Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ethnic Nationalism leading to madness

The above article is entitled “Is ‘Constructive Nationalism’ Possible?’ It was written by Professor Leokadia Drobizheva, chief researcher at the Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Drobizheva seems to be concerned about the sorts of nationalism being embodied in the former SSRs that have broken away or the republics that are breaking away from Russia, but In discussing the types of nationalism possible, Drobizheva mentions one that reminds me of Kuznetsov’s description of present-day Russia. Drobizheva writes, “Ethnic, or ethnocultural, nationalism is considered to be irrational as it appeals to the ‘call of the blood’ and ‘shared history,’ and is based on loyalty to the people who have a certain cultural base. This model is called ‘German’ and it is the closest to the Russian ideas of nation and nationalism.”

Later Drobizheva referred to Hans Kohn who described this sort of nationalism as a “constant degeneration of rationality into madness, which manifested itself most vividly in National Socialism, with its wars, violence and messianic authoritarianism.”

Drobizheva doesn’t have the same concern as Krastev but he hints that ethnic nationalism could take a very dark turn. We saw the turn it took in Nazi Germany. Drobizheva doesn’t have Russia in mind in his consideration of the various types of nationalism. He is concerned about the breakup of the former Soviet Union and the sorts of nationalism that may be embodied in the nations that may break away from the Russian Federation, but Krastev is concerned about the sort of Nationalism Putin and Russia is embracing at the present time. He calls it “Sovereign Democracy,” and he credits three people for providing the philosophical grounding of this form of nationalism. One of these philosophers is Carl Schmitt.

If we look up Carl Schmitt (July 11, 1888April 7, 1985), for example on We learn that he had he had a “Nazi Period”:

“Schmitt, who became a professor at the University of Berlin in 1933 (a position he held until the end of World War II) joined the NSDAP on May 1, 1933; he quickly was appointed "Preußischer Staatsrat" by Hermann Göring and became the president of the "Vereinigung nationalsozialistischer Juristen" ("Union of National-Socialist Jurists") in November. He thought of his theories as an ideological foundation of the Nazi dictatorship, and a justification of the "Führer" state with regard to legal philosophy, in particular through the concept of auctoritas.

“Half a year later, in June 1934, Schmitt became editor in chief for the professional newspaper "Deutsche Juristen-Zeitung" ("German Jurists' Newspaper"); in July 1934, he justified the political murders of the Night of the Long Knives as the "highest form of administrative law" ("höchste Form administrativer Justiz").[citation needed] Schmitt presented himself as a radical anti-semite and also was the chairman of a law teachers' convention in Berlin in October 1936, where he demanded that German law be cleansed of the "Jewish spirit" ("jüdischem Geist"), going so far as to demand that all publications by Jewish scientists should henceforth be marked with a small symbol.

“Nevertheless, in December 1936, the SS publication Das schwarze Korps accused Schmitt of being an opportunist, a Hegelian state thinker and basically a Catholic, and called his anti-semitism a mere pretense, citing earlier statements in which he criticised the Nazis' racial theories. After this, Schmitt lost most of his prominent offices, and retreated from his position as a leading Nazi jurist, although he retained his post as a professor in Berlin thanks to Göring.”

Okay, but did he have something constructive to say about Nationalism, something that present day Russia might adopt? Very likely. Here is a brief description of Schmitt’s political philosophy:

“This was followed by another essay in 1922, titled "Politische Theologie" ("Political Theology"); in it, Schmitt, who at the time was working as a professor at the University of Bonn, gave further substance to his authoritarian theories, effectively denying free will based on a Catholic world view. The book begins with Schmitt's famous, or notorious, definition: "Sovereign is he who decides on the exception." By "exception," Schmitt means the appropriate moment for stepping outside the rule of law in the public interest. (See discussion of "On Dictatorship," above.) . . .”

“The book's title derives from Schmitt's assertion (in chapter 3) that "all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts" —in other words, that political theory addresses the state (and sovereignty) in much the same manner as theology does God.

“A year later, Schmitt supported the emergence of totalitarian power structures in his paper "Die geistesgeschichtliche Lage des heutigen Parlamentarismus" (roughly: "The Intellectual-Historical Situation of Today's Parliamentarianism", translated as The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy by Ellen Kennedy). Schmitt criticized the institutional practices of liberal politics, arguing that they are justified by a faith in rational discussion and openness that is at odds with actual parliamentary party politics, in which outcomes are hammered out in smoke-filled rooms by party leaders. Schmitt also posits an essential division between the liberal doctrine of separation of powers and what he holds to be the nature of democracy itself, the identity of the rulers and the ruled. . . .”


