I think it’s positive that Olli Immonen, PS member of parliament and new Chairman of Suomen Sisu, the Far Right grouping, so openly ‘condemns’ racism on the Suomen Sisu website, but sadly, the comment is open to some interpretation. The reason is that like PS, they condemn racism in one breath, and then choose to talk not about racism, but about ‘positive discrimination’ in the labour market, as if they were ever the same!
Not to take up the point about whether positive discrimination constitutes ‘racism’, it is in this context that Immonen’s statement becomes somewhat ambiguous. Indeed, it is true to say that today racism is universally regarded as a bad thing, and no-one sensible or sane would attempt to defend it in any blatant form. But the Far Right have not given up their scapegoating of immigrants or their manipulation of racism among voting populations – rather, they have tried to sanitise it and make it respectable. Indeed, while Immonen appears to make out he is a ‘liberal’ on the issue of racism, he certainly makes up for it in terms of quite blatant Islamaphobia. Why bother with racism when you can get good mileage and less political heat out of religious bigotry?
But that isn’t the end of the racism question for me in regard to Suomen Sisu, not by a long way, especially given their stated opposition to, for example, ethnic inter-marriage. It remains to be seen too, to what extent their extremism will remain visible after their obligatory website makeover, now that there is a new man in charge. Something still smells fishy!
One exposé several years ago by a Guardian journalist who infiltrated the British National Party revealed that the ‘old style’ racism still exists to be seen ‘on the inside’, even if somewhat coded, but that outwardly the message is nowadays very tightly controlled. Racial superiority has given way to a sense of moral and cultural superiority, built on the back of economic advantage. The constant linking of immigrants with crime, rape and extremism continues as before, but rather than being put forward as proof of racial inferiority, today it is put forward as proof of cultural inferiority and economic liability. Racial prejudice has in many ways given way to ethnic, economic and religious prejudice, which nevertheless still divides along racial lines. Racists have merely taken shelter today in mainstream cultural categories.
Yet any political party that puts immigration as the number one problem facing society, or even in the top ten, simply has no real concept of civil society or today’s political and social challenges. While immigration does bring problems, typically through being underfunded, and a visible change in demographics, it most certainly is not the main problem facing modern societies. Economic problems loom largest, from government debt to personal debt, job insecurity, capital flight, financial regulation, market bubbles, unaffordable housing, growing gaps between rich and poor, ageing populations, health care financing, health inequalities, the ‘greying’ of rural populations, achieving competitiveness in a global market while maintaining standards of living, regulation of ‘borderless’ markets, mortgaging the future, environmental sustainability, the rights of women, violence against women, human rights abuses, human trafficking, political and social freedoms, substance abuse problems etc; these are all issues both home and abroad that would naturally rank higher in my view than the ‘problem’ of immigration.
Of course, if you think you didn’t get a job because it went to an immigrant, then you may find reason to be personally aggrieved about immigration. If you seek identity and belonging through a narrow nationalist identity centred on monoculture illusions and a sense of endless despair about any cultural mixing, then fear for the Islamisation of Europe will keep you awake at night. Identity politics is easy to follow and easy to campaign for. You simply follow your ‘team’ and then everything the other team does is wrong, the referee [the Establishment] is blind and the game is rigged against the natives! Hooliganism, intimidation and violence are defended as ‘boys will be boys’ or even as cultural self-defence. Oh, and importantly, our team is of course naturally the best! Go Suomi!
So as much as it seems useful for Immonen to condemn racism, I found the wording to be problematic. Given Suomen Sisu’s stated opposition to positive discrimination or ethnic quotas in employment policies, which was also a key point in the Nuiva Maalimanifesti compiled by PS’s politicians, we just don’t know what Immonen refers to when he condemns racism. Chances are that he condemns the Far Right’s interpretation of racism and not the racism by Finns against immigrants, institutional racism, public slurs of immigrants, second class citizenship of immigrants etc.
I might be wrong, of course, because on paper, it looks like a condemnation of racism, and that is what people ‘want to hear’ for these groups to gain mainstream respectability. But until I hear it in more specific terms, and not all that nonsense about positive discrimination being the worst evil of racism, then it sounds like the protestations of the alcoholic who tells you that they really have stopped drinking. But upon investigation, you find the stuff they are now drinking happens to smell like vodka, taste like vodka and have the intoxicating effects of vodka, but that you are expected to believe it really isn’t vodka because the label on the bottle clearly says it isn’t!