Primordial Reality: A Very Brief Introduction to Ethnonationalist Ideas

As a young kid, my parents took me on a Caribbean Cruise on the very upper-class Holland-America Cruise Line. I noticed that every employee was from a different country. I must have seen 100 different nationalities. They had their country of origin on their name tags. It even became an advertising gimmick.

I soon discovered that there was a sinister reason for this. It turns out that when the employees were all from Holland, they had a tendency to go on strike and demand higher pay on a regular basis. They were similar in culture, language and loyalties. They had a strong foundation for collective action and to communicate grievances. The company responded by making sure that each ship had so many different nationalities on board that even communication – let alone union organization – was possible.

This information struck me very hard. I’m from an Italian-Jewish neighborhood in New Jersey where ethnic membership was everything. Both groups were immensely coherent and, as a result, were very powerful forces. These ethnic identities were buffers against the state as well as capital. Ruling a coherent group that always has each others back is almost impossible unless the ruling power treads very lightly.

It did occur to me then that if citizens were from all over the globe, oppressing them would be very easy, since there would be no common ground to resist anything. It became immediately obvious why a lack of collective identity is a requirement for such profit-seeking rulers as Holland-America. Of course, I could not articulate it like that at the time, but an intuitive idea was implanted that would bear fruit much later. Anti-nationalism was part of corporate capital’s drive to be more “competitive.”

"The Tower of Babel" by Marten van Valckenborch
“The Tower of Babel” by Marten van Valckenborch

Why the nation? Why is that specific form of social life so paramount and not some other foundation? Class membership could be one. An ideology could be another. Religious membership could also serve as a substitute for the ethnic state. City-states are yet another form of political rule not based on the modern state. In fact, human history is littered with a myriad of governing structures and social loyalty. It is a fair question to ask why nationalists take the ethnic element apart from everything else and make it the primary locus of social cohesion. What is so significant about the nation that it should be preferred above all other forms of identity?

The answer is that all alternative structures mentioned above require ethnic cohesion in order to function. Class cooperation for a socialist is meaningless if workers at the factory do not speak the same language. Ideologies and ideocratic rulers still must communicate to their people and express themselves in ways that can be understood. Ideologies require mass belief and cooperation to exist which are consequences – not causes – of national life. What would be the foundation for mass belief in an ideology? For the same reason that Stalin had to resurrect old Russian cultural traditions in the dark days of World War II to mobilize Russians.

All social life requires a common language and culture to function. What good is debate if the participants cannot understand one another? Or if they have very different experiences? Whether a government be based on ideas that are economic, ideological or religious, they still must have members that are similar in foundational matters such as language, basic moral ideas and fundamental beliefs. Religion too requires this to function, especially since it is often based on written texts. While such texts might come from faraway places, it would be taken as a meaningless eccentricity unless it be properly translated into the common language. In brief: the nation, that is, the social and linguistic community, is necessary for social interaction to occur. This is why it has a special and primordial status.

A nationalist usually argues that the ethnos is the primary actor in history. The human body cannot be composed of random parts stitched together. It does not matter what the person might want to do for a living, but if his bodily parts do not “fit together,” he will not last long. The same goes for individuals in the nation. One’s career is the form of government. The composition of the body is the social community that makes government possible.

The famed Russian nationalist Ivan Ilyin writes:

It is clear, then, that not every random group of people forms a nation. It should be a substantially large group of people that have first, a single, general interest rather than a plurality of private interests and second, that it should be the foundation of cooperation. This general interest should not only be accepted by each person individually, but all together and at once, so that its satisfaction would have been possible only through the union and cooperation of all. That interest is. . . the improvement of the quality of life together through the establishment and maintenance of a just and cooperative order (General Theory of Government, Sec 16, Liters Publishing, 1910; in Russian).

It seems odd that something so obvious requires open defense. For a social force to demand that the above be rejected must have a reason for doing so that does not include cooperation and unity. An ethnic unit, strongly conscious of its history and sense of right, is often very difficult to control. Ethnic unity has been for millennia a strong foundation for rebellion and revolt. To destroy the sense of social, cooperative identity is an excellent strategy to maintain control.

