Mass Man, Mass Politics, and the Capitalist Order

M. Raphael Johnson

 That the modern ethno-nationalist and anti-globalist resistance movement in America and Europe has a profound class character is difficult to deny. It has this character in a radically different manner than the far left in the media and the universities would have one believe. The extreme left’s overrepresentation in these institutions has provided a purposely false and distorted picture of class in America, and, specifically, class conflict in relation to nationalism and ethno-communitarianism.

The simple fact is that the American and European nationalist movements are overwhelmingly “blue collar” and lower middle class, facing squarely the ideological arrogance of the global elite representing the internationalist ambitions of contemporary world capitalism. Nationalism is finding its strength in those who have been displaced by the New Order of global capitalism, the overwhelming majority of workers and small businessmen who do not stand to gain from internationalization. As a result, those who benefit from the increasingly tyrannical rule of internationalized capital have sought to mobilize the constituencies of the far left to destroy the only means whereby consistent social cooperation and political mobilization could ever come about, namely, ethnic and cultural nationalism; the re-building of the ethno-community.

To say that some phenomenon has a “class character” is to say it has a significant economic component; it is not to say that it is reducible to class, or that class structure can be used to fully explain political phenomena. Nothing is reducible to class or any other such simplistic label invented by modern social science. Modern ethno-nationalism has, however, one complex starting point that explains its strength, rise and obvious threat to modern American elite hegemony: the reaction to the reigning global system of trade and its necessary domestic social reorganization. As globalized capital actively seeks the overthrow of nations and their moral standing as sovereign entities, classes victimized by this process are turning to the very idea of the nation itself as a means of retaliation. What was once taken for granted and latent is now an active political creed. The objective reality of nationhood and culture has now been given its subjective force.

Nationalism has a powerful economic component, and it thus contains a profound class component. Global free trade has destroyed the livelihoods of not merely millions of working men but entire communities dependent upon a certain way of economic life, such as textiles or farming. The isolated consumer has replaced the active citizen and the ethno-linguistic community that forms and nurtures him. This “massified man” has no control over the workings of the global economy and thus the transformation of citizens into consumers is more accurately understood as a function of political domination. The American Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated the job loss in the United States since the forced passage of NAFTA in the millions. This means entire communities are wiped out as corporations move to the third world in search of cheap labor and a more compliant workforce.

Alternatively, America’s corporate elite have also experimented in importing third world labor to displace blue collar and poor rural Americans. Not only do they work cheaper, but they are very difficult to unionize given the obvious linguistic and cultural barriers, and, more importantly to the system in general, they continually divide the working classes in America along racial lines, making any political organization nearly impossible. In other words, the economic battle automatically takes on a national tone as the national battle immediately takes on a class tone. As international capitalism uses cultural aliens to destroy American working class solidarity and an American sense of self, leftist views of international economics become irrelevant, given that they ignore or trivialize the national, ethnic and cultural aspects of international economic organization.

Domestically, of course, in order for the United States to be merged into the new economic order of free trade and global governance, the ethnic and religious nature of the country must also be altered accordingly. This is the crucial connection the left refuses to make, and in refusing to make this connection, they have no relevance to the struggle whatsoever. It is clearly not in the interests of global capital, which seeks a world without borders for the sake of marketing and the maximization of consumption in standardized form, to tolerate ethnic and religious nationalism. As a result, if globalism is to continue, or be maintained once it has occurred, ethnic homogeneity must become a thing of the past, and, certainly, the ethnic, religious and racial pride of any majority population must be eliminated completely. The demands of the corporate elite globally mean the imposition of multiculturalism as a semi-official ruling ideology nationally.

