Vigilante. Flickr/Jose Moutinho. Some rights reserved.
The dreams of militant multiculturalists are haunted by the ghost of a big conspiracy plotted by dark forces with plans for deportation and the repression of their political and ethnic enemies. These projections are taken for real and undeniable facts. Therefore, there is no alternative but to confront nationalist manifestations violently wherever you see them. Any other option would be irresponsible, liberally naïve, and pave the way for the ultimate catastrophe. The Nazi Machtergreifung is the ghost in these nightmares. Antifa and other anti-racist groups motivate their political action with these imaginaries.
Another ghost is haunting the dreams of the nationalists in Europe. In France, a number of books have focused on a future civil war scenario with multiculturalists starring as the Great Satan. They are the collaborators who have let in the enemies. Identification with the struggle against pan-Germanic fascism is an obvious historical reservoir for nationalist mythology in this political landscape. It is an eschatological civil war fantasy where multiculturalists will meet their fate in a Day of Reckoning. These kinds of dreams are frequently presented right after an Islamist terror attack. But as they are also taboo, they are therefore drawn up in the form of predictions of what is going to happen. In this way they assume the form of objectivity. But between the lines, and judging by their manic repetition, these sombre prophecies emanate nevertheless as a sort of political pipedream.
These two camps are increasingly hostile. The language may be more and more militant, but it is still a cultural and political conflict rather than open warfare. Some observers have referred to a ‘low-intensity civil war’ with sudden surges, especially of more vitriolic language, which take longer to metamorphose into political agendas in national parliaments in the form of bills to restrict freedom of expression and halt the proliferation of Muslim cultural traits in the institutions of society.
The Islamist side does not appear to be directed by a political agenda put into words, but rather by direct action such as attacks on blasphemers and on Jews and Jewish institutions. The outbreak of attacks in the summer of 2016 was the high point (to date) of waves of Islamist violence, especially the massacre on the seafront in Nice on 14 July, in which the perpetrator completely randomly attacked men, women and children and mowed them down with a truck.
The blueprint for attacks of this kind, and also the one on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, during which the perpetrators again massacred completely random victims in a non-selective terror attack, was laid out months in advance by Islamic State in a strategy paper found when one of its strongholds in Libya was overrun. It called on Islamists to provoke mass immigration from Libya to Lampedusa and Sicily, and smuggle combatants into Europe in waves of migrants and refugees.
The idea behind non-selective terror was, according to analysts, to provoke a fierce and militant reaction from European nationalists and hostility from political parties. This, it was hoped, would result in new and restrictive legislation against European Muslims, and they, in turn, would resort to armed struggle and promote sympathy and support for Islamic State. This ‘theory of misery’, which in some ways is highly reminiscent of the violent, extremist strategy of the 1970s red brigades (Bader-Meinhof in Germany) was meant to provoke European states to show their “true face” behind their repressive tolerance, and suppress Muslim culture and religion.
No spokesperson for any of the nationalist parties in Europe openly supports violent attacks on their political opponents or enemies. This may be a matter of a purely strategic consideration, which dictates that political violence against Islamists and their political followers will be counter-productive and damage the nationalist cause. What is for sure, however, is that a certain level of rage simmers in these nationalist groups on the Internet, on blogs and elsewhere – rage against the wave of mass crimes committed by Islamists and lumpen-proletarian elements who slipped into Europe with the wave of refugees in 2015. These nationalist circles seem mentally prepared to support vigilantism openly, acknowledging that mainstream politicians lack direction. These tendencies open up a potential scenario in which violence spirals out of control, people are polarised and the authorities will further lose their monopoly on violence and coercion.
Outlines of a plot development foretold
Patrick Calvar, director of the French agency for internal security, DGSI, warned in July of 2016 – three weeks before the massacre in Nice – against a civil war scenario with armed attacks by radical nationalists on Muslims in France, if the wave of Islamist terror were to continue. Ola Kaldager, former director of E14, the secret intelligence service in Norway, predicted a civil war scenario in a longer perspective in Europe a week after the Bataclan massacre in Paris, November 2015. According to him, a refugee situation that is out of control, the growing political and social polarization between Muslims and their European societies and the eventual collapse of the welfare states with far too many Muslims marginalized and out of work, will lead to disaster in the form of violent clashes.
