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Viatcheslav Igrunov.
Published in "Political Class", #11, 2005 (in Russian). Translated by Schwarts Elena. Language editor—Prof. Michael Urban.


Phantoms of Freedom, Equality, and Fraternity

European Tolerance as a Form of Alienation


The flames of violence flashed through France like a blazing fire in a deadwood forest, their tongues licked the neighboring countries. The explosive character of the chain reaction suggests that the fuel was in abundance. Why, was this not the very problem that experts had been talking of for the last ten—fifteen years? Was not the problem eloquently revealed by the election results? But French society met Le Pen’s success in the first round of Presidential elections by unanimous consolidation and proved that the “right” anxiety was shared by very few. The phantom of chauvinist power frightened but withdrew beyond the limits of everyday awareness—to return soon to the streets of Paris in the form of vandalism and hatred.

But is it only France that suffers from this disease? Aren’t the recent acts of terrorism in London and the murder of Theo van Gogh of the same nature? If one scans one’s memory, one may recall pogroms against Korean shops in Los Angeles, the burnings of Turkish houses in Germany—more than enough cases to avoid turning to domestic examples, their number legion. Clashes with immigrants or their descendants are only the exposed part of the growing iceberg of nationalism. Basques in Spain, Catholics in Ulster, Corsicans in France, Serbs in Bosnia, Albanians in Macedonia, Turks in Cyprus, Tutsis in Rwanda, Tamils in Sri-Lanka—all these conflicts are of one and the same origin.

This growing nationalism destroyed the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Ethiopia. It is still within civilized limits in Canada and Belgium, Italy and Estonia, but its metastases determine political reality in Poland and Latvia, penetrating into prosperous Norway and Denmark. The illusion that nationalism, which rushed into the modern world together with the bourgeois revolutions—XXth century nationalism and genocide being its ominous grin—would dissolve either into proletarian internationalism, or some permanently victorious liberalism, has been long ago defeated by reality, but—

But the liberal intelligentsia keep stubbornly demanding political correctness and sticking the label “fascist” on anyone who moots the painful problems. At the same time, politicians connive at manipulating the public mood more and more openly. In response to the French pogroms, our domestic augurs calculate how much money Tajiks, Georgians, Azerbaijanians take out of Russia, thus betraying the brutal reasons to hate strangers.

The Osmotic Pressure of Poverty

Rich countries have always provoked envy. And diffusive penetration into their territories by those less fortunate who had come to take a sip from the cup of prosperity was an ordinary thing in past centuries. He who was stronger and more envious took it by the sword. Up to the early 20th century this practice was not viewed as criminal. However, in the 21st century it is not shameful to take what belongs to others—victors need never explain.

Contemporary Western society has not just set a level of consumption never seen by any society in the past. It is rapidly increasing the gap between the mendicant, whose numbers grow, and the immorally rich, voluptuously demonstrating this gap in every corner of the world where there is an access to TV and print. And it is Western society that has given the world the ideology of equality: all human beings are born with equal rights. A French teenager turning his eyes to a school with the inscription “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” on its facade bitterly says: “There is no liberty here, there is no equality here, while fraternity only we, the Muslims, have!” And what will the common Tuareg from former French Western Africa, or a Khmer from former French Indochina say about this? And millions of people exhausted by poverty again and again will rush through the borders of France. And the United Kingdom. But European humanism won’t permit shutting the doors in their face.

Here is an example from the distant past. The French government was trying to prevent illegal immigrants from Africa from coming ashore in Marseilles, while French intellectuals, who had gathered in large numbers on the quay, were holding the ship with their hands till the last refugee had stepped onto French soil. Was it possible for European morality to let women and children starve to death at sea? Or in the sands of Somali? I do not doubt the deep gratitude felt by the refugees when they stepped onto French territory. But have not their children just burnt thousands of cars, some of them probably belonging to the children of their saviors?

Retaining a faithful attachment to European civilization, citizens of Europe, as well as citizens of other Western countries, will receive millions of the miserable in their home, in the same manner as they used to receive Vietnamese escaping from the Viet Cong, Ethiopians, saving themselves from starvation, Albanians, running away from the Serbian genocide, and Serbs, running from Albanian genocide. The osmotic pressure of poverty will keep pushing throngs of the deprived into prosperous countries. And not only the deprived, because it was Europeans who said that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms—

Accumulation of Protest

But, having invited strangers to his home, having provided them with shelter, welfare payments and so on, with clear conscience the European forgets about the recent recipients of his care. And while an immigrant of the first generation accepts his fate without complaint or even with gratitude, his children already cannot understand what good their motherland has given them—the more so if they are citizens. And, seeing their marginality, they do not ask what they can do to achieve success. They recollect school lessons: “All human beings are born with equal rights”. And they exclaim: “Liberty? There is no liberty here! Equality? But there cannot be a word about equality! Brotherhood? Brothers are only we, Muslims!” And the citizen born in France dreams of living till retirement and going back home: to Algeria! Even in the second generation, Muslim immigrants retain their ethnic identity.