The contemporary ideologies of multiculturalism and multilingualism stem immediately from the political and social demands of international capital. Simply, international capital cannot function profitably if peoples seek social fulfillment and cohesiveness within their own cultural structure. Multiculturalism is part of the marketing structure of international capital. If the world is to become one global marketplace without regard to race, nation or religion, then nationalism becomes the deadly enemy of modern internationalized capitalism. The ultimate in marketing efficiency is in the standardization of the market itself, which, in contemporary terms, means the standardization of the tastes, ethnicities and morals of the globe. Richard Berry and John Cavanagh write in their celebrated (1996) essay the “Homogenization of Global Culture,” which appeared in the excellent compilation, The Case Against the Global Economy:

“The owner of this global network of networks [referring to Viacom] is Sumner Redstone [sic, his real name is Murray Rothstein], a Boston multibillionaire who made a fortune in movie theaters. Although his name is unknown to the general public, he has become of the most influential educators of young people in the world. As MTV was announcing plans to extend its worldwide home entertainment networks to China, Korea and Taiwan and to launch “Ren and Stimpy” in Europe, Redstone was celebrating the arrival of the global child. “Just as teenagers are the same all over the world, children are the same all over the world,” he declared (73).”

As a result, American and European nationalism -- that is, the drive to reclaim the local and ethnic -- develops a class outlook because of the class nature of the economic system of domination. From a purely economic point of view, the interest in the adversely affected groups in political alternatives is clear in that they stand to gain nothing and lose everything in the new elite-run global economic plantation. Blue collar workers, given the existence of a free trade regime and third world labor competition -- in and out of their native country -- realize their precarious position in terms of wages, unionization and economic security. The use of cultural aliens and the third world generally to increase profits and eliminate any working class mobilization immediately adds the national element to the economic.

Lower level white collar workers are well aware that, as megacorporations consolidate, their lower management jobs and clerical positions are often the first to be eliminated. Small businessmen are aware that, given the megacorporation’s drive for marketshare, owners of small businesses are an “unnecessary” and “inefficient” irritant that need to be eliminated. In other words, every small business destroyed by the megacorporation automatically means an increase in corporate market share. Small businessmen and the management of the conglomerate are not of the same class, nor do they have similar political views. They are inherently opponents. The nature of globalization means that, for all these victims of internationalization, the economic is infused with the national.
Are these Amish people backward? G.K. Chesterton, when contemplating technology and capitalist civilization, wondered, over the flurry of statistics and scientific theories, "were those people happy"? In other words, did people in technologically lesser societies live happier and more meaningful lives than those in techno-scientific ones. Of course, Chesterton's answer was a resounding "no." Technology developed in the modern era in service to either then state or monopoly capital. It was used to destroy the traditional culture of America and, certainly, all of Europe in the interests of these forces. In technological societies, people work more for increasingly less money. The question is not between technology and production (this is how the question is always framed), but technology and happiness. Here, scenes of Amish folk who live a meaningful, happy existience while limiting the influences of technology, all the while guarding their unique cultural identity.
The left, of course, has hid its head in the sand for decades in light of these difficulties for class analysis in relation to nationalism. The left has joined in a predictable coalition with megacorporations to lobby for increased immigration to America and the imposition of multiculturalism on public institutions in its semi-official status as a ruling ideology. Furthermore, the left has done corporate America’s dirty work for it by continually deemphasizing the necessity of cultural commonality (that is, ethno-nationality) to successfully cooperate for political change and has sabotaged any and all efforts (sometimes violently) to improve the lives of the working classes by insisting that such activities be “multicultural” in nature, and thus wrought by dissension, racial acrimony and division, only made worse by economic dislocation.

The left is a tool of the capitalist elites in America, as the grant-making patterns of the Rockefellers and Fords over the past five decades have shown. Corporate America well knows (as proven by the cruise line industry a decade ago) that the one sure way to defuse any American or European working class political action is by infusing that movement with third world aliens, multilingualism and multiculturalism. Workers then become hostile strangers to each other, which effectively means that, without mutual trust, the white trash of the corporate elite is safe from any future attacks on its privileges. There can be no doubt that the creation of such organizations as the “Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund” by the Ford Foundation suggests a major elite connection to third world immigration.

