Mike Belbin

The Lone Crusader and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Author: Mike Belbin
Source: New Interventions, Volume 13, no 4, Summer 2011.
Prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive: by Paul Flewers & David Walters in 2017 & 2018
Copyright: New Interventions & Paul Flewers. Used here with permission.

Back in July 2008, the BBC ran a brief thriller series called Bonekickers. Each week it featured a group of archaeologists investigating a deadly mystery, usually involving a corpse over a thousand years old. It was duly slated by reviewers for being tedious and ridiculous, over-the-top and (safely) distant from the real world of the News. The Spectator’s TV critic, however, slammed it for being outrageously ‘politically correct’ and typical of BBC liberals’ fantasies about the world. For example, in one episode a young man dressed himself up as a Crusader and beheaded an Asian youth-worker. Well, in Oslo in July 2011 the ridiculous came to life, with murderous effect. Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian, either alone or with a few accomplices, exploded a fertiliser bomb at the offices of Norway’s Labour Prime Minister, while at the same time personally shooting dead 69 members of the Labour Youth movement on Utøya Island.

At his court hearing, Breivik was prohibited from making a political statement justifying the massacre (‘security’ was given as a reason), but his manifesto was available online and in a 12-minute video summary (see www.Kevin slaughter.com/wp-content/uploads/2083+-+A+European+ Declaration+of+Independence.pdf on YouTube: Knights Templar 2083 by Anders Behring Breivik).

Commentators on TV and radio were quick, after establishing that he wasn’t a Muslim, both to condemn the massacre and to dismiss the captured perpetrator as a ‘lone nut’. In the week following, far-right politicians such as the Front National’s Marine La Pen and the Dutch Freedom Party’s Geert Wilders dissociated themselves from the act. As La Pen said, this was the work of a ‘lone lunatic who must be ruthlessly punished’, and Wilders called him ‘a violent and sick character’.

Is Breivik then to be put behind us as a lone obsessive, rabid Nazi or anti-Muslim? On the other hand, are we in danger of implying a huge rightist conspiracy with both political and military wings?

No, but before the Norwegian farmer becomes yesterday’s news we might find something in examining the history out of which he came. After all, following the destruction of the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001, no one insisted on dismissing those perpetuators as lone lunatics. Instead, over the last 10 years, many links have been drawn between this event and Islam in general, Muslim fundamentalism in particular and even verses in the Koran. Distinctions of course were made. For example, fundamentalist Saudi Arabia, a US ally, was soon cleared, and Blair assured us that he was not against all Muslims — just the oppositional ones, the ‘terrorists’. Various names were coined to cover the enemy — Jihadists, Islamists, al Qaeda. But no one detached Islam or Muslims from these acts entirely, no one went for the ‘isolated lunatic’ tag. There was general agreement: 9/11 had something to do with politics and religion.

Breivik’s Declaration and video give you a clear idea of how he sees himself, a Christian Crusader in the line of such Defenders of the West, whom he lists, as Richard the Lionheart, El Cid and Vlad the Impaler.

Like his 22 July victims, however, his main targets aren’t individual Muslims or their organisations, but the ‘politically correct’ or what he dubs Cultural Marxists, whom he sees as clearing the way for ‘Islamisation’. This view is not so distant from the analysis found elsewhere, that Muslims, by trading on liberal goodwill and religious tolerance, will change Europe’s politics and culture. Books such as Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West by Christopher Caldwell (2010) are acclaimed on Amazon as ‘part of a growing literature on the threat presented to Christian or perhaps secular post-Christian Europe by postwar immigration from Islamic countries’.

Now indeed there are debates to be had on what rights and tolerance involve in a secular world or the alliances some left groups form with traditional community élites, but Breivik for one is in no doubt that the enemies of the majority in Europe and the West are to found in European universities and left parties with their encouragement of Muslim immigrants and Arab regimes. In his Declaration he starts by picking out for attention the Frankfurt School, the Institute for Social Research set up at Frankfurt University in 1923. Now many Labour politicians have probably never read a line of theorists from the Institute like Adorno and Marcuse, while in academic circles probably more influential have been the social theory and philosophy from Paris, like post-structuralism and deconstruction.

