An Identitarian Underground is the only way to guarantee a future in times of increasing repression against the movement.
The sign of the times is paradox. In Europe, there are currently few right-wing governments, and those that exist, exist in a perpetual maelstrom brought by the leftist and liberal media as well as politicians, NGOs, and state-sponsored groups, often including Islamist ones. Two prominent examples were and are the governments in Vienna and Budapest. The latter is led by the right-wing conservative Viktor Orbán, enjoys an extremely high approval rate within the Hungarian population and is seen by many right-wing politicians in Western Europe as a model of a successful, right-wing conservative, patriotic and folkish-identitarian government. Its course against the migration mainstream, which emanates very strongly from Germany, the clear opposition to a modernist-liberal family policy and the concomitant promotion of traditional Hungarian families has made it the ultimate enemy of politicians like Angela Merkel or Emmanuel Macron. Orbán did not even spare the sponsor of this anti-European policy, George Soros, which led to the withdrawal of Soros’ private university from Hungary (which will from now on reside, ironically, in Vienna by invitation of Sebastian Kurz himself). And while globalist players are buzzing with rage, Orbán has been one of the most popular politicians with the country’s population for decades, similar to Matteo Salvini from Italy.
In Austria, the situation is already a bit lost. After many years of an unsuccessful coalition between the Social Democrats and the conservative People’s Party, the aspiring neo-party leader of the People’s Party and former Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz clearly won the 2017 election and became the first first conservative head of state in a decade in Austria.
In short, starting in 2015, Kurz was the conservative young star among politicians. Fact-based, sober and calm, he debated long-established system politicians in German talk shows, and many Germans envied the Austrians for this centre-leaning politician, who brought about what they expected from, but were not delivered by, their own conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU)/Christian Social Union (CSU). While Kurz at the EU level advocated restricting the then-overflowing wave of migration from Africa and the Middle East, native German families were being forced out of their homes to create housing for refugees in Germany. With Kurz as the conservative leading candidate in the Austrian national council election, the question was not whether he could win, but only how high he would go.
The logical choice as coalition partner was the right-wing Nationalist Freedom Party (FPÖ) under H.C. Strache. Anyone who is not familiar with Austrian party politics should know that the FPÖ has always been fought more or less from all sides, along with Strache personally since his inauguration as party leader in 2005. The cadre of the FPÖ was composed of ‘Burschenschaftern’,1 which is, of course, a never-ending source of criticism for left-extremist politicians and journalists. Despite all the prophecies of doom,2 both parties quickly forged a government programme, and the team started with the work at hand.
They rushed from success to success. Families were strengthened, migration was drastically reduced, bureaucracy slimmed down; even in green core issues such as clean energy and environmental protection very much was achieved (Austria should reach its climate goals in 2025 at a level which Germany is trying to attain by 2050) completely without a hysteric ‘Greta Youth’ and doomsday scenarios within the next years.
Unsurprisingly, this policy was very often in line with the programme of the Identitarian Movement of Austria, probably the best-known arm of the ‘Identitarians’ internationally, not least of all thanks to its co-founder and co-leader, Martin Sellner (who is, according to British officials the ‘de-facto leader of the identitarian movement’ and therefore was banned from entering the UK). As an intelligent, well-read and action-oriented patriot, he was and is largely responsible for the rise of the identitarian movement, both in Europe and on a global basis, and is more or less the face of this ideology.
One staff pick made by this government in particular was beyond what many identitarians had dared to dream: Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, a highly intelligent, philosophically attuned politician – not one to put in front of the curtain, to be sure, but efficient like no other. In the political act, he was in no way inferior to his go-getter counterpart Salvini.
With his approval rate within the population consistently positive, Kurz was finally able to implement his political vision, and Strache – who had taken over the FPÖ at around 5% – enjoyed himself in his role as Vice Chancellor, proving his knack for making picks in the government team. It can be said that his people did the hard work in this government.
Then Christchurch happened.
Several days passed before this massacre became relevant to Austria’s domestic policy. It turned out that about a year before his act, the shooter had donated a low four-digit sum of money to Sellner, which resulted in a short lived e-mail exchange. The two never had any contact before, and never had any further contact after, nor was Tarrant ever active within the identitarian network. Nevertheless, the discovery of this connection led to a house search in Sellner’s apartment – not his first. The charge: suspected formation of a terrorist group. It should also be noted at this point that Sellner and some other leaders of the Identitarian Movement Austria (IBÖ) had recently been acquitted of allegations of forming a criminal organization. In both cases, these accusations were mounted by a state prosecutor from Graz, who wants to see the IBÖ destroyed, and who also stands behind all other investigative measures as well as a financial criminal proceedings against the movement underlying the club. Apparently the sale of T-shirts and posters can become a criminal act, even when no law is broken.