It is quite obvious and elementary why the corporate elite has converted to leftist multiculturalism in recent years, and, as the records of corporate philanthropy show, support it financially. It is economically more efficient to deal with one more or less mongrelized global society than to have to market one’s products to literally thousands of differing national and religious groups. In other words, if corporate profits and market share are to be maximized, then the distinctions among peoples must be broken down; world government (following only upon world homogenization, and possible only with it) in some form is necessary. It follows then that ethnic nationalism must be eliminated. Within the countries most responsible for the development of a corporate global elite ideology, such as the United States, England and Germany, it is the white population that is targeted, and it is majority ethnic mobilization that remains as the only threat to the new global order, both economically and politically.

The social theory of nationalism states as one of its most basic axioms that, in order for any sort of social cooperation to be brought about and sustained over a long term, substantial and significant cultural, linguistic, ethnic and moral commonalities must be maintained. An individual in such a milieu develops, as Bosanquet wrote, a “wider self” that sees himself in the “other,” thus breaking down the very existence of an “other.” The “other” becomes part of the self through mutual identification leading to implicit and habitual trust. It has only been this sense of the “wider self” that has brought down empires through nationalist agitation and maintained nations for centuries against innumerable threats, up to and including near extermination. Economics or class does not have the power, in itself, to bring about this sort of strength and cooperation.

Corporate elites seek the maximization of market share and thus profits through the development of an “efficient” global administration to regulate trade. Ethno-nationalism, it would follow, remains as the only possible threat against this administration. The enforcement structure of global capitalism exists presently in more or less formal outline through institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, NATO, NAFTA, the Harvard Department of Economics, the Trilateral Commission and the World Trade Organization. There is as yet no bureaucratic mode of regularization among global institutions that a truly world government would require, so problems and issues are dealt with on an ad hoc basis. But the institutional apparatus is in development, for it is demanded by the very structure of global economics in a capitalist system.

The result is that this ruling class and their surrogates, sycophants, wards and wannabees have rejected nationalism as a viable political ideology. This leaves their victims, the victims of global trade such as farmers, blue collar workers, lower level professionals and small businessmen to aimlessly wander around the debased pantheon of modern political thought in order to find an alternative to the ”inevitable” globalization of production as well as morality, religion and culture. Such an alternative has been found in a traditionalist cultural and ethnic nationalism as the polar opposite of the global regime that has done so much damage to those classes and ideas.

Thus, America in the year 2000 finds itself politically split into two camps. The first, ethnically, is WASP and Jewish. Cosmopolitan in politics, capitalist in economics and alienated radically from the history of the societies that nourished them, this class -- the controllers of the elite institutions in American society -- seek to restructure the globe ethically, politically, racially and economically for their own profit.

The second is the growing rebellion: ethnic America, blue collar workers, farmers and small business owners who are gradually being squeezed out of existence (or at least out of whatever sort of political power they ever had) by the intrinsic structure and organization of the global economy. They are generally pro-union, patriotic and either find or want to find solace, stability and personal contentment in the small community, family and nationality. Many of these people have invalidated American “democratic elections” by boycotting them in huge numbers and they are increasingly “dropping out” of the System, by, among other things, educating their children at home. This group, as nationalists have been saying for decades, still forms a massive potential counterrevolutionary army. But, as is perennially the case, many of the potential allies in this struggle are just as willing to accept their servitude, as the WASP and Jewish elite are to subject them to it. Nevertheless, the political expression of this group of counterrevolutionaries, whether it be the so-called “Buchanan Brigades” in America or the Freedom Party in Austria, is reminding the ruling classes of the essential fragility of their present hold on power and the potential strength of the coming counterrevolution. This certainly explains the hysterical reaction in the worldwide elite media to those two nationalist and increasingly popular movements.