There are three entities at work here: first, the isolated, Cartesian ego: that monstrous creation of the modern west. Second, the nation as the ethnic group and finally, the state as a system of interlocking agencies of coercion that have as its purpose the enforcement of law. All three are quite different but not incommensurable.
It is often the case that “nation” and “state” are seen as the same thing. This would be like saying the brain and the mind are the same; or that a briefcase is the same as its contents. The state is a protective agency for order both domestically and for defense abroad. The nation is the culture tradition of a people, their “language” in the broadest sense.

The ethnic group must be primary. Ethnic groups can develop through horrid external oppression, the need for constant vigilance in defense, being surrounded by hostile groups, or even being clearly different from their neighbors. It is the extended family. Ethnic groups, depending on their external environment, adapt to all these variables and slowly develop an internal sense of self. This is no different for individuals: growing up in a violent ghetto will create a very different personality than growing up in an affluent suburb. Growing up within a powerful and respected family creates a very different personality than growing up with poor and marginalized parents.

Just like groups, individuals have their own sense of mission ,identity and have been forced, most of all, to adapt to both the good and bad aspects of their lives. A healthy individual will be able to synthesize these variables and images into a coherent and productive personality or individual identity. The nation is identical in this respect. The individual tries to make sense out of his experiences the same way nations do. The individual “constructs” his identity the same way nations do. To “construct” an identity does not imply it is mere subjective whim. It means that the person values some experiences more than others. There is no social group, liberal academics included, that do not have a long story justifying their existence and providing a strong sense of common purpose.
Again, Ilyin writes:

Naturally, those willing a common goal and having a shared life will lead to the establishment and maintenance of long-term, strong and definite connections. The state is a union that, in itself, does not recognize this. It is indefinite and cannot see its own purpose. . . Rather, the state will continue to exist as long as people are in need, that is, until the people no longer need force to maintain law and justice. In order to maintain these things, the state must be firmly grounded, it must have a well-defined character. The state is an organization, that is, a union arranged and ordered on the basis of binding rules (ibid).
Commonalities, in other words, come into existence through being subject to the same laws, having the same religion, living under the same climate or oppressed by the same colonial power. The nation is thus a coherent ordering of these experiences no different than the individual seeking to “find himself.”

When the citizenry does not possess these commonalities, what is the result? The result is absolutely nothing. No society can exist when people cannot communicate with one another. It is also possible that this initial identity decays over time, leading to pathological alienation. In that case, the ego becomes absorbed with itself. Criminality and mental illness rise since such non-cultural existence is unnatural. Such unfortunate people cannot cooperate unless under direct force to do so, such as in a factory. Laws come only from the most powerful since, under such a regime, all laws would be alien. The foundation for laws would not exist since there is no definable community that would generate them or live under them loyally. It would reward that group that is the most coherent and has the strongest sense of internal identity. Even the smallest group in universal chaos and alienation will have a tremendous advantage over isolated, pathological beings.

Of course, there is much more than this, but as a thumbnail sketch, it works. Mankind is inherently social. Rather than being born free, man is born totally helpless and dependent. He has no fur, claws or instincts other than to cooperate with others. He is the worst off of all animals for this reason. However, man has reason, which provides rational reasons to cooperate and thus compensate for man’s lack of natural tools for survival. Reason and the mind must construct them. This means that not only is “primordial” nationalist true, but that no human being could have ever survived had there not been well defined communities with rudimentary services to maintain families.

The individualist is incoherent. They might rail against all forms of “oppression” and claim the foundational and inalienable rights to individual expression. Yet, what are they expressing? They did not create the language, others, cooperating, did. They did not create the economy around them. The forms of expression the egotist might want have certainly not been invented by him, and even the ideology of egotistic and possessive individualism comes from the cooperation of many scholars and activists over time. Their very ideology contradicts itself. Anything and everything that the egotist requires to be an egotist (including the ideology of egotism and how to express it) have been created by human beings in rule-bound cooperation over a long period of time.

