“Ethnopluralism” – the new racism is happily celebrating resurrection – not only on the far right

by Tobias Salander

Racism – banned by penal paragraphs and frowned upon in public discourse. Tempi passati? A look at our planet shows us: Europe and the USA continue to have a blatantly one-sided, Western-fixated and mostly racially underpinned view of the world. Or where are the voices from Asia, Latin America, and Africa in our mass media? For example, on the current war in Ukraine? Kishore Mahbubani from Singapore, who was declared one of the 100 most important intellectuals of our time according to Newsweek, but also other critical thinkers, never tire of confronting the West’s colonialist and racist past. “Can Asians think?” is the title of one of Mahbubani’s books, that holds up a (post-)colonialist mirror to the West. Modern academic research on racism locates racism again and again in a new guise: “Ethnopluralism” is one of these new terms, the new hose. However, only contains and transports the old wine of the evil classical racism based on skin colour and origin. To locate it means to reject it wholeheartedly.

At first glance “ethnopluralism” can easily be confused with multicultural thinking. But this is a mistake. The government-affiliated Federal Agency for Civic Education in Germany defines the term “ethnopluralism” for school use as follows and thus, placing it squarely with the so-called “New Right”: “The so-called New Right uses the term ‘ethnopluralism’ to describe a theoretical concept that is supposed to give a new and less attackable foundation to the racism typically perpetuated by right-wing extremists. Critics call it ‘racism without races.’ The word ‘ethnopluralism’ consists of the Greek word ‘ethnos’ (people) and the Latin word ‘pluralis’ (plural) and propagates a ‘diversity of peoples.’” The term originated from a certain Henning Eichberg, a theorist of the “New Right”. But precursors of the concept can already be found amongst the anti-Semite and blood-and-soil ideologue of the Third Reich, Carl Schmitt. Ethnopluralists assumed fundamental and unchangeable “characteristics” of groups of people. Unlike classical racism, they avoided biologistic argumentation: “Instead, they claim that peoples possess immutable cultural identities,” and that it is best if peoples live as separately as possible. The more homogeneous a people is culturally, the stronger it is. Mutual cultural influences, which have always determined people’s lives, were completely ignored. Like classical racism, ethnopluralism ultimately excludes people of other cultures and provides ideological justification for violence against them.1
  In view of the “Russophobia” staged by the media in the context of the Ukraine crisis, the question arises whether this new racism, if it is really new, cannot also be found outside the New Right. The term “New Right” would have to be defined in a precise manner and also, it would have to be determined whether the people who spoke up against massive immigration movements, such as those in Germany in 2015, must consequentially be suspected of racism. The fact that right-wing extremism has a completely different, negative-violent “quality” and should strongly be condemned, is self-evident. Whether it appears in the guise of Western neo-Nazis or Ukrainian members of the Azov regiment is irrelevant.

“Ideological repolarisation” and “civilly saved”?

If one engages with the new term of “ethnopluralism,” the mass media offer more illustrative material than one would like. Processes that go far beyond the limits of the so-called “New Right”. Example 1: The NZZ of 5 May opens its pages to a Vladislav L. Inozemtsev, who is presented as the director of the Centre for Post-Industrial Studies in Moscow. The former fellow of the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, a transatlantic think tank founded in 1955 in cooperation with the Council on Foreign Relations and Chatham House, has to put up with the question if he fulfils the facts of ethnopluralism when he states that today’s struggle of Ukraine and Russia is “not a struggle between Europe and Asia, but a struggle between the Europe of today (or tomorrow) and the Europe of yesterday”. Russia, he says, is indeed a product of Europe, “but not of the real Europe of today, but of an imaginary Europe of the past.” In other words, the product of a past and thus backward culture that is alien to us. With Russia, Europe is confronted with the “abysses of its past.” It is questionable, however, whether it can be “ideologically reversed and civilly saved,” “as Nazi Germany once was.” Comparing Russia with Nazi Germany around 9 May, when Russians commemorated their 27 million dead, murdered by Hitler’s Wehrmacht and the SS – and yet the Russian president thanked the soldiers of the Western powers, who together with the Russians gave their lives in their fight against Nazi barbarism, on Red Square on the occasion of the 9 May Victory Day celebration. A barbarism, which the West had long accepted all too long with eyes wide open – keyword “appeasement” policy. And what would a real “Asian” say to Inozemtsev’s accusations? Kishore Mahbubani, for example? Or Pankaj Mishra?

Are Russians not Europeans? Do they not care about life?