The present conflict -- that which is defining all other conflicts -- is also a class conflict. The reasons why it has taken on this character are rather uncomplicated. Corporate America has taken the support it received from the communities of their origin and have used the profits to destroy them. Corporate America takes the profit from the worker and has used this to mock and degrade him in the culture. Multiculturalism, world government, international capitalism, liberals in the universities, minority racial nationalism, “identity politics,” elite funding of radical groups and the attack on whites generally are all related elements, all deriving from the demands of corporate capital to destroy the very concept of ethnic solidarity and traditional community as they seek the eventual standardization of the globe’s very different groups of people, as well as the gradual isolation of individuals from one another. Advanced capitalism and nationalism are mutually hostile; they are polar opposites of one another. The nationalist struggle is the real class war.

What such an economic order, the most powerful offspring of Enlightenment modernism, leaves in its train is the phenomenon, unknown to history until recently, of the “mass man.” Treating this disease is the purpose of the remainder of this present book. The connection between the “New Economic Order” or the “New Economy” and the development of the “mass man” might be summarized by Bernard Iddings Bell in his famous (1952) Crowd Culture:

“But somehow or other more than a few of us begin to see that while wealth accumulates in these United States, man seems to decay. Corruption corrodes our political and industrial doings. In our private lives a pervading relativism, an absence of conviction about what is the good life, a willingness to seek the easy way rather than the way of integrity, blunts the proddings of conscience, takes the zest out of living, creates a general boredom. We are not a happy people; our alleged gaiety is not spontaneous. Our boredom results not only in a reluctant morality but in shockingly bad manners, which most of us do not even know are bad manners. We become increasingly truculent. Our way of life, while opulent and brash and superficially friendly, is less and less conducive to peace of mind and security of soul. (4)”

The “mass man” has no function, no purpose, and no final end intrinsic to himself. He might find himself the tool of the bureaucrat or the industrialist, but, of himself, he is merely a means, and not an end. The mass man is purely other-directed, he is directed solely by outside forces, whether it be the pop-culture, the state apparatus, commodity producing capital, or the psychological clinician. The mass man is the “citizen” of the modern state, the consumer of modern capital -- the mass man is the microcosm of modernism and a product of its ideology. He is a “subject” in every sense of that term.

Traditional European culture -- the essence of European man -- was marked by the primacy of the small community, the village, the parish, and the guild. European man was intimately surrounded by various and sundry institutions that defined his role in society, his responsibilities, as well as is rewards, rights, and privileges. Such a social regime is one championed by nationalists, medievalists, and communitarians of a specifically “rightist” stripe. It is so promoted because the citizen can truly be such, an active participant in the community fully aware of his identity and final purpose. Only here can true individuality be found. But the individual only grows within cultural unity, and, for the myriad institutions of medieval life to flourish, they needed to be wedded together with a common vernacular and a common religious heritage, the contents of which are well known.

The rise of the modern world on the ruins of the medieval period sought the dismantling of these institutions. The progress of technology provided the state with the means to expand its reach, strength, and power. The beginnings of imperialism and colonialism were fueled by the demands of burgeoning international trade and the centralization of the state, with its mass armies and professional bureaucracies which then provided the state with the necessary financial power to expand itself. Further, the gradual collapse of the feudal system provided European man with the first wave of entrepreneurs, often impatient with the weight of tradition upon their quest for profit. Soon, the guilds collapsed, leaving the individual craftsman completely unprotected, and religion became the function of the state as the monasteries of old were absorbed into the bureaucracy with their property.

Of course, it was not long before European man saw the fruits of the “Reformation:” capitalism, the legalization of usury, and the rationalization of bureaucratic power, in other words, the centralized state of the “absolute monarchs” of the early modern period. Such political arrangements were conveniently justified by such philosophical works as Thomas Hobbes’ (1651) Leviathan. European man was also treated to the creation of massive conglomerates, or concentrations of private capital with nearly as much power as the state itself. The English and Dutch East India Companies, of themselves, became governments, with their own security services and bureaucracies.

