in which the in-group is conceived as a unitary, homogeneous collective defined either by common claims to biology, genealogy, kinship and family (“race”) or by claims to a common culture (commonality of language, communication, upbringing, moral values, traditions, customs, law, religion, emotions, experiences, identity, means of communication), a common state/political system/constitution or a common economy. Nationalism as ideology makes claims to territorial power for organising a national economic and a national political system. Nationalism constructs/invents/fabricates the nation and fictive national identity. Nationalist identity stresses fixity and homogeneity, whereas in reality all societies are complex, hybrid and diverse.
Dialectic of racism/xenophobia and nationalism: Racism/xenophobia and nationalism are inherently linked. Xenophobia is an ideological construction of the out-group that is not part of the illusionary national collective.
Political fetishism: Nationalism, xenophobia and racism are a form of political fetishism that ideologically distracts from how society’s class antagonisms bring about social problems. The distraction from and veiling of class are often achieved by the construction of scapegoats and by steering hatred against them.
Forms of nationalism: Nationalism, xenophobia and racism can be directed against an inner enemy (migrants, minorities) or an outer enemy (other nations, foreign groups). One can draw a distinction between sociological and institutional racism/nationalism and between inclusive (exploitative) and exclusive (exterminatory) racism/nationalism. Furthermore there are biological and cultural forms of racism/nationalism.
Militarism: Nationalism is associated with internal militarism (repression and law-and-order politics directed against immigrants and minorities) and external militarism (imperialist warfare).
Whereas nationalism constitutes an inward-oriented ideology constructing the identity of an invented political and cultural collective, racism and xenophobia define the outside of this collective, those who are considered not to be part of the nation, the nation’s outsiders, foreign elements, or enemies. Racism is “a supplement internal to nationalism” (Balibar/Wallerstein 1991: 54). “Racism is constantly emerging out of nationalism. […] And nationalism emerges out of racism” (Balibar/ Wallerstein 1991: 53). Classical nationalism often constructed the outsider in biological terms as a “race”, whereas today it has become more common to define the outsider in cultural and political terms. Whereas some observers therefore like to distinguish between racism and xenophobia, Étienne Balibar has coined the notion of the new racism to describe ideological continuities and parallels:
The new racism is a racism of the era of ‘decolonization’ […] [It] fits into the framework of ‘racism without races’ […] It is a racism whose dominant theme is not biological heredity but the insurmountability of cultural differences, a racism which, at first sight, does not postulate the superiority of certain groups or peoples in relation to others but ‘only’ the harmfulness of abolishing frontiers, the incompatibility of life-styles and traditions; in short, it is what P. A. Taguieff has rightly called a differentialist racism (Balibar/Wallerstein 1991: 21).
Pierre-André Taguieff, to whom Balibar refers, argues that racism is ideologically naturalising differences, “either by scientistic biologization or by ethnicization or ‘culturalist’ fixing“ (Taguieff 2001: 200). He distinguishes between two basic types of racism. Racism type 1 biologises differences and argues that one postulated “race” is superior to another and that such differences are natural and eternal. Racism type 2 culturalises and celebrates differences.
It concludes that specific cultures should therefore not mix. “Naturalization is therefore either biologizing or culturalist” (207). Both versions draw comparable political conclusions that include the erection and defence closure of borders, ending migration, and the opposition to multiculturalism: “Irreducible, incomparable, and unassimilable, the human types that differ (the reasons for difference are infinite), moreover, may not communicate with each other, neither de facto nor de jure. The impossibility of a human community beyond the enclosures is the ultimate conclusion of the thesis of incommunicability. Hence the violent denunciations of ‘cosmopolitanism’ or ‘globalism’, processes and ideals that are supposed to destroy singular and closed communities, and, more profoundly and less distinctly, their ‘identity’.” (204). Taguieff ’s key insight, on which Balibar builds, is that there are biologistic and culturalist versions of racism.
Banks and Gingrich (2006: 2) use the term neo-nationalism for the “re-emergence of nationalism under different global and transnational conditions”. Parliamentary neo-nationalists in Europe tend to be opposed to immigration and the EU and to argue for differentialist racism. They embrace strong leadership and cultural populism. Much “neo-nationalist rhetoric is sufficiently pragmatic to accept that blood-based homogeneity can never define the boundaries of the national, let alone the state, and seeks instead to generate an argument based upon historical association. […] ‘cultural fundamentalism’ […] has often come to replace race in the discourse of neo-nationalists. […] [Neo-nationalism is] an essentialist and seclusive reaction against the current phase of globalisation […] [that] primarily relates to ‘culture’” (Banks/Gingrich 2006: 9, 15, 17).
Ajanovic, Mayer and Sauer (2015, 2016)’s analysis of right-wing extremist discourses in Austria confirms the existence of a neo-racism that takes on a cultural form. Such ideological discourses tend in Austria to have a strong anti-Muslim orientation. A negative difference between Austrians and Muslims is proclaimed. Muslims and immigrants are said to cause social problems and cultural decline.
The authors document ideological arguments for keeping social spaces (schools, religious space, public space, kindergartens, transportation, work places, local spaces, etc.) free from what is perceived as foreign influences. Political ethno-pluralism is the political conclusion drawn from such discourses: The implication of this ideology is Austria should close its borders for migrants, oppose a multicultural society, and that, if at all, only assimilated migrants are acceptable.
Immanuel Wallerstein argues that racism and sexism are necessary elements of capitalism. Racism and xenophobia are in capitalism strategies to “minimize the costs of production” and to “minimize the costs of political disruption (hence minimize – not eliminate, because one cannot eliminate – the protests of the labour force)” (Balibar/Wallerstein 1991: 33). Sexism would invent houseworkers and assert they are “not ‘working’, merely ‘keeping house’” (35). Housework not just reproduced labour-power, but is also an “indirect subsidy to the employers of the wage labourers in these households” (34). The connection of sexism and (new) racism in capitalism is that they are both anti-universalist ideologies that legitimate low- and no-wage labour and discrimination.
Given the concepts of ideology and nationalist ideology, we can next have a short look at how the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) has made and advanced a particular form of Austrian nationalism that has turned it measured in election results into Europe’s most successful far-right parliamentary party.
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