And not just Muslims. And not only in the second generation. There are studies that demonstrate a revival of interest in ethnic heritage in plenty of the diasporas in the United States. Americans more and more often feel themselves to be Japanese-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Polish-Americans—regardless of the fact that they have become strangers in their historic homelands. The American melting pot has gone. And what shall we expect then from Europe with its deep feelings of the national!—

And while poor and ill-educated people feel bitter injustice towards themselves, the prosperous and well-educated keenly share this bitterness with their marginalized compatriots, as well as with their brothers who live in the historic homeland, their ethnos, their nation. The uneducated are capable of pogroms in Toulouse; the educated, of blasts in London.

If we want to escape the burnings, we must invest in a system of immigrant adaptation. For them, integration into an alien society is an incomparably more difficult task than it is for people who have imbibed the principles of European civilization with their mothers’ milk. To become socially equal they need greater social expenditures. But society is not ready—and it is thus accumulating fuel for future riots. But even those who have received education are far from being boundlessly happy. And the European sense of justice will force them into highly artful forms of protest. And acts like September 11—are implied.

The humanistic intelligentsia is wary of discussing inconvenient problems. To escape racism, it “abolished” races. To avoid judging the rioters, it declared them strugglers for independence. The intelligentsia don’t even want to hear of dismal scenarios. But one needs to turn to one’s history to understand where terrorism is rooted.

The terrorism of the Narodniks in the ‘70s-‘80s of the 19th century was born on the ground of European humanism. It came into being together with a diverse intelligentsia, whose  representatives, having received first-class education and professions, realized what happiness their brothers and sisters were deprived of. Identifying themselves with clergymen from remote spots, with peasants or workers, these ‘intelligents’ did their best to raise the people to their own level. But inasmuch as it was hard to find sympathy among the pragmatic authorities and, still harder, in the conservative society, the intelligentsia chose terrorism as their method—a terrorism which was founded on new technologies and the unquestionable talent of the terrorists. And the quicker the progress in Russia—tsarist Russia in its last decades was the site of a true economic miracle—the quicker were people raised by the growth of popular schooling from the lower strata of Russian society into the middle ones, and the more that terrorism and violence entered the social life. The results are well known.

And isn’t that the same process that we see now on a global scale? Does not the rapid growth of education create millions and millions of highly qualified specialists in places where stagnation and misery reigned only yesterday? Do not the most developed societies absorb this intellectual force? Do not young and talented people, very often retaining the sense of traditional identity, feel injustice? But even their new European identity alone may cause in them an ardent aspiration to help those remaining in darkness. And do not these people have easy access to the most recent technologies? And, probably, some of them will become creators of new technologies like Kibalchich did a long time ago. And the more rapid is the progress—we know what an accelerating, hellish machine it is—the greater is the quantity of intellect accumulating for protest.

Certainly, violence may be checked for a period by a state of emergency or repressions. Alexander III, using strict measures, succeeded in returning peace to Russia for a short period. For a short period. But there is always a new answer awaiting each strict measure. We live in a world where new things are emerging perpetually.

The Fatality of Chauvinism

Everyday nationalism is poor enough. But when well-known political scientists calculate how much money Tajik and Azerbaijani families take away from Russian families, they, certainly, do not doubt that an average customer, instead of CIS goods, will buy raisins from Afghanistan, figs from Turkey, persimmons from Israel, and that Russian money will go abroad anyway. And they do not doubt that Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans will earn well from Russians, selling them their Hondas and Mercedes, Philips and Cepters, Boshes and Samsungs. And they do not swear at Turkish builders, who toil for New Russians and the President’s Administration. They know who establishes their patronage at public markets and collects tribute from illegal immigrants. They need the immigrant bugaboo for another reason: it is easy to inflame national hatred if you point at the enemy! It is not an easy thing to point at the WTO. Or at the non-proliferation treaty. But much intellect is not needed for shouting: “Russia for the Russians”, and that is the end of it. You are understood. It will work for certain as it is in complete agreement with people’s feelings.

The number of similar attitudes, either in Russia or in the European Union, will grow steadily, together with the growth of in the influx of alien-cultured immigrants, while the host culture will choke with overexertion—to integrate strangers in historically short terms is impossible. The quicker the rate of change, the more difficult it is to adapt alien cultures, differently perceiving these changes, to each other.

The greater the number of immigrants in the country, the greater the inertia of the newly arriving culture, the harder will be its integration into the new cultural context.

The number of problems is growing; they demand time and much finance to be solved; but being solved, they arouse problems still graver.