Second example: What to make of the statements of one Florence Gaub, a NATO-affiliated member of the Future Council on Frontier Risks of the World Economic Forum? Does she not also fulfil the facts of ethnopluralism when she claimed during a talk show with Markus Lanz on the German mainstream channel ZDF2 “that – even if Russians look European – they are not Europeans”? The Russians would have “a different relation to violence […], a different relation to death.” The Russians, that includes everyone who sees themselves as culturally Russians, different from the Ukrainians and other Europeans! She continues, using age-old prejudices: “Russia, for example, also has a relatively low life expectancy. I think 70 for men. Um, that’s just… then you just deal differently with the fact that people die.” One rubs one's eyes: the fact that Russia plummeted to the level of a Third World country in the 1990ies after the collapse of the Soviet Union “thanks to” a Western-orchestrated neoliberal “shock strategy” (Naomi Klein), also in terms of life expectancy, does not seem worth mentioning to the former major in the French Army. Nor does the centuries-long interweaving of Western European and Russian intellectual, economic and social history. That is the classic approach of ethnopluralism? Or can one hear the undertone of “Slavic sub humans”? “Asian steppe hordes?” To whom life is worth less than to us? The expression “Slavic subhuman” was not used, because the lady finally added that she meant it “culturally”, that the Russians only looked European, but were not. With that she confirms the definition of the federal centre for the new racism. Moreover, Gaub’s statements fulfil the dehumanisation of the enemy demanded by wartime propaganda.

Documents from Yad Vashem trampled all over

Third example: On the website of Yad Vashem, the Israeli memorial of the Shoah (Holocaust) and its authoritative reference centre worldwide, you can find profiles of countless racists of anti-Semitic characters. Among others, one can find the following text under the keyword “Stepan Bandera”: “Bandera, Stepan (1909-1959), Ukrainian nationalist leader. Bandera joined the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) in his twenties, and quickly became one of the organisation’s leaders in the western Ukraine, which was under Polish rule at the time.
  During the early 1930s Bandera took control of the OUN, which encouraged armed revolt for the cause of Ukrainian independence. When the Polish Minister of the Interior was assassinated in 1936, Bandera was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, when the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, he was set free by the Soviets and he moved to German-occupied Poland.
  At the 1940 national OUN conference, Bandera caused a breach in the organisation; his supporters, the group's majority, wanted to bring about an armed revolt. Before the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Bandera helped the Nazis set up two Ukrainian intelligence battalions within their army. He also organised units that accompanied German troops into the Ukraine to form the local government and police. Bandera and his people considered the Soviets and the Jews their main enemies.
  After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Bandera’s representatives declared the establishment of an independent Ukrainian government in LVOV on 30 June 1941. The Germans were completely opposed to this, so they deported Bandera to Sachsenhausen. He kept in contact with his comrades, and was finally released in September 1944. He led the OUN until his assassination in 1959.”3
  This anti-Semite and hater of Soviet citizens should be a “persona non grata” today; anything else would be a mockery of the 6 million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis in the Shoah and the 27 million citizens of the Soviet Union also murdered by the Nazis during World War II. But far from it: In the NZZ am Sonntag of 15 May, one reads in an article about the Ukrainian ambassador in Germany, Andriy Melnyk: “The Ukrainian partisan leader and Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera is also ‘a hero’ for Melnyk. He even honoured him by laying flowers at his grave.” And with astonishing candour, the NZZ journalist then admits, “In the public debate, however, this criticism of Melnyk hardly plays a role.” And why not? For the same reason that artistic qualities are no longer in demand at the Eurovision Song Contest? And the Hitler salute may be shown uncommented and go unpunished? All this because Ukrainians culturally “belong to us”, Russians do not? So here, too, is racism disguised more badly than good as ethnopluralism? Are we back to the point where ethnic groups can be hated because they are ethnic groups? Who can also be deprived of their property because they belong to the ethnic group that is being ostracised? Will the right to property, a high good in a democracy, soon also be scratched and abolished when it comes to other unpopular people? Chinese, for example? Or even political dissidents? The Nazis called this “Sippenhaft,” acting openly racist.

Swiss model as a prophylaxis against racism

Whether racism is justified bio-logistically or ethnopluralistically, by a “New Right” or by strict transatlanticists, the human family could actually be more advanced in its development. Countries that have anti-racism paragraphs in their legislation would be well advised to include the offence of ethnopluralism, also of transatlantic provenance, and to prosecute rabble-rousers, including media that convey such content.
  Yet it would be even better to expand prophylactic measures against racism of all kinds. And here the model of Switzerland with its federalist state structure should be mentioned as an example, which promotes and guarantees a peaceful coexistence of people of different languages and cultures – it would only need the political will to do so!  •

1 https://www.bpb.de/themen/rechtsextremismus/dossier-rechtsextremismus/500773/ethnopluralismus/
2 Video excerpt April 2022, transmission by Markus Lanz, https://dahemm.de/thomas-roeper-ueber-seine-reise-in-den-donbass/

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