The vocabulary of political mythology has changed: Moroccan-French writer Zineb el Rhazoui uses the word “collaborators” for multiculturalist opponents in her latest book, which harks back to the Nazi occupation, and the more topical term “crypto-Islamists” , in a context where political opponents confront critics of Islam with accusations of “Islamophobia”. These terms verbally pave the way for a mobilisation of a violent political backlash by defining opponents as enemies by comparing them to collaborators during World War II. It is no exaggeration to say that this discussion – and discussions about associated topics like mass immigration, freedom of speech, criticism of religion, integration or assimilation or ethnic apartheid – have taken hold of the political debate in many European countries today, defining faultlines that grow deeper by the day.
Let us imagine a dystopian scenario of the future where these violent and ideological struggles escalate in a Europe which is also haunted by other types of unrest: the Dayton Agreement on the Balkans has taken a definitive knock, and Serbia is instigating a rebellion in Bosnia to rip the Republika Srpska out of The Republic of Bosnia with support from Russia. Western countries – partly due to American isolationism, partly due to European lack of direction and decision – do not summon the strong motivation needed to interfere. The Visegrad countries plus Austria have left/been excluded from the European Union because of the disagreement over refugees and their unwillingness to take their share. They have now for ten years been neutral or more closely knit within the Eurasian Union (Russia and post-Soviet states). Greece is a failed state, and some of the Islands close to the Turkish coast have been annexed by Turkey. (This is a territorial demand already now claimed by Erdogan’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.) This will be done out of what is due to historical reparations and due to the protection of the many refugees in the ill-maintained camps. Other refugee camps are spreading like a gulag into Romania and Bulgaria as Germany has outsourced these tasks to the poorer EU countries in order to avoid a deteriorating political crisis at home.
On the left and centre-left there is still no overarching critique of the illiberal version of multiculturalism as an authoritarian mindset, created to protect reactionary Islamic dogmas and cultures that are antagonistic to democracy and human rights. Politicians in general are still blind to the danger that this ideology of apartheid entails. This vision of the future is only partly a parallel world; militias with a violent potential like Islamic State and Al-Qaeda rise and fall from time to time, and they serve as guides to more or less spontaneous international Islamists. They emerge when states implode under the weight of internal religious tensions, perhaps exacerbated by outside intervention and in a revolutionary chaos as in Iraq and Syria. Acts of terror are commonplace and occur regularly in different parts of Europe. Critics of Islamism and Islam all belong to the nationalist right. A critical liberal position with respect to multiculturalism does not exist, apart from a few intellectual freethinkers. It is Christianity against Islam, and both confronting blasphemy, freedom of expression and secularism.
Everything is even more polarised than now, ten years before the Storm. Filtering and blackouts of controversial news stories are accepted and a formal international practice adopted to avoid confrontation and riots. Social media like Facebook, hand in glove with EU agencies and other international organisations, have formalised a code of hate speech laws and regulations for how ethnic and religious conflict and crimes can be discussed. Internationally, Denmark is a frontline target for Islamist campaigns and boycotts and attacks just as it was during the Cartoon Crisis. Pleas are heard for changes to the law, and domestic politicians and people in the mainstream media advocate more correct and sensitive terminology in relation to news coverage of conflicts and political and social positions. The term ‘Islam’ is not to be used unless you have a ‘political ordination’ from a religious council under the Ministry for religious affairs.
In this vision of the future, the nationalist militants develop their own terminology, so that there is no common language in a shared public sphere that calmly and descriptively defines political positions and actions. Arab governments – whether they are 'democratic' or still authoritarian and dictatorial, use campaigns against Denmark to legitimise their power.
In this scenario, business, the left and social liberals seek to escape from the crisis by complying with the increasing demand for international consensus from forums like the UN, the OIC, and various philanthropic, ecumenical and humanitarian NGOs, anti-racist organisations and so on. Religious organisations are also involved in various contexts. There is consensus on a ban on criticism of religion and culture, tougher hate speech laws with dramatic fines, imprisonment and ‘berufsverbot’ served on ‘The Enemies of Democracy’.
Forward to Sharia: novels, plots and counter-plots
Militants and proto-terrorist nationalists in Europe believing in this projection of the near future, urge that the Islamist attack on Denmark should be instrumentalised, used as a battering ram to break down liberal democracy in the UK and the EU, forcing Islamists and multiculturalists to show their hand and introduce Sharia-influenced legislation in these countries. In their view, this is a necessary step in order to provoke an adequate and revolutionary nationalist backlash.