Of even greater significance was that this expansion was financed on the ruins of the former communitarian existence of European man. The path to power for the “new class” of political and economic rulers was in centralization, or, put differently, the elimination of all alternative sources of loyalty. The “enlightened” rulers of the 16th and 17th centuries had little patience with of the weight of tradition that had previously informed the institutions of the village, parish, and guild. There was to be no interruption of the state’s power, there was to be a direct line of command from ruler to subject, and the intermediate institutions were to be eliminated. Many simply became irrelevant under the weight of the new class of “civil servants” and financiers. Soon enough, of course, Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau, and a host of others were justifying the systems that had taken most of Europe by mocking and denigrating the institutions of the Old System: Religion was superstition, tradition was little more than “habit,” and humanity was to live solely by its own “individual reason.”

Man became a mere “citizen” of something called the “nation-state,” that odd institution which served to protect the ruler’s unlimited power and capital’s ever-expanding tendencies. In order to rule such vast territories, both political and economic power became more “abstract.” As states grew along with markets, European man began to seem a undifferentiated mass rather than making up a set of well-defined roles and responsibilities. Man became an abstract “citizen” rather than a soldier, priest or carpenter. For political and economic power to reach ever expanding markets and territories, standardization became the norm. The particularistic culture of the village, the monastery, the guild or the region, became the monoculture of the state and its attendant capital (or vice versa).

With this came the rise of mass ideology, or that series of abstractions which was the instrument of the new class of rulers. Locke and Marx posited man as a mere producer, a machine of production. Hobbes saw man as a chunk of matter forever in motion, clashing with other chunks of matter. Le Mettrie saw man as merely a machine. The Marquis de Sade saw women as “machines for voluptuousness.” Regardless of the ideology, man was reduced to a set of ideological abstractions as he was torn from his earlier set of definite institutions and roles.

No such arrangement can work without the exercise of power. Modernism did not merely “rise to power” as the intellectual historians claim, using the ever-present “passive voice” of the academic classes, but was something imposed by force. Independent cities, communes, republics, and regions were forcibly subjugated to the ever-expanding power of the state and its growing armies and arsenals. The rise of finance capital made it possible for the state to finance long term military operations and massive armed forces.

Economically speaking, efficiency dictated that smaller regions were to be identified as markets en masse, for it was far cheaper to market goods over a standardized population rather than the differentiated villages that once was the face of Europe. Gradually, language, culture, and opinions became standardized over large segments of territory under the control of one ruler. It reached a point at the French Revolution, some time later, that the revolutionaries divided up France into many identical “administrative regions,” without regard to the various differences between the historical regions of the French nation. The French Revolution was the apogee of modern abstraction. Individuals, according to the state and the economy, were identical hunks of material that were to be properly manipulated by the occult “New Man” of the new ruling classes. It was not long before the totalitarian mind of Marx and August Compte was born, bringing to fruition this process of the abstraction and dehumanization of mankind.

In short, both from the point of view of the concentrated state as well as concentrated capital, the community of traditional Christian Europe was a hindrance. The state demanded loyalty to it and it alone, while capital needed an undifferentiated population to continue the expansion of markets at the lowest possible cost. This process has yet to cease; only its scope has changed. By the time of the French Revolution at the late eighteenth century, Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, Johann Herder and a handful of others stood up against the entire project of modernity and its demand for centralization and standardization. The intellectual pedigree of this resistance became (in the philosophical sense) “conservatism,” and later, “nationalism,” “communitarianism,” and “devolutionism.”

In spite of this, modernity continued its long march, man was bereft of a true identity. He was the subject of political and economic forces he could not hope to control. Decisions were made at distant capitals and centers of financial and industrial power. As man lost a sense of personal responsibility and became a pawn in the hands of massively powerful social forces, the official political ideologies of the “New Men” reflected European man’s new condition: Darwinism, Determinism, Existentialism, and Marxism became the new creeds for the New Man.