If Russian leaders are really toying with this sort of thing, the effect could be far more deadly than Bush’s toying with Neoconservatism, if he really did. Neoconservatism took Fukuyama’s rather passive philosophy, which argued that Historical Necessity would cause all nations to become Liberal Democracies, and turned it into an active political philosophy. No time limit was put on how long it would take all nations to become Liberal Democracies, and Fukuyama didn’t advocate that any action be taken to hasten the process, but the Neocons wanted to “do something.” If that philosophy provided some of the impetus for changing the regime in Iraq, and it may not have, that experiment is over. But if it did, it may actually have partially succeeded. Iraq is becoming a Democracy – not a “Liberal” Democracy, but a Democracy. But even if the experiment did succeed, we are not going to try it again. Neoconservatism is dead.

But in regard to the Russian experiment with “Sovereign Democracy,” if it is truly embracing that philosophy to some degree, there is danger of embracing it with religious zeal. That happened in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. And elements of it were present in the Stalinist period of Russia. Stalin was the “great man,” who made decisions on behalf of the people. He fulfilled what Schmitt advocated.

And it wouldn’t be accurate to assume that “Communism” and “Fascism” were polar opposites. Communism and Fascism have quite a lot in common. Liberal Democracy is the polar opposite of both ideologies. Why? Because it allows individuals to do whatever they like. It is a laissez faire free form society that works surprisingly well. People in Liberal Democracies, who appreciate being there, enjoy this sort of freedom. They don’t want a centralized government dictating major decisions for them. They don’t want a centralized leader controlling their lives. George Orwell’s 1984 was written about Communist Russia, but it could as well have been written about any authoritarian society.

And one will recall what the Longshoreman-Philosopher, Eric Hoffer wrote in his The True Believer, that there was movement back and forth between Communism and Fascism in the 30s. If one had a personality that embraced the requisite fanaticism then he could potentially be converted from one sort of fanaticism to another. It would be much harder to convert him to the opposite of fanaticism, to Liberal Democracy, which can be described as the absence of fanaticism. If you are living in a Liberal Democratic society, you may appreciate the benefits that society provides, but you aren’t going to be fanatical about them. If you lived in Nazi German, Fascist Italy or Communist Russia, you would, if you were really in tune with what was going on, be a fanatic.

If I read Krastev correctly, present day Russia is not a nation that inspires fanaticism. Even Michael Kuznetsov who seems to have embraced ethnic nationalism doesn’t sound fanatical. . . unless he is holding out on me. Are you a fanatic, Michael?


Michael Kuznetsov said...


You could have understood me, if you would comprehend quite a simple idea that we are different. Which fact I have been trying to explain to you. But you don't trust me.

We Russians are like bees or ants, while you Westerners are like ladybirds or cockchafers.

Now I know why you don't believe me.

Some years ago I myself could not understand the Westerners.
When for the first time -- some ten years ago -- I found in a Western publication an explanation of the Liberal Democratic ideas, I could not take them for serious. I could not realize that some people could have been thinking that bizarre (for us) way.

The ideas was similar to what you would always express in our discussions, namely:

"Liberal Democracy allows individuals to do whatever they like. It is a laissez faire free form society. People in Liberal Democracies enjoy freedom. They don't want a centralized government. They want the government to be as small and 'invisible' as possible."

For us Russians such ideas sound absolutely wild. The bees cannot survive without their hive.

I know that you would hardly believe me, similarly as I could not believe that Americans wanted their government to be as small as possible.

It took me quite a long spell of time to come -- at long last -- to a conclusion that Americans INDEED are different from us.
After having read a great lot of Western mass media articles, blogs, and various publications I did finally understand that your desire to be individuals separated from the others is not a bad joke.

I can speak English, while you cannot speak Russian. And this fact prevents you from finding publications in proof of my assertions. Because I am the only source for you who express the "hive" idea.
No wonder, you cannot trust in this sole source.
At the same time all the other thousands of sources in the Russian language remain inaccessible for you.
This given, I am afraid that you would hardly ever trust me.

Alas, it is not only your personal problem, but that of the West in general . . .

You ask if I am a fanatic.
Well, if you tend to call the ants and bees fanatics, then I am one, too.

Michael Kuznetsov said...


I have to respond to your comment here on this page again, because I cannot find any blog form for my new comment on your latest post.

Well, in fact what I meant in my "hive" comment was NOT productivity, but RELATIONS between individuals.

You are a man of age, Lawrence, and you must have been some time in hospital, and perhaps you might have even undergone a major surgical operation.
Have you ever?
If so, could you provide me with a brief account of your time spent in a hospital, please?
The matter is that recently (in January) I spent more than a month's time in hospital after a heavy surgery, and I would like to compare my own experience with that of yours.
Please, Lawrence!
It might be interesting to compare.
What I have in mind is not the details of the very surgery as such, but my relations with the people -- Russian people -- when in the hospital.
And it is your relations with the people in hospital, both the doctors, nurses, and other patients.
The latter is the most interesting point for me to compare.
You will see why.