by Welf Herfurth* and Tom Stanwell
As most readers know, the Holocaust revisionist Ernst Zündel was sentenced to five years jail by a German court - after being kidnapped, from America to Canada, held for two years without charge in a Canadian prison (under anti-terrorist legislation) and then deported to Germany, where he was charged with multiple counts of Holocaust denial. It is unknown, at this point, if the court will take into account time served. Predictably, the German media were hostile to Zündel and his defence team, but worried if the severity of the sentence - and the fact that freedom of speech on the Holocaust is illegal in Germany and around 30 states in Europe - would turn the 'Neo-Nazi' Zündel into a martyr.
The intention of this article is to look at the question of freedom of press, and freedom of speech, in nationalist ideology, in relation to cases like Zündel's. The repression of Holocaust revisionists and nationalists in the West is denounced, by nationalist activists, as being a violation of those two freedoms. Liberal democracies claim to be that - liberal - but, at the same time, censure and punish denials of the Holocaust, as well as expressions of racism. The hypocrisy of this position is pointed out by nationalists. While I agree that it is a contradiction, certainly, my argument here is to defend the likes of Zündel on different grounds from the liberal. That is, because our opponents are themselves illiberal, we do not need to become liberals in opposition to them.
I am unwilling to criticise the revisionists - who have suffered for their ideals, in the cause of both truth and nationalism - and their followers. But it must be said that their work suffers from an ideological deficiency, even an emptiness. Zündel, Rudolf, Graf, Faurisson and others write on contemporary political events, with great insight, not the least because of their experiences. But their politics, fundamentally, boils down to the view that once the truth about the Holocaust is revealed, the West, and the rest of the world oppressed by Zionism (or those acting as proxies for Zionism, e.g., the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan), will be free. It is, in fact, liberalism (as will be explained later). There is a lack of an intellectual, and even an ideological, basis in their writings. Which is ironic, given that the revisionists are accused by Jews as being part of a vast 'Neo-Nazi' underground, a conspiracy to introduce a 'Fourth Reich', and, by the peculiar Jewish logic, of justifying a future slaughter of the Jews by denying a past one. If any of these accusations were true, revisionism would be part of a political movement, and revisionists would be acting with a political intent. But it is the lack of a theoretical basis, leading to political action, which is a source of weakness in Holocaust revisionism, and much of contemporary Western nationalism.
The absence of an ideological center, in Holocaust revisionism and in unreflexive nationalism, means that both become easy prey for other, consistent, intellectually-worked ideologies. That is, because the Holocaust revisionist lacks an ideological center and ideological training, he will take on board the first ideological system that comes along, and spout its values. Hence the adoption of liberal rhetoric among the revisionists and the activists who support them: free speech is concomitant with democracy, we cannot have a liberal society without debate, etc. Just as the uneducated trade unionist will take up Marxist rhetoric and Marxist slogans, the revisionists take up liberalism, and nationalist activists are in perpetual danger of becoming liberals.
In the case of the trade unionist, Marxism does no harm; in the case of the nationalist, liberalism does a great deal of harm. For, in my opinion, liberalism is the source of all the problems which bedevil the nationalist so much: immigration, Zionism, the repression of Holocaust revisionism, bad economic policy and a host of other evils which are the product of, simply put, bad government. It is not that liberal ideology is a direct cause of, say, the repression of Holocaust revisionism; only that the adoption of a liberal political system will invariably lead to negative consequences, such as that repression.
In this instance, the work of Carl Schmitt is useful, in particular, his book, The crisis of parliamentary democracy (1923). The second chapter in that book - 'The principles of parliamentarism' - outlines the ideology of what Schmitt calls 'parliamentarism'. He expounds the view that parliamentarism is an offshoot of liberalism, which is itself a complete view of the world, a weltanschauung, even a metaphysical system (no matter what its proponents say). Liberalism sees the world as being made up of free and independent individuals. In the economic sphere, these individuals compete with one another in the market, selling their goods and services. The individual who is most successful - that is, who earns the most patronage from the consumer - wins. Even though some individuals lose out in the struggle, overall, the clash of competing interests leads to a greater harmony, a greater equilibrium, a greater balance.