It does not take a Tesla to grasp why elite forces in modernity seek to suppress the nation. It is obvious that, throughout human history, the ethnos has been the foundation for cooperation in construction as well as destruction. Capitalism was inherently internationalist and was never local: industrialization required a massive colonial empire to, over time, extract sufficient resources to build such colossal factories. At no other time in recorded history have even the most advanced civilizations and nations built factories such as developed in the 17th and 18th century in the west. The reason was, in part, because the monstrous and parasitically exploitative British empire did not exist. Unlike the Roman or the Chinese, the British were dedicated to competition and Darwinian struggle. Being such a tiny island certainly helped in that regard. Their maritime and commercial empire generated not only monetary profits, but was able to extract entire populations worth of wealth, labor and resources. The massive amount of capital required to build a factory could, without technology, be accomplished in no other way.

Capitalism and industry was always and inherently anti-national for these reasons:

1. It was built on massive and parasitic colonial empires which require the subjugation of nations;

2. It stresses money and profit above all. Over time, the elites of these empires were able to grasp nothing else;

3. Markets needed to constantly expand, leading to the forcible breakdown of subject cultures;

4. Competition in the Darwinian sense suggests that nations, like other companies, will be conquered and destroyed due to superior technology and organization. Since God has ordained that the victor will be British or American, the nation is irrelevant;

5. Speaking of Darwin, that ideology came into existence at the height of both the British empire and industrialization. It rests on the belief that the world is founded on violent competition that rewards those that can adapt in the most efficient way in the least amount of time. It cannot be a coincidence that the empire’s ruling class defined “progress” and “efficiency” in exactly this way. Darwin rejected the very concept of the species. All is individual, all is changing, and all is indefinite. Groups are artificial arrangements;

6. Darwinism also sees human beings as inherently competitive and self-seeking;

7. Industry and capitalism created modern individualism. It also is based on international colonialism and exploitation. If nations are denied, then imperialism must also be denied. If nations do not exist, than neither does imperialism, since imperialism is only a problem in that it is an extension of a government over a different and culturally alien nation;

8. The individual is easy to manipulate. He has no culture to refer to. The nationalist has a large, historical culture that defines much of his life. It means that he will require a limited number of products to be satisfied. The individual is nothing but what he owns. He will buy anything;

9. Nations insist on independence and the right to share in corporate profits from the empire’s cities. This is an inconvenience;

10. Nations will insist on regulating foreign firms and will demand that the nation’s resources be respected and should benefit the locals who work for it. Foreign capital seeks quick profit and rapid exploitation of local resources. Nations, yet again, are inconveniences;

11. International trade will not be inconvenienced by different currencies and exchange rates. These cost money;

12. Union organization is much easier when its prospective members have cultural and linguistic commonalities. It is impossible when they don’t;

13. Capital’s interest is served by creating a single global order where labor and resources will fall to its lowest possible cost;

14. The individual is powerless against the machine or the assembly line. The nation can fight it;

15. The nation will seek its own autonomous existence. The individual is utterly dependent on capital to function for even a moment;

16. Ethnic and racial connections is the origin of conspiracy and rebellion. The individual is incapable of doing anything to harm the system. He is pathetic.

These 16 reasons why capitalism hates nationalism are just scratching the surface. Everything about the ethnic group is loathsome to these Promethean billionaires. Capitalism, that is, great concentrations of capital (as opposed to small business) cannot, economically speaking, be nationalist and must seek to destroy it at every turn. Thus, the reason has been found why the nation and “nationalism” are endlessly disparaged and used as a pejorative.

Loneliness, alienation, irrational behaviors, cults, abuse, pornography, substance abuse and anti-social pathologies in general derives from the loss of community in the west. The community, of course, implies the nation in that any community, to exist at all, must have similar beliefs and the same language. Capital, whether it be western or “socialist,” requires the “unfettering of the sovereign individual” for the reasons mentioned here. Nationalism has become almost a curse word due to the immense amounts of social power that go into destroying it. This is also why the cure against the evils of the New World Order is national rebirth.


Matthew Raphael Johnson

Senior Researcher, TBR

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