And this is where simplistic responses come in. “Germany for the Germans”, “France for the French”, “Russia for the Russians”. Right-nationalist movements will keep strengthening and accumulating sympathies of not only common citizens, but of the authorities. Nicolas Sarkozy is acting today in the way Le Pen would have liked to. Russian nationality and immigration laws break the former imperial tradition, moving it towards an ethnocentric state. And the more definitely violent and terrorist are the protests of immigrants and their descendants, the easier it is to introduce strict measures, and the more visible will be the features of Nazism in right-wing movements on the street.

But the ‘left’ European intelligentsia, which has broad support in the majority of European countries, won’t find it possible to submit to a nazification of politics. Even in Russia, dramatically undermined by all forms of nationalism, the head-on collision of the European approach with patriotic nationalism sees the advantage going to the European, or, if you will, the imperial one. The logic of history will split the nation into a gradually thinning stratum of the international elite, absorbing migrants from the outside world, and a growing mass of the xenophobic majority.

This split will take place, and is now taking place, not only at the level of civil confrontation, but also at the country level. Open countries, such as France or Great Britain, Holland or Sweden, will be opposed by rigid countries like Poland or Latvia, Albania or Croatia. It will result in the development of an international elite, possessed of a general sense of identity, confronted by nationalistic elites from their own countries, capable of creating local ‘internationals’. I do not exclude the possibility that a series of countries will introduce strict anti-immigrant laws and, observing the purity of ethnos, will carry out policies of assimilation to provide security.

A Contest for Minds

A new factor has appeared. Contemporary economies increasingly depend on intellectual potential. The profitability of science-intensive production is tenfold higher than that of the traditional variety. Countries having an increasing proportion of advanced technology in their gross domestic product structure rapidly leave behind those which do not catch up with technological modernization. Intellectual resources represent one of the conditions of victory in an increasingly fierce competition. Countries of the “Golden Billion” have long ago understood this unquestionable fact and are creating as many channels to parasitize on the educational systems of weaker countries as they can. The United States, with its increasingly strict immigration laws, has recently adopted a regulation that dramatically expands immigration quotas for qualified specialists from India. By the way, Indians in the USA are engaged not only in computer programming as people usually think. For example, 40% of American doctors, who are among the best paid professionals in the country, are immigrants from India. However, a significant proportion of taxi-drivers in the USA—according to my personal impression, I do not have statistical data—are also Indian natives.

The scantiness of their own reservoir of qualified staff will keep pushing countries that have rushed into the postindustrial epoch to recruit foreigners into their economies. But xenophobic tendencies will put obstacles in the way of this process. Already now we see the negative influence of the beatings and murders of foreign students on the educational system in Russia. Our country risks losing clients capable of helping it to retain elements of “knowledge economy”, the chief legacy of the Soviet period. This is why governments in the most developed countries will prevent the dictatorship of the street, and do their best to create conditions for continuing immigration. Its alternative is falling behind those who will be able to provide a high level of tolerance. On the contrary, in the relatively underdeveloped countries, provincial ones, with political elites too much ahead of remote town dwellers, governments and parliaments will be busy with retaining a folkloric identity, with getting rid of “the fifth column of the neighboring state”, with “illegal immigrants, taking away jobs from the citizens”. And these countries will lose in the competition and will sink still deeper into envious national isolationism.

Elites in developed countries, which will continue being formed with the participation of immigrants, on the contrary, are becoming more and more tolerant, rejecting xenophobic prejudices, ignoring anthropological, ethnical, religious, cultural, linguistic and other differences. But taking into account the fact that these elites will belong to prosperous countries, playing a key role in the globalization process, they will strongly oppose that national egoistic variant of globalization, practiced by the Anglo-Saxon world today. And acts of terrorism will appear only as an element of this pressure.

The Slant Eyed Face of Globalization

Globalization, the consequence and condition of the technological process, is becoming the leading factor of world development. The very acts of terrorism and the riots of the recent period are nothing other than the fruit of globalization, the result of rapid processes, pressed in time, mass migrations, informational openness and technological revolution.

It is globalization that will determine the face of the future world. But people in the West, in whose interest the American model of globalization has been constructed, are convinced that this globalization will follow their rules. Samuel Huntington has cogently refuted this error, but being afraid of the dilution of the West due to the proximity of alien more powerful civilizations, he called on the West to consolidate to protect their privileges. But there is neither time, nor reason for such a consolidation. The patient and yielding expanse of India provokes even less desire to oppose it, than does the enveloping charm of China. In their turn, Western elites are so much penetrated by immigrants from the Third World and the cosmopolitan ideals, that the self-isolation of the West is most unlikely.

In addition, the West would lose in the contest with the rest of the world. The early effects would matter only during the initial period. Later on, the dynamics of China and then India would leave the West sitting on its heaps of unused weapons and make it yield its commanding positions in the world economy and politics step-by-step.