Does liberalism apply in the purely political sphere, outside of the marketplace? The answer is, says Schmitt, is yes. Parliament is itself an instance of this clash of individuals wills which, in the end, leads to equilibrium. But the contest is not a market one: it is a contest of ideas. The essence of political liberalism is free and open discussion of ideas and opinions between free and independent individuals, and the willingness of those individuals to be persuaded. From that debate, the 'truth' emerges - truth emerges from the great debate, the never-ending discussion, that takes place in parliament.
Following the French thinker Guizot, Schmitt lists three characteristics of the parliamentarist system:
(1) that "the powers" are always forced to discuss and thereby seek the truth together; (2) that the openness of the whole of political life places "the powers" under the citizens' control; and (3) that press freedom prompts citizens to seek the truth for themselves and to make it known to "the powers". Parliament is accordingly the place in which particles of reason that are strewn unequally among human beings gather thesemlves and bring public power under control. (Carl Schmitt, The crisis of parliamentary democracy, p.35).
He adds, 'Freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, freedom of discussion, are.. really life-and-death questions for liberalism' (p.36).
The rationale behind the secret ballot is that one's voting choices must remain private - that is, they are the expression of a private, free individual. Again, from conflicting individual interests, conflicting private opinions, a harmony, a balance, emerges. Through voting, the people find truth - or rather, they elect representatives who find truth for them through open debate in parliament. (Schmitt notes - and this is an important point - that democracy does not necessarily depend on the practice of elections. The sum of voters is not the sum of the people).
Liberalism and parliamentarism is the source of the structure of our modern political system. For instance, the concept of the separation of powers, or the division (or balance) of powers, in the representative assemblies, finds its justification in liberalism. That the American legislature, executive and judiciary should be made up of individuals from different parties is seen as good by the liberal media: it represents the division of power, in which no single party or institution wields an absolute total of power. And that the same divisions repeat themselves, not only at the American federal, but at the state level - at the level of the state executive, legislature and judiciary - is praiseworthy. Why? Because the multiplicity of opinions, the clash of opinions in a free and open discussion is taking place at every level.
Parliament becomes a forum for debate, for clashing opinions, for free and open discussion - and for finding the truth. The rules of the game are that every participant in the debate respects one another: that the other participant has the right to speak, and speak freely, because this is the only way that truth can emerge. A participant with a 'totalising' truth - for instance, the Marxist, who believes that truth has already been arrived at in the works of Lenin and Trotsky, and not through debate - is not welcome. Or, if he is to be allowed into the parliament, he must agree to respect the rules.
One can see, from this, how important a free press is. It provides another venue for free and open discussion. As well as that, through publicity, it reveals truth. Free reporting exposes secret government business (or secret corporate business) to the glare of publicity, exposing the truth. Hence the lauding of the work of crusading investigative journalists like Woodward and Bernstein, who exposed to the world the Nixon administration's nefarious doings. The saying that a free press is concomitant to a democracy, to a free and liberal society, has become one of the clichés of our age, if not a dogma, spouted by liberal ideologists and more often by journalists themselves.
We can see that the liberal and parliamentarist doctrine is reflected in the work of the Holocaust revisionists and the activists who fight for them. Holocaust revisionists have a (perhaps naive) view of the value of publicity - that is, the exposure, for all the world to see, of the hoax of the Holocaust shall set the world free. All that would need to be done is for the laws banning Holocaust revisionism in Europe to be repealed, and Europeans would find the truth for themselves. In the calamitous uproar which would follow the revelation of the truth of the Holocaust, the obsessively pro-Zionist, philo-Semitic liberal democratic politicians of Europe, and the West, would be forced to recognise the error of their ways. This view is, in fact, the liberal and parliamentarist view of the value of truth, publicity and the free press.
Likewise, the ultimate justification for Holocaust revisionism - or rather, the right to deny the Holocaust - lies in the liberal doctrine of free speech. If society is made up of free individuals who are to be allowed to express their opinion, in newspaper articles, political demonstrations and in parliamentary debates, then Holocaust revisionists ought to be allowed to do the same. Indeed, the tolerance of Holocaust revisionism is a litmus test for a free society, because many individuals have been conditioned to look at revisionism with revulsion.