Marx placed man at the behest of economic forces, Nietzsche saw man as inevitably manifesting the uncontrollable “will to power,” while Freud placed man at the behest of the two major instincts of the psyche -- lust and death. Ideology was humanity exploring his new found shackles. The very concept of reason and science had been redefined in a way congenial to the new ideologies of European man. All of them reflected the new regime: the system of politics and economics that decidedly saw humanity as the raw material for the increased power and expansion of the New Men. Mankind eventually was sent to die by the millions in two world wars, and sent to the factory to be worked into an early grave for the New Class.

Hence the present difficulties are reached. This all too brief and simplified historical sketch has landed at the end of the twentieth century. The final conclusion is that man is a social being indeed, but he is not a part of a “mass.” Man’s place as a social being means that man is also a cultural being, a being capable of powerful impulses of affection, loyalty, and a deep civic kinship developed while acting within strictly defined social roles and moral norms. These impulses towards the community are not irrational, but are based on man’s natural attachment to the social forms which provide him with a sense of identity and purpose. Man’s natural sociality means that this sense is in no way arbitrary -- in that man’s identity in community is not arbitrary -- but that social life is something that exists to solve definite needs and problems, needs that belong to man as man. The cultural identity which comes to create the ethnos, peoples, and clans, is merely the means by which the natural law of human sociality manifests itself in the day to day moral decision-making of a cultural being. The communal sense of nationhood which at one time dominated European morals, and made another appearance at the end of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth (though, sadly, at the behest of the mass-state), still shows itself as the true, natural social milieu of human beings.

The local community is part of the national and ethnic unit that expresses man’s natural sociality in small, devolved forms that permit the family (the basis of all social life), identity and belonging to flourish. Authority is something that emanates from cultural forms, in that such forms contain the wisdom of the ages as the repository for generations of experience, victory, defeat, suffering and happiness. This instinct, in turn, is based on nature itself, for human beings solve problems in community: man is incapable of a solitary life, man is not physically or psychologically self-sufficient. The small community, manifesting its solution to various human needs which is the basis of culture and morals, is the proper and primary repository for human affection and loyalty. Here, mankind is not a “citizen,” a “consumer,” or any other abstraction of modern sociality, but a full and true human being with definite responsibilities and privileges, responsible to others as others are responsible to him.

The ethno-nation, or, even more accurately, the ethno-commune, is not related to that abstraction of the “nation-state.” The nation is something quite different, and often opposed to, the institutions of the state. The nation is a cultural community expressing man’s natural sociality and solidarity. The state is a formal organization of violence which intrinsically seeks to expand its power at the expense of the community and the loyalties it engenders. The state often finds the tradition of nationhood a constant irritant to its demand for complete loyalty and ever expanding power, expressed in standardization and bureaucratization. The term “nation-state” is incoherent and utterly irrelevant to contemporary politics. Nationalists speak of “nation,” “community,” and “region,” while liberals, neo-conservatives, Marxists, and capitalists speak in terms of “state.” In many ways, the modern follower of Johann Herder might be termed an ethno-communitarian anarchist, where governing power is not found in the distant bureaucratic state, but in the developing forms of cultural tradition, created and maintained by the constant interaction of more or less autonomous institutions and estates, themselves the produce of centuries of accumulated historical experience.

[September 16, 2004]


The Orthodox Nationalist is a weekly program hosted by historian and writer Fr. Matthew Raphael Johnson, Ph.D. The show airs on Thursdays at 9pm, Eastern U.S. time.
Matthew’s program brings a lively discussion of political theory and religious ideas, with a focus on the central role of Russian and Ukrainian nationalism, and the Eastern Orthodox faith, in challenging the New World Order

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