The purpose, however, of all ‘Cultural Marxists’, along with ‘Suicidal Humanists’ and ‘Capitalist Globalists’, is to ‘deconstruct European national identities’. This is done by policies of multiculturalism and political correctness, ‘the replacing of patriarchy with matriarchy’ and ‘laying penalties on native European men and… giving privileges to the “victim” groups they favour’ (Declaration, p 13). One of these groups is, of course, those migrating across the world for work, particularly Muslims.

So although CMs and their accomplices follow Gramsci, Trotsky and Betty Friedan, their aim being an ‘EUSSR’, they will in effect set up a ‘Eurabia’. You’d think people planning on ‘a society of radical egalitarianism’ would register that Islamist HQ is just waiting to take over. But Breivik is too clever for them — he can see through socialist and feminist pretensions to equal rights straight through to their support for domination by one of the monotheisms.

Breivik is at pains though to deny he is a racist, he declares himself a Christian cultural conservative. National Socialism, he says, is just another ‘hate-ideology’ along with Communism and Multiculturalism. In the Declaration he gives a list of the ‘cultural conservatives’ he hopes to mobilise. They include ‘Anti-Jihad’ — those that are ‘anti-Islamisation’ and ‘pro-Israel’ — but next on the list are ‘racial conservatives — anti-gay, anti-Jewish…’. So is he pro- or anti-Jewish — does it depend on how multiculturalist or pro-Israel they are?

Cultural conservatism has had a good run before Oslo. It certainly goes back at least to the French Revolution, from Burke’s traditionalism to Carlyle’s anti-liberalism, the notion of a World Jewish Conspiracy and TS Eliot’s antipathy for ‘free-thinking Jews’. Not all such tendencies have allied themselves with violence, but the same themes of cultural subversion and the defence of traditional status relationships resound. Breivik’s Declaration quotes many current conservatives. The presence of these quotations in the same document as his diary of bomb-preparation has given rise to furious disavowals, sometimes by politicians like Wilders (who otherwise calls for banning the Koran), and also by those seeking to exonerate writers in such as the Daily Mail (see Douglas Murray, www.spectator.co.uk). Their defence is that quotes in the Declaration from writers on immigrants and multiculturalism shouldn’t tar them with the same brush. For example, Breivik does quote John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) on his Facebook page, but this doesn’t mean Mill would have favoured shooting up ‘Cultural Marxist élites’. Let’s agree, there is no suggestion of a violent conspiracy of British columnists and continental politicians behind this crusader. But with Mill, Breivik is repeating a universal proviso: one man can make a difference; with others he’s quoting analyses, specific complaints, a rhetoric he shares.

In fact, the Declaration prints an entire article from the Mail by Melanie Phillips who describes ‘a politically motivated attempt by [Labour] ministers… to destroy the right of the British people to live in a society defined by a common history, religion, law, language and traditions… For the government of which [Jack] Straw is such a long-standing member has secretly plotted to flood the country with immigrants to change its very character and identity…’ (Declaration, pp 368-70) No one is accusing anyone at the Mail of being ‘in league’ with the Justiciar Knights (Breivik’s call sign), but we can ask them and others who have been quoted at length not only to disassociate themselves from the acts of the militant crusader but also from his arguments. (As far as I know, Osama bin Laden never quoted Lenin or Noam Chomsky, so a similar request for the left doesn’t apply.)

In fact, Marxists and other left thinkers have criticised multiculturalism too (especially in its self-interested official form, see Kenan Malik, From Fatwa to Jihad, pp 56-63). There are also feminists who would object to being called any kind of Marxist, while some deconstructionists and post-colonialists find ‘equality’ a repressive concept erected by the imperious Enlightenment. Liberals (and historians) might well point out that Europeans have always transformed their institutions, from feudalism to capitalism, as well as ‘borrowed’ (if that is the word) from other peoples. A purely European culture (in some kind of South Sea Island isolation) has never existed. Even our own off–shore Isles are threaded through with ‘continental’ classicism, Jewish wit and Black music, not to mention ‘foreign’ Catholicism and Calvinism.

Breivik’s psychological condition is still under investigation. Wherever the madness came from — family break-up, career disappointment — there waiting to obsess him were ideas he didn’t invent. Ideas formed from a sense of disinheritance, a complaint that Europe, or a particular country, has been side-lined from the centre it once occupied at least up to the Second World War and that this shaky position has been further undermined by migrants and intellectuals who are changing European culture even to the point of suppressing it under another.