So what is wrong with this: what is wrong with using liberal doctrines to justify the practice of Holocaust revisionism? The answer is that liberalism, as a doctrine, is simply false. As Schmitt writes:
Discussion means an exchange of opinion that is governed by the purpose of persuading one's opponent through argument of the truth or justice of something, or allowing oneself to be persuaded of something true or just.... The characteristic of all representative constitutions is that laws arise out of a conflict of opinions (not out of a struggle of interests). To discussion belong shared convictions as premises, the willingness to be persuaded, independence of party ties, freedom from selfish interests. Most people today would regard such disinterestedness as scarcely possible. (Schmitt, Crisis, 'Preface to the second edition (1926)', p.5).
Most of Schmitt's attacks on parliamentarism in this book are in that vein. That is, parliamentarism, or liberalism, does not work the way it should anymore, if it ever did. Parliament is hostage to 'invisible powers', representatives of the unions, big business, the Jewish lobby, and the like - and those representatives are not, for one, willing to be persuaded. The real government business - like the kidnapping, deportation of Ernst Zündel, and even the outcome of his trial - is done behind closed doors.
One can still uphold parliamentarism as the best system, the best available at the present time. But if that is all we have as a justification for a system - that the only justification we have for it is a purely pragmatic one, that we should keep it simply because it continues to work, and work well - then that system is lost, and we can no longer believe in its validity. (Schmitt compares the present loss of belief in parliamentarism to the waning away of the belief in the divine right of kings).
But the implications of a lack of belief in the value of parliamentarism are manifold. For one, the institutions of parliament - freedom and speech and immunity for parliamentary representives, the openness of parliamentary proceedings, the declassification of cabinet minutes after thirty years, the freedom of information act and so on - lose their meaning. And likewise, liberal beliefs, practices and institutions - the separation of powers, the value of balance of conflicting opinions and interests, and all the other legal and constitutional traits of a liberal order (which have been described in Schmitt's book but not been detailed here) - lose their meaning. So the effect of Schmitt's criticisms (and the criticisms of other opponents of liberal parliamentarism, i.e., communist groups) is that the sacred cows of our present system of liberal democracy - free and fair elections, parliament and parliamentary procedures, free press and free speech - lose their sacred qualities.
Many nationalists feel this already, of course. They feel, for instance, that the liberal media in the West is not so liberal - that it is in the service of 'hidden powers'. The Australian public-owned broadcasting TV channel SBS, for instance, failed to mention the Zündel sentencing on the day that it occurred, choosing instead to focus on the death of a minor Vichy-era French official who may or may not have been responsible for sending thousands of French Jews Auschwitz for gassing and cremation. The entire Western media constantly keeps the atrocities of the Germans in WWII (real or alleged) in the public eye, around the clock, and is not even interested in ideological balance. (For instance, the death of an American soldier who worked as a guard at one of Eisenhower's death camps in occupied France, or a Polish communist official who oversaw the ethnic cleansing of millions of Germans, would hardly be remarked upon).
But this applies in other areas of political reporting as well. Take, for instance, the press' uniform acceptance of the Bush administration's contention that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were responsible for 9/11; or Bush's declaration of 'victory' three weeks into the Iraq war; or that it was Saddam Hussein who had been 'captured hiding' in an abandoned farm house in Tikrit. In each of these cases (and many others), some real investigative reporting, or at least some questioning of the official line, was called for. Had the Americans really conquered Iraq in three weeks? Was the man the Americans claimed to have 'captured' really Saddam Hussein? Did Bin Laden really carry out 9/11? Are the daily communiques from 'Al Qaeda' genuine, or the product of a Western intelligence agency? Perhaps, in each of these cases, the Bush administration could have been exposed to the unpleasant glare of publicity, the truth could have been made known to the masses, a la Woodward and Bernstein. But no. The truth is that the Western media is equally as totalitarian, and supine before State power, as much as the Chinese or North Korean media is. And the same can be said, by extension, for academia, the entertainment industry. All seem to be under the same central control, or at least, subscribing to the same ideology. Even the self-professed alternatives to that mainstream ideology - for instance, Noam Chomsky, or Michael Moore - strenuously deny, or refuse to mention, the existence of a Jewish lobby in the United States which influences the latter's foreign policy in the Middle East (hence, the radical Chomsky is allotted front-page space in the Guardian newspaper).
