I Saw Iceland Melt by Kevin DeAnna
Some of the organizers of the rally were admitted Communists, but most came from various apolitical or more moderate backgrounds. A small contingent of the populist right Liberal Party appeared, but they did not have much of a following. Polls show that the party has fringe appeal, and is not poised to grow as a result of the crisis. One could possibly expect a right-wing backlash in response to the crisis. After all, with the sagas, the ethnic homogeneity, and the quiet nationalism of a country that defines itself by a common history and not an abstract ideology, one could at least expect an “Icelandic First” movement to grow. However, the center-right in Iceland, as the Communists in China, defined the core of their legitimacy as ensuring economic growth. Once this was lost, they have nothing else to offer. The far right, or what passes for it, can offer some anxiety over blond haired Polish immigrants, not enough to build a populist alternative to safeguard Icelandic workers. The land of Vikings, especially in the city of Reykjavik, is more subject to the global mass culture of MTV than it is to the Prose Eddas. The “alternative” English language newspaper is just the “young militant” press outlet of the establishment with the same boring arguments everyone else makes—Iceland’s own Rolling Stone. Every single person I spoke to, when they found out I was an America, expressed hope that Obama would somehow resolve the situation in the world economy. The Left stands not just to benefit, but to gain the entire benefit from the crisis.
The Left also will benefit because in any crisis situation, they have a revolutionary gestalt lacking on the right. On the following Tuesday, crowds gathered in the Austurvollur Square in front of the Althing. They surged to get into the building, and the police beat them back, arresting 15. Why 15? The police could not control the situation if they had arrested more—they didn’t have the numbers. Only a few hours later, several of these same fifteen had rejoined the crowd, hammering on pans and joining in the chant. The crowd was much more ideologically unified than at the rally. This was a march of the Left. Red flags, black flags, and even East German flags made an appearance. A placard with the picture of a giant pig wearing an Independence Party pin translated to the retro-Soviet label “Enemy of the People.”
Make no mistake; it is capitalism that will take the blame for this crisis. Crying that we do not have “true capitalism” is as questionable as those coffee house philosophers telling you that the Soviet Union was not “true communism.” Both claims might be correct, but that is irrelevant. America alone has some minor constituency with the Ron Paul revolutionaries and Young Americans for Liberty that can claim to be true believers in a system that has never been implemented. To the average person however, and certainly overseas, the sudden collapse of jobs and savings because of the incomprehensible machinations of shadowy bankers will lead to greater demands for state security, regardless of the actual causes of the crisis. The battle cry of the Reykjavik riots was not “Smash the State,” or “Down with the Government”—it was “Incompetent Government” – a demand for a more efficient technocracy.
A second depressing conclusion is that absent a right wing alternative, the only response to every leftist failure will be more leftism. Several libertarians are congratulating themselves on noting that Obamanomics will fail just as the New Deal did. Of course, FDR was still elected four times and is remembered as one of the greatest presidents in American history. Similarly, while the new Icelandic regime will busy itself in income redistribution and social scheming, the center-right is limited to a defense of a system that is widely seen to be failing. If the center-left can not fix the crisis, the crowds may come back, confront the “fascist” police yet again, and help create an even more extreme alternative. If Iceland’s decline continues, the Left-Greens stand to benefit far more than the Liberal Party or certainly the altogether discredited Independence party. The Left is the establishment and its own alternative.
Third, the crisis will provide the cover for the leftists to carry out their irreversible agenda of social transformation. Both the left-wing parties will push for liberalizing labor laws for immigrants, an ominous sign for a tiny nation of about 300,000. The fall of the Independence Party also removes a major obstacle for the admission of Iceland to the EU, which though not on the table immediately, may look increasingly desirable if the krona remains weak. This will create great pressure on Iceland to accept mass immigration and other restrictions on sovereignty which could easily destroy the country and current a permanent constituency for socialism. Because the country is so small, leftists only need to open the floodgates once to ensure their permanent majority. An economic crisis, unless the left moves towards outright communism, will pass in time, as will Obama, reality shows, and the Republic itself. A sweeping demographic change is forever. As a paleoconservrvative (or maybe post-paleo), I will confirm Ryan McMacken’s charge that I have greater faith in the capacity of this Nordic people to thrive even under socialism than for lasseiz-faire capitalism to create a paradise after the international community decides Iceland is the ideal place to settle tens of thousands of Palestinians.