The agents for these instrumentalised acts of violence are home-grown networks allied, to a greater or lesser extent, with international terrorist organisations. It is not hard to imagine support from elements of the secret services or parts of the state apparatus of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. A secret politics or intelligence operation was already deployed to manufacture the Cartoon Crisis. At this stage, militant nationalists in Denmark try to halt the trend with a “strategy of misery” – by supporting ultra-violent Islamist terror to send voters into the arms of a more determined Right that will crack down on Islamisation with martial law, military law, capital punishment and deportations of political undesirables. As a result, they support the self-image of the Islamists and their propensity for violence on tactical and logistical levels, believing that this will instrumentalise them in a more long-term strategic plan to escalate violence and seek an inevitable confrontation.
This strategy has been applied with success in recent European history in the Balkans. The Yugoslavian counter-espionage agency KOS facilitated the political organising and victory for the Islamists in Bosnia in 1992 in order to radicalise the Serbs and make them ready to mobilise for a civil war. After that the ethnic cleansing of the Muslims could begin as well as the military struggle for territory. The result from that plan, called RAM, is today named Republika Srpska.
The theoretical ballast for these aspirations and actions is in current revolutionary literature by authors like Guillaume Faye, Renard Camus, Alexander Dugin, etc. Faye writes about the potential conditions for avoiding the convergence of the disasters of globalism and mass immigration by reconquering the “European ethnosphere”. For R. Camus, the crisis is down to a conspiracy to replace the peoples of Europe with obedient clients from the third world, from lumpen Arab- and African masses, in order to guarantee support for the political apparatus in a gruelling political struggle. For Dugin, it is about Europe's place along with Russia in a Euro-Siberian union against Muslim colonisation and against a political opponent, the United States, which so far has promoted the destruction of the continent by supporting globalisation and “the weapon of mass migration”.
These fictitional scenarios are based on projections of the experience from the civil war in Bosnia as well as the social fantasies and hopes of extremists today. But another player might show up more clearly as this scenario culminates. He is already present in the European political arena.
An additional player – Surkov?
It is well-established fact that Russia supports and promotes many of the nationalist parties in Europa. This political strategy is applied in the forms of financial support and by spreading false information to disgrace western and European institutions supporting the agenda of the nationalist parties. Alexander Dugin’s works – as a semi-official ideologue of the Kremlin – is to propagate so-called ‘traditional values’ against western liberalism and decadence, and promote the idea of a geopolitical interest between Europe and Russia against their American opponent. It is a barely disguised imperial ambition which openly reveals the true nature of Russian intervention in western public opinion and politics. He is positive towards the ambitions of both Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece – and also the leftwing SYRIZA in Greece, although he deplores the lack of a “spiritual dimension” of the left, making it in his eyes, too focused on an “alternative sort of modernism”. But what counts for him is nevertheless the logic: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And the Great Satan in the geopolitical game is of course “North America” and liberal and universal values.
Even the political conflict in Europe concerning illiberal multiculturalism and immigration is very real – and a substantial conflict in its own right – the Russian intervention on behalf of nationalists groups and parties might very well be to intrumentalize this conflict in its own geopolitical interest. This is already obvious now.
In Peter Pomerantsev’s reports from modern Russia; “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible” (2015), he writes about the kingmaker Vladislav Surkov, whose portfolio in the Kremlin in 1996 included ideology, media, political parties, religion, modernisation, foreign relations and – curiously enough - modern art. I once met Pomarentsev in Bratislava for a conference, and he outlined for me a day in Surkov’s life: in the morning he founds civic forums and human rights NGOs, at lunch, he founds a nationalist movement to attack the NGOs. In the afternoon, he supports an exhibition of provocative avant-garde art and in the evening he supports a group of orthodox militants who attack the exhibition. The idea is to own all the forms of political discourse, and not let anything grow outside the Kremlin. Moscow is an oligarchy in the morning, a democracy in the afternoon, a monarchy in the evening and ends up being a totalitarian society around about bedtime.
In this projection of the near future, the interpretation is that this form of political scenography also applies to asymmetric warfare, to Putin's Russia and its involvement in the European theatre of war. What we see as an existential challenge and a real political conflict in Europe might end up as a pawn in a bigger geopolitical game.
This has already begun. The nationalist rightwing act as Putin’s useful idiots, and the unreformed left and Islamists act as the useful idiots of the nationalist rightwing. For the rest of us – liberal Christians, agnostics, liberal Muslims – we are designated to serve the role of cannon fodder in the political process.
This essay was originally presented at the Telos-Paul Piccone conference in Deutches Haus, New York University on Assymetrical Warfare.