We are used to a static China. That is why its recent rapid development is viewed by many as only an extraordinary, temporary occurrence, caused by its parasitism on Western achievements. China seems a particularly un-creative country. However, this European arrogance has no real foundation. Very few Western people understand that the greater part of discoveries and inventions innate to European civilization were made in China. After a hard time of depression caused by destructive barbarous invasions, including European ones, China has recently returned to dynamic development, while its cult of learning is gradually acquiring modern features. Here is a curious quotation: “You may return to any European city after a dozen years and see with satisfaction that nothing has changed there. Those absent from Beijing for two-three years will be struck by pleasant changes. Those who return to Beijing after ten years will hardly recognize it.”(1)

Was not the situation quite the contrary not so long ago? That is why I believe that Huntington’s appeals will lead to nothing: or, if they did, that they would be disastrous for the West. That is why the West will include China into the “Big Nine” in order to extend this organization later by including India.

And I’m absolutely convinced that the spread of the TNC, the WTO and other international structures will not lead to the Westernization of the world. On the contrary, the involvement of such cultural giants as India and China in the process of globalization will entirely alter the world. The spread of democracy, so much promoted by Western countries, will become an unbearable burden for the West, particularly for its leader, the USA. In Western countries, themselves, democracy is being drastically modified; in particular, as the result of the confrontation between global and traditional elites. The West will be forced to look for new forms of long-term co-existence with cultures displaying different values and norms of life.

At the same time, another value Europeans are so proud of, that is tolerance and pluralism, will become a key one in the process of new world formation. However, one must be conscious of the fact that tolerance is unlikely to have European features in future. The priority of individual rights over collective ones may remain a peripheral phenomenon in the Western world area, while global civilization will work out a number of other forms of human existence.

Those who think that human rights are an inevitable consequence of European pluralism and tolerance are deeply mistaken, just as they think that tolerance is an exclusively European phenomenon, fired in the furnace of The Thirty Years’ War. However, compared to the examples demonstrated by China and India, European tolerance is both too young and too feeble. They both demonstrate a non-European approach to human rights.

A traditional culture of tolerance has existed in China for more than two thousand years. China provides an example of a thousand-year co-existence of all world religions. At the same time, European “tolerance” is an insufficient concept to account for the co-existence of cultures in China. Tolerance is a form of alienation. In China, representatives of different religions do not tolerate but supplement each other. A Chinese, building his life according to Confucian canons, may be expected to meet births and deaths according to Taoist traditions. This peculiarity is expressed even more distinctly in the Japanese version of Far Eastern civilization. China has no tribal xenophobia—and this was enough to enable the merging of plenty of ethnic groups into a single nation of Han Chinese, the most numerous empire in the world.

The Indian tradition of tolerance is even richer than the Chinese one. India is a country in no way less diverse than Europe, both culturally and linguistically. However, it has known no religious wars similar to the European ones. Conflicts exist on the border between Hinduism and Islam, because Islam, the youngest of the world religions, is least adapted to cultural diversity. Jains, Parsies, Christians peacefully co-exist in India, not speaking of dozens of religions within the circle of Hinduism. The freedom of religious choice is available to everyone and is not a chronic problem, as it is in Europe: “It appeared possible to form inside Hinduism an atmosphere of diversity recognition, to develop liberalism and a tolerance of relations between religions to a level never achieved in civilization based on Judaism, Christianity, Islam”(2).

This means that when India and China are fully involved in the global integration processes, globalization will follow their rules. They are ready for the multicultural world more than are others. They will be at home in the globalizing world, the more so because China has always called itself Heaven’s Creation. In addition, China has enveloped the world by the net of its diasporas, which, wherever they live, see their capital as Beijing. And this is where nationalistic elites will receive a wide space for self-expression. It will not be the Third World which will be anti-globalist. It will be people in the West, like Huntington, who will seriously oppose globalization. And I wonder how many massacres will our children experience.

This is why responsible politicians must think now of their country’s and their people’s place in the world of tomorrow, about the desired future, about the ways that may lead there. Politicians must make a choice whether they would like to retain present-day identity and therefore to create nationalist mechanisms of isolation. One ought to remember that conservation of ethnographic archaisms ends in falling behind the changing world, in provincialism, in economies based on agriculture and raw materials. All this points to an unhappy fate in the post-industrial web enveloping the whole world. Or do they wish to be among those who spin this web? If they do they should, while it is not too late, formulate principles of tolerance and pluralism on a global scale in the epoch of unprecedented interaction among numerous cultures—together with principles for the  protection of a fragile global elite from the pressure of national egoism and chauvinistic rage.



(1) Malevitch I., 2001. Attention, it is China. Moscow. P. 31—32.

(2) Schtinkerkron G. von, 1999. Of Proper Use of the Deceptive Term. / The Tree of Hinduism. Moscow. P. 263.

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