The capitalist system around the world is in crisis and in Iceland, there does not seem to be an alternative except the vague leftist Zeitgeist that never seems to lose its appeal. Nor is there one worldwide. The nationalist Right does not seem likely to triumph in Iceland or in Europe, and in America, it simply doesn’t exist. Campaigning on libertarianism in Iceland or anywhere in Europe for that matter seems laughable. The Left, for all its failures, has a universal creed of emancipation and egalitarianism, and an idealism that can always inspire in times of crisis. Most worryingly, social democracy does not suffer from its failures but is pushed constantly towards greater extremism and statism. If this was in the spirit of the streets in Iceland, the spectre will certainly not avoid America.
Is there a right wing alternative to capitalism? If not, is there a way to build a movement behind real capitalism as enduring as that behind the fighting spirit of the Left? These are the questions that need to confronted by those of us on the Right today, if we are to build a fighting faith that resist the End of History represented by social democracy. Iceland holds a warning, but no answers.
Lest we forget, the communist dream is to break down religious and ethnic barriers into a proletariat united under shared exploitation by a capitalist elite, which it then overthrows to bring about a Babelist Paradise on Earth (after liquidating any remnant ethnic or religious residues – who are the true enemy of communism, capitalism being the pretend enemy). Are we then to fall for the global communist trick and embrace monstrous global capitalism as the alternative to communism?
Whenever leftist global capitalism creates a problem, leftist global socialism is immediately paraded as the only alternative. Sometimes nationalism and WWII are inexplicably blurred into association with transnational capitalism as well (the connection being WWII is unpleasant and thus convenient to associate with global capitalism…) This must change; the West needs a right wing. Christians and conservatives to often defend the current revolutionary status quo rather than attempting to preserve and restore a virtuous and just order.
What’s needed is men who are willing to think for themselves, deriving a path from a guiding moral center that leads them to a third way, or perhaps a fourth way, without destroying ethnic, religious, community, and class divisions. Christian economics used to take morality and the entire societal organism into consideration on economic matters, and this is surely part of the solution. It’s said that modern economics are too complicated to understand, but economic activities don’t need to be fully understood and fully regulated, just guided – e.g. when a clearly immoral or anti-societal phenomenon arises, it ought to be corrected. Another sure part of the solution is for Christians to return to dreaming of Paradise in the next life rather than attempting creative destructive change in the hope of bringing about a Babelist Paradise in this life.
What people fail to realise is communism and capitalism, along with various other isms, are essentially religious at heart. Ideological conflict is religious by another name.
Irving Kristol, creator of the neoconservative religion, in his Reflections of a Neoconservative quoted in the front of his book:
Everything that passes for politics today will be unmasked as religion tomorrow. –Kierkegaard.
Everything begins with the mystical and ends in the political. –Peguy.
He then proceeded to write:
Every now and then, to be sure, someone who is not of the Left will declare that all these ideological categories are outmoded, and the time has come to proceed with the business of politics in some kind of pragmatic, nonideological way. But such declarations are as if written on water. They usually represent little more than an effort, in a spirit of resignation, to ratify the views of the more moderate Left as a new consensus and orthodoxy on which public policy will be based. That effort always fails. The policies of the moderate Left invariably turn out to have a germinating within themselves contradictions that lead to crises in economic policy, social policy, foreign policy. And as the moderate Left comes into discredit, the more militant and extreme Left once again regains the commanding heights of ideological authority.
