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Brecht Jonkers emphasizes the imperative of breaking beyond conventional political boundaries to forge a unified, multipolar resistance against the dominant forces of globalism.

“Beyond left and right, against globalism” is a slogan that has been making the rounds in anti-globalist circles as of late. It is a slogan that expresses both a tendency to overcome the typical right-left dichotomy in contemporary Western society as well as the will to present a new and fundamentally anti-imperialist alternative to the status quo.

Now, why is this something that appeals to me? Let me start by sketching my own personal political background. I have been fascinated by politics from an early age, and I have been active in left-wing movements for years, especially in Marxist circles. Here, I mainly studied international political developments and the field that is known as geopolitics. The NATO invasion of Libya and its disastrous consequences were a great motivator to focus on the study of imperialism, and mainly the role of Western alliances, such as NATO, in it. In the words of Lenin, imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism, and the contrast between imperialism and its victims is the most important political contradiction at the global level.

In studying and evaluating the struggle of different countries and cultures for their own individuality and sovereignty, I have often bumped into a strange contradiction between Western societies and the Global South. In most countries, upholding and protecting one’s own culture is seen as something logical, something fundamental and self-evident. In countries such as Belgium, this is strangely different. The question is: what even is our own culture? Often, there is fundamentally little difference in society between, for example, Belgium, Germany, England or even the United States.

The real problem is not the immigrant himself, but the system that has turned migration into a billion-dollar business.

Globalization, and especially the role of the US in this, has laid a kind of superstructure atop our society: a structure of liberal free-market values and of a cosmopolitan hivemind. In Europe, the idea of defending traditional values is often monopolized by what is known as “the right,” but in a way that is usually lacking in depth. On the right side of the typical political contradiction, we often see an exaggerated fear of “the stranger,” of foreigners, those of different skin tones, different languages and other religions. But they often lack the essence: the fact that our traditions are being crushed under the cosmopolitan liberal capitalist system and the socio-cultural changes that are accompanied by it.

On the other hand, on the left side this cultural aspect is often completely lacking. Left-wing parties at least dare to ask questions about the economic nature of the system and its anti-social consequences — although even this has been done less and less in the last thirty years. However, the connection with the identity of one’s own culture and society is often completely disregarded. Even just asking questions about traditional values, ethical issues and the national sovereignty of countries is seen as unacceptable, simply because these are themes that have been earmarked as being “right-wing.”

This kind of rigid division of themes does not exist in a large part of the world. Cuban supporters of Castro are usually extremely patriotic; Chinese communists have strong traditional values and respect for the Confucian and Buddhist traditions of their country, and conservative Muslim politics in, for example, Malaysia often have economic agendas that are more left-wing than what we can find in the average European social-democrat. Holding on stubbornly to a rigid left-right-wing thinking pattern, which dates back to the 18th century, is detrimental to our ability to correctly name the problems in society and formulate solutions.

The examples I quoted are of course only illustrations. I am not arguing for the copying of systems, as if they were blueprints for Belgian society. The point is that it is possible to wage a double fight: at the same time taking on “right-wing” concepts such as the liberal free market, austerity, the obsession with privatization and the imperialist interventions abroad, as well as the the “leftist” dogmas such as the elimination of religion from public life, the encroachment of gender ideology, the excessive attention to LGBT identities and the idea of “world citizenship” without roots and without any traditional or national basis.

In fact, this possibility should be obvious. These so-called “right-wing” and “left-wing” themes are already combined and promoted by the propagandists of liberal capitalism and globalism.

The capitalist consumer society and cosmopolitan individualism are not the culture of this country, or even of this continent.

“Socially liberal but economically conservative,” they call it: unbridled capitalism combined with the personal freedom to seek salvation in drugs, sex or any other form of distraction. It is a society that allows just about everything as long as it doesn’t touch the profits that can be made by those at the top. What we know as the right nowadays all too often has a “progressive” liberal agenda as well, such as its opposition to traditional identity and organized religion. On the other hand, the idea of some kind of “superior Western model,” which must be propagated to the rest of the world even against their own will, is now also strongly present on the left.

An answer must be created to this that goes beyond the old left-right dichotomy. The real problem is not the immigrant himself, but the system that has turned migration into a billion-dollar business. And the problem does not lie with the white heterosexual Flemish citizen, but with the system that robs him of his job security, his retirement rights and even of his fundamental personal safety. The prejudices that exist on both the left and the right are standing in the way of a fundamental solution to the problems in society.

It must be possible to combine social justice and humane economics with the preservation and protection of each country’s own traditional values and national sovereignty. In fact, this was how the left operated for decades, before giving way to a vaguely progressive agenda in the last few decades.

We live in a world of extremely rapid change. The structure of world politics established after the end of the Cold War is disintegrating. Instead of a unipolar model governed by the US and supported by NATO, a multipolar order has emerged — a world in which every civilization has the opportunity to develop itself according to its own identity and its own norms and values. The countries of Europe now also have the opportunity to do exactly this: to put their sovereign identity back in the spotlight and break away from the rootless vision of society imposed on us by the neoliberal elite. The capitalist consumer society and cosmopolitan individualism are not the culture of this country, or even of this continent. It is a structure imposed from above, a structure that can, and must, be broken.

This is why I am sympathetic to the message “beyond left and right.” The main contradiction on the political level is between imperialism, nowadays in the guise of globalism, and the rest of the world. This struggle transcends the outdated contradiction in which our political system is still, all too often, stuck.

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Brecht Jonkers

Brecht Jonkers is a historian and geopolitical analyst from Belgium.

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