In his photos, and the brief film of him in custody, Breivik doesn’t seem a particularly angry or anguished man. He comes across as smoothly psychopathic, a young conservative (the allusion is deliberate) who is having no truck with ‘liberal guilt’ or acceptance of even constitutional opposition. He is set on defending his Heritage from dilution and destruction. He defines himself against multicultural traitors and hostile outsiders. He has taken views and attitudes fairly well dispersed throughout Europe and the US to a pitch of committing his life to preparing and carrying out an act of terror (to terrify ‘traitors’ and ‘enemies’) that he obviously hopes will inspire other Knights (see the close of his YouTube video).

Breivik may be a psychopath but he is not a Martian. His politics are quite recognisably a product of the Move to the Right that has occurred since the 1960s. The fear and resentment created during ‘globalisation’ — capitalist priorities for migrant labour (and firms migrating to the cheapest labour) as well as disruption of social life in this short-termist profit economy — brought forth a grassroots conservatism that draws on xenophobia and nationalism, ideologies which have by no means been disregarded by nation-states themselves (‘British jobs for British workers’, proclaimed Gordon Brown).

Such irrationalities are dismissed as ‘backward’ and ‘yobbish’ (about the working class) as well as exploited by the ruling class. Sometimes the consequence is disastrous. It’s a process which may remind us of the tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Check out the version with Mickey Mouse in Disney’s Fantasia. First, Mickey animates by magic a broom to do his chore of carrying water, but ends up nearly drowned by buckets wielded by frenetic brooms.

Hitler’s Nazi Party became popular in a fractious Germany, gaining respectability in alliance with the conservative National People’s Party (DNVP) that wished to use the Nazis to counter ‘Bolshevism’ and consolidate plebeian votes. Later when they were the much less popular party, these conservatives joined the Nazis in a coalition and supported Hitler in his Enabling Act which gave him supreme power. Then the new brooms began sweeping. By 1941 Hitler had pushed his luck all the way to thinking Providence meant him to fight the USSR and the USA at the same time. The result was defeat and devastation.

No one has emerged yet in today’s Europe to unite street fighters like the EDL with constitutional xenophobes of the parties and media. Breivik attempts such an appeal in his propaganda, but his programme is now splashed with blood. In any case, the bourgeoisie are just not scared enough to risk another populist Götterdämmerung (and have not yet lost confidence in the official security forces): ‘deconstructionists’ and preachers like Abu Hamza aren’t as scary as the workers’ movements in the 1930s.

It is a mistake to characterise Breivik as a Nazi. Not only because of his disavowal (though confused) of classic anti-Semitism but his self-presentation as a defender, not an attacker. He is for walls and exclusion, not a civilising mission and colonial adventure. His is a fortress conservatism. Neither, unlike Hitler, do Breivik and other cultural conservatives make an appeal to the state taking over the community. Hitler never did alter the name of the party he took command of, the National Socialist German Workers Party: he recognised the appeal in his time of some form of state intervention.

Today’s conservatives dismiss statism, they are opposed to ‘big government’, even if they make exception for the military.

Since the 1930s, socialism has become a dirty word, whether presented as a cooperative economic idea, or simply the expansion of state services. In the 1930s, even the fascists wanted to be thought socialist. Today, even ‘welfare’, ‘the safety net’, has come under suspicion and attack.

The response then to cultural conservatism is not to call it Nazi or ask for more belief in ‘democracy’ that is, politicians, whose popularity knows no bounds of course, but to deal with the ‘failure’, or rather what one might call the compromising, of socialism and communism. Socialism has been compromised by nationalism, by reformism and by statism.

The socialist or revolutionary participatory project needs to tackle two far from easy tasks: to speak to the concerns of the disenfranchised everywhere, not sectioning up the international proletariat but finding common ground, and to do this partly by developing ways of debating an alternative future without over-prescriptiveness or sidestepping the problems of past ‘actually existing socialism’.

Breivik may now be isolated and dismissed, but something like his programme, without an alternative, is still a deadly possibility, amongst the deprivations and discontent, from Athens to Tottenham, of twenty-first-century capitalism.




Last updated on 9 January 2018