To be sure, the Right also revives and quickens to life under such circumstances. It may even win elections or, in nonparliamentary regimes, seize power through a military coup. But these tend to present little more than termporary interregna. For it is characteristic of the Right–has been characteristic for well over a century and a half now–that it neither convincingly claims ideological authority nor even feels the need to make such a claim. And , in the modern world, a nonideological politics is a politics disarmed.
It has been so since the American and French revolutions, which ushered in the ideological era of politics. This politics is ideological in the sense that it consists of political beliefs that are oriented in a melioristic way–a “progressive” way, as one says– toward the future. It is impossible for any set of political beliefs in the modern era to engage popular sentiments without such a basic orientation. In this sense, all modern societies of whatever kind conceive themselves to be progressive. The rare exception, an overtly “reactionary,” backward-looking regime, is correctly perceived to be an absurd and transient, and usually nasty, anachronism.
The reason modern polictics is so essentially ideological is that modern reality–economic, social, technological, intellectual, political–will not have it otherwise. Only in a static society can politics conform to its traditional premodern ideal: “tending to the arrangements of society” (in Michael Oakeshott’s phrase) in a sober and prudent way, so as to achieve domestic tranquility, while conforming to traditional notions of just, official behavior. But in a world of scientific-technological innovation and economic growth, with all its transformations of economic and social reality as well as the accompanying changes of values and habits, politics must of necessity assume another guise. It must be committed to shaping the future with at least as much energy as to preserving a traditional attachment to the past.
But Kristol is wrong – these forces are far from inevitable. The Creative Destruction he praises as inevitable is destroying us and cannot continue. An integral part of Western progress, that one never hears mentioned, is the ethnic and moral core it is built upon. Economic reductionists have labeled this “moral capital”, and it’s extremely expensive to repair and replace. Kristol is simply proposing that these forces of destruction be directed and used to his ends, to Hell with the long term consequences and morality of it.
We’re in an era similar to when the Athenian traditionalists faced off against the Atlantian empire builders. The cause of the Atlantian rot, btw, appears to be too much immigration:
Such was the vast power which the god settled in the lost island of Atlantis; and this he afterwards directed against our land for the following reasons, as tradition tells: For many generations, as long as the divine nature lasted in them, they were obedient to the laws, and well-affectioned towards the god, whose seed they were; for they possessed true and in every way great spirits, uniting gentleness with wisdom in the various chances of life, and in their intercourse with one another. They despised everything but virtue, caring little for their present state of life, and thinking lightly of the possession of gold and other property, which seemed only a burden to them; neither were they intoxicated by luxury; nor did wealth deprive them of their self-control; but they were sober, and saw clearly that all these goods are increased by virtue and friendship with one another, whereas by too great regard and respect for them, they are lost and friendship with them. By such reflections and by the continuance in them of a divine nature, the qualities which we have described grew and increased among them; but when the divine portion began to fade away, and became diluted too often and too much with the mortal admixture, and the human nature got the upper hand, they then, being unable to bear their fortune, behaved unseemly, and to him who had an eye to see grew visibly debased, for they were losing the fairest of their precious gifts; but to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice and unrighteous power. Zeus, the god of gods, who rules according to law, and is able to see into such things, perceiving that an honourable race was in a woeful plight, and wanting to inflict punishment on them, that they might be chastened and improve, collected all the gods into their most holy habitation, which, being placed in the centre of the world, beholds all created things.
The ideologies of our day promise power and productivity from mass society, but their societies rot from within. For those unfamiliar with the tale, the traditional Athenians ultimately won against the corrupt Atlantians.:
Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast power, gathered into one, endeavoured to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars.
A more historical example is Rome, which collapsed on its own demographic rot.
Let’s renew the West before it similarly collapses. If there’s need for an ideology, how about anti-global nationalism, including a Christian faction that wishes to encourage Christian morality and virtue within its respective nations, while leaving others alone outside the sending of missionaries and such. Imagine living in a state that isn’t constantly at war, undermining Christian values, suffering conquest by floods of aliens, or suffering perpetual Creative Destruction. Imagine a society that minds its own business and actually cares for its people. Stranger things have happened.