All of this is well-known to nationalists: our lack of belief in the freedom of press is as pronounced as that of the Marxist's. The question is what attitude we should take. We can demand, along with those who still believe in liberalism, a truly free press, which gives equal space to Robert Faurisson and a publicist for the Jewish lobby on the same op-ed page; or one can give up on the possibility of there ever being a free press altogether.
I myself subscribe to the latter view. If liberalism, and parliamentarism, has no longer any value, then the concept of a free press no longer has value - it is no longer an ideal we should strive towards. On top of that, the notion of a mainstream Western newspaper ever even considering granting op-ed space to the likes of Faurisson is unlikely - it would take a miracle. Or rather, it would take a cataclysmic revolution in which the Jewish lobby would itself cease to exist as a political force (and hence, there would be no need to grant its agitators 'equal time' in the media).
I am a nationalist before I am a liberal - not a nationalist liberal. My own immediate reaction, on seeing yet another nonsensical Holocaust story on the nightly news, is as follows. Under a nationalist government, all journalists should be made to join a national journalist's union. Membership in that union would require that they refrain from peddling their daily dose of multi-racialist, philo-Semitic, German-hating pap; any journalists who refuse to join will lose their jobs. That system, of managing the news, would be not that different from our existing one, except that such a journalist's union (which, contrary to our hypothetical nationalist one, requires journalists to report constantly on the Holocaust, or denounce the Ku Klux Klan, or denounce apartheid, etc.) is invisible; it has no official existence, although it is constantly making itself felt. The rule is that anything that is untrue - and the Holocaust is untrue - and that anything which is destructive to the long-term survival and health of the Western Christian civilisation ought to be suppressed as ruthlessly as any Holocaust revisionism, etc., today is suppressed.
And here we are straying into a grey and murky area. The doctrine that a press should no longer be 'free', that it should serve a political purpose (in our case, a nationalist purpose) - could be anathema to most nationalists. This is because most nationalist and Holocaust revisionist activists are used to being persecuted by the State and its organs. The fact that they receive no help from groups claiming to uphold civil liberties - like Amnesty International, or Human Rights Watch - does not diminish their appetite for liberalism. Indeed, the repression of freedom of speech, in the European countries which ban Holocaust denial, for instance, is held by some nationalist activists to be the manifestation of a new leftist totalitarianism, a new Marxism, which, in the past two decades, has seized power through social democratic and communist parties and hence undermined liberalism and liberal democracy. Many backward-looking Far Right populist parties look nostalgically to the Europe of the 1950s and the 1960s when one could deny the Holocaust with impunity (even in West Germany) and discuss racial and immigration questions openly. So the suggestion that the 'rights' of journalists should be curtailed, that the institution of a 'free press' be attacked, would rankle some nationalists, and understandably so.
But this is, I believe, shows a misunderstanding of the nationalist ideology. Liberalism's view of freedom is negative: it denies the right of government to interfere in the private sphere of individuals, or at least, seeks to limit that interference to the bare minimum. Many nationalists, unfortunately, only desire that negative freedom: that is, all they want is the freedom to vent their animus against non-white immigrants, indigenous Australians, North American Indians, the Jewish lobbyist, and politically-correct Marxists and multiculturalists - and that is all. Their nationalism cannot be said to be a striving for something: for a better world order, for example, a real improvement in the life of the race they belong to. Their position can be characterised as a reactionary liberalism, a backward-looking liberalism.
Other nationalists, however, do want a better world and do have positive ideals. But, it is argued here, in order to achieve those ideals, it must be recognised that they cannot be achieved in a liberal and parliamentarian political order. The reasons for this are apparent once we examine the tenets of liberalism closely. At the ideological level, liberalism upholds the equality of all human beings: that is, all humans are politically equal simply by virtue of their being adult persons. But an ideology which gives a unskilled, illiterate Mexican immigrant to the United States the same value as a literate, skilled American proletarian or bourgeois is really the antithesis of nationalism; it and nationalism cannot co-exist. Likewise, the parliamentarian system, of selecting leaders and representing the people, is the antithesis of nationalism. Certain policies are popular with the people - for instance, a cessation of non-white immigration, or the reintroduction of the death penalty for child rapists and sex murderers - but parties which uphold such policies are consistently voted down, or never receive the votes they need. This is because, in part, of the voting process itself. The secret ballot system forces voters to think of themselves, not as members of a community, but as private individuals with private economic interests - despite the fact that they are voting on matters of public law which pertains to public matters.