What followed was a lesson in political hypocrisy: Although the IBÖ as a metapolitical flank-organization contributed greatly to the recent success of the Freedom Party (as far as youth work is concerned, the Freedom Party’s own organizations tend to be useless in mobilizing), and although Kurz identifies various core identitarian values as part of his political policy, the distancing could not have come more swiftly. Indeed, it went so far that Strache forbade his party from dealing with identitarians, and even professional prohibitions were on the roster (especially in the military, police and educational sector). Many top politicians publicly distanced themselves from the Identitarian Movement and from Sellner personally, often in a demonstratively dramatic manner.
Anyone who knows Kurz understands his motivation for this maneuver. He likes to pretend to be the calm, rational statesman who rejects ‘extremism’ from all sides, and his notion of extremism is unimpeachable in his eyes. Despite all of the identitarian demands he made, especially in the areas of family and culture, one must not forget that he wasn’t initially compared with Macron for nothing, nor is it surprising that he is presently staged as a youthful version of Merkel. In this regard, Kurz is the child of his party: maintaining power is more important than anything; he will position his party in the next few years as being politically tasteless as possible, so he can join with any given party in a coalition and sell this as an ideal solution for Austria.
But with Strache and the FPÖ, this is more difficult. Strache himself has a far-right past, was part of the so called ‘Viking Youth’ and participated in paramilitary exercises in the shadow of the well-known Austrian right-wing extremist Gottfried Küssel and his ‘Volkstreue Außerparlamentarische Opposition’ (VAPO). Many cadres within the FPÖ also grazed in different fields of in this milieu, and literally every third party official is a member of a German national fraternity. In particular, one could have expected a certain degree of solidarity, especially considering the thinness of the accusations. Hardly a month went by without the mainstream media constructing an artificial scandal around the FPÖ or one of its members, yet Strache– presumably on direct orders from Chancellor Kurz – continued to grovel before the journalists who wanted to see him annihilated (and succeed a few months later).
In the national and international media, of course, the narrative of the IBÖ as a right-wing extremist terrorist organization was adopted uncritically. Even the court case of a closed criminal proceedings against the then-sixteen-year-old Sellner from the early 2000s was leaked to the media and commented upon from the highest political pinnacle – namely, by Kurz himself, among others, via Twitter – and shared with the public, although the publication of such acts, especially of minors, is a criminal offense. Obviously, this government had a burning interest in seeing to it that the IBÖ and Sellner as its leading figure were destroyed as soon as possible. The fact that the contents of this file have been known for years and have been repeatedly commented on by Sellner himself seems to have gone over the media’s head; and in the meantime, nobody cares anymore.
Meanwhile, this government is history. Kurz not only did manage to become Austria’s youngest head of government at just over thirty years of age, but he was also the shortest-serving and the first to lose a vote of no-confidence in Parliament – through the votes of his former coalition partner, no less. Shortly after the release of the illegally produced ‘Ibiza video’ distributed via German media (once more, the Germans demonstrate that they can’t help themselves in meddling with the internal matters of other states), Kurz disbanded the government. Strache had previously resigned from all offices and Kurz agreed to keep the government going, only to change his mind within hours. According to reports, his change of heart was owing primarily to the fact that the FPÖ did not want to give up the post of interior minister (traditionally a prerogative of Kurz’ Party, which the Austrian People’s Part, or ÖVP, wanted to have back again). Kurz’s plan to govern alone until the new election was thwarted by parliament. At the moment, his statesmanlike victim-staging is bearing fruit and in the polls he and his party are just under 40%, but a government like this cannot last for long, as all other parties have consistently worked against him. These coalitions will probably bring Austria to a standstill, a state of affairs which made Kurz’ rise possible in the first place.
We take two important lessons from all of this:
- Do not trust a conservative. There is not a single case in history in which conservative politicians, no matter how young or right-leaning, have not ultimately worked to the detriment of their nation and, ultimately, of Europe.
- No matter how correct and transparent it is, any organization from the new-right spectrum, operating in the open, will find itself targetted; the state will do anything to destroy it, even if the government itself is in its favor. This requires structural readjustments on our part.