The problem is, in part, a procedural, and a legal and constitutional one. It is no good having political ideals if the means of bringing them into reality - parliamentarism - is flawed. The ideals of nationalism - a positive nationalism - are, at bottom, not so complicated. The nationalist, in the last analysis, wants a community with a high standard of living, safe and pleasant cities and towns to live and work, a healthy and uplifting cultural life, a society in which ugliness and squalor are removed, a community where the members feel a sense of belonging with one another and care for one another while at the same time respecting one another's autonomy. These values are not so controversial, and even liberal democratic politicians would agree that they are desirable. The main difference between the nationalist, and the believer in mainstream liberal democracy, is that the latter believes that goals such as civic cleanliness and safety, and an increase in the standard of living, can be achieved alongside, for example, massive non-white immigration and the abolition of the death penalty. Hence the absurd spectacle of the social democratic, left-liberal politician who advocates an increase funding for the arts and better urban planning while, at the same time, advocating policies which increase squalor and ugliness. (In Sydney, Australians are faced with the irony of having the Sydney Opera House - a famous and distinctive Australian cultural monument - located a few metres away from an enclave of homeless heroin addicts. The urban centre of Sydney is itself populated with an enormous number of Asian immigrants who certainly feel no connection, no sense of cultural kinship, with the Western culture which produces the operas and ballets performed at the Opera House, and neither can the abusive, drunken, uneducated Aboriginals who live in nearby suburbs).
Why is this? The answer, in this case, is that the social democrat is a socialist, and a believer in the power of government to improve the standard of living of its citizens - economically, socially, culturally. But, at the same time, he is a liberal: individuals should be allowed to do what they want, so long as they are not breaking the law. Drunken Aboriginals, the homeless heroin addicts, the beggars in our urban centres, non-white immigrants, all have rights - as does the film-maker who glorifies interracial couplings. Child rapists may have broken the law, but even they must be supported, at the taxpayer's expense, for the rest of their lives in jail instead of being executed - for execution would be inhumane. And so it goes. Social democracy, because of its subscription to parliamentarism (the 'democracy' in 'social democracy') , invariably ends up removing government policy of any common sense and decency, and making day to day living, especially in the cities, uglier and harder.
So the answer is: in order to achieve nationalist goals, the existing liberal and parliamentarian order must be overturned. We must stop pretending that we are liberals, no matter how attractive some of its ideals may seem. I myself have been to nationalist conferences which have come under attack from both political authorities and anti-racist activists. Commonly, participants will defend the right of that conference take place in the name of the liberal right of freedom of speech. Such sloganeering has real power, undoubtably. But we nationalists must ask ourselves: are we nationalists undertaking such events in the name of freedom and liberalism, or because we seek to improve the lives of the fellow members of our community, our nation? The question answer itself.
German media commentators often call for the banning of German nationalist organisations like the NPD in the name of 'democracy' (i.e., liberal democracy). They claim that, while the likes of the NPD demand the protection of their rights as a political organisation in the name of liberalism, they are opposed to liberalism. (They would oppose the freedom of Turkish immigrants to live in Germany, for example). So, paradoxically, the German liberal democratic State must be illiberal to be liberal, and ban the German nationalist groups and wipe them out.
Those commentators are right, in one respect: liberalism and nationalism are ultimately incompatible (although nationalism and democracy are not, as Schmitt argues in his book). In the end, one must go. Nationalists cannot, in Germany, for example, agitate against 'democracy' directly - that is forbidden under law. (Probably, 'democracy' could be agitated against in Germany, but that would require a lawyer's knowledge of the German constitution. In any case, the defenders of 'liberal democracy' can always twist a constitution to say whatever they want). But the works of Carl Schmitt, for example, are still legal in countries like Germany which have 'anti-anti-democratic' laws. Liberalism, and parliamentarism, can still be assaulted intellectually, and that is where we must begin.
*Welf Herfurth is a political activist who lives in Sydney / Australia. He was born and raised in Germany. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org