When the IBÖ was founded in 2012, it was registered as an association. Thus, it acts in the sense of an NGO with maximum transparency. It is also known that the IBÖ does not accept or tolerate any classically extreme right-wing persons within its ranks. Furthermore, all public actions occurred within a legal or tolerated framework (as compared to other NGOs), and party memberships are also not welcome. All of this should have led to little ground for possible state repression, according to the motto ‘He who has nothing to hide, has nothing to fear’. At the time of its founding, however, no one felt that the Identitarian Idea was threatening; it was rather just another garden variety of the right-wing spectrum. The fact that the IBÖ currently exists at all in the German-speaking world is also very much owing to the merit of the eloquent and, in terms of mobilization, unprecedented Sellner. Due to strong actionism, tireless work in social media and international networking in the New Right scene, the IBÖ was soon perceived as a threat to the current political hegemony. Especially in the FPÖ, this fresh wind was very welcome for many young officials: at last they had an ideological basis, with which patriotism and ethnocentrism could communicate without the old right-wing slogans, and in a way that, on closer inspection, would deflect the usual instinctual accusations of ‘racism’ and ‘anti-Semitism’.
Unfortunately, this mentality has created exactly the problems for which the IBÖ and many of its franchises are currently suffering. Their members are all known and kept under surveillance, and I am under no illusions that things stand differently with known supporters. There are regular criminal charges and house searches against well-known members of the movement, and even elemental things like opening a bank account are almost impossible for them – this, not to mention the attacks on their private property, as well as that of friends and family by militant left-wing extremists. Even aggravated assaults on identitarian activists by the Antifa will not be deterred. Of course, a metapolitic group like the identitarians needs their public figureheads. There is no shortage of them, especially in the German-speaking world, which can boast men like the actionist Martin Sellner and the publisher Götz Kubitschek, to name but two (Kubitschek is not a dedicated identitarian in terms of membership to one of its groups, but he is one of the leading publishers of identitarian literature and a companion of Sellner and other identitarians). What they lack, however, is an underground.
In the first place, ‘underground’ does not mean any conspiratorial groupings that plan and carry out acts of violence or the like, as an anonymous, radical wing. The New Right rejects this for good reasons, and the last sixty years of political struggles in Europe have left enough examples of why one should refrain from such methods. If you have to convince the people of your ideology through force, you have already lost. This is much more about the creation of parallel structures which can keep the Identitarian Movement alive and effective in the current climate of state repression. While the IBÖ is is willing to make negative comments on anonymous activists and sympathizers, and derails their discourses on social networks, the left is already three steps ahead of us: it does not care who its agents are, as long as they effectively work for the struggle. While New Right activists strive to maintain their cooperative image vis-à-vis the state (even while calling it a ‘deep, left-wing state’ and a ‘repressive regime’), the classic doctrine of ‘we don’t talk with pigs’ is successfully applied in left-wing extremist circles.
Identitarian activism will first have to learn that it does not gain any benefit by always being careful and well-behaved within the system, especially if this system is not in the least consensual, and does not aim towards a state of acceptance. The state interprets its rules as it likes; house searches are used as a concrete means of harassment and trivialities are criminalized and sensationalized. The IBÖ, meanwhile, though a relatively small group, is simply tangible. The main goal is, of course, to defame Sellner, since he is the paste that holds the group together. If the IBÖ were indeed to be condemned (again, the legal basis is thin at best) as a terrorist organization, the next step would be to pursue all known sympathizers, donors, writers and ideological theorists within reach: all dams would break loose.
Therefore, there is need for an Identitarian Underground, a decentralized network of activists who can mobilize in extreme cases – either by demonstrating local presence through stickers and flyers, providing logistical and financial aid to persecuted activists and their families, or giving internet access to activists who have lost their computers after house searches, and do not have the opportunity to replace their hardware in a timely manner. This is the only way to guarantee a future in times of increasing repression against the movement. To hope that the state and its servants will play fair and meet us at eye level would not only be naïve but also dangerous. But maybe one or two escalating acts from the state are needed to bring this realization home.
1Best described as traditional, right-wing, German nationalistic student fraternities.
2The last time these two parties formed a coalition in 1999, Austria became the victim of ‘EU sanctions’ and a ‘council of wisemen’ was convened to ensure that Austria did not become a Nazi state because of the FPÖ.