Seven Theses on Janshism
The Janshism project will not be completed until it has conquered the entire society and the last enemy has been destroyed.
1. Janshism is a consequence of failure of the transitional Left.
One of the first definitions of fascism was given by Klara Zetkin in her account entitled The Struggle Against Fascism (1923), in which she opposed the then belief that fascism encompassed merely “terror and violence,” that it was a hollow form of dictatorship and authoritarianism. As Zetkin further elaborated, fascism is “an expression of the decay and disintegration of the capitalist economy and as a symptom of the bourgeois state’s dissolution.” In other words, fascism is the result of capitalism in crisis. As such, it finds its followers in “masses who have lost the earlier security of their existence and with it, often, their belief in social order.” Fascism is “an asylum for all the politically homeless, the socially uprooted, the destitute and disillusioned.” The economic threat is a necessary, but not sole condition for the prolific emergence of fascism. The latter can only develop with the failure of proletarian leadership or, in contemporary lingo, the failure of the politics of the Left to address and convince the existentially endangered masses.
Furthermore, the rise of Janshism was made possible by inadequate domestic responses to the global conjuncture of neoliberalism (i.e. late capitalism). In a post-socialist society, a radical abolition of continuity has taken place by means of privatising state-owned enterprises and public goods, crisis management of banks, curtailment of workers’ rights, “the Left” abandoning class struggle, the absence of leftist economic policy, by de-ideologising the workers’ trade union movement and by dispensing with social solidarity patterns. Janshism is fuelled by resentment, uncertainty and disillusionment stemming from the realisation that Slovenia has not become “the second Switzerland” (which as a post-socialist transition country it could never become). Instead of taking its promised place at the centre of the capitalist world system, Slovenia is sliding away from its semi-periphery to periphery proper. The current coronavirus crisis acts as a reagent intensifying the workings of Janshism.
2. Janshism is a paranoid ideology.
Janshism is not everything that the politician Janez Janša says, thinks or does. What Spomenka Hribar once noted about conspiratorial thinking – which is Janša’s main tool of political manipulation and dealing with his critics – is primarily a characteristic of Janshism as an ideology. If we want to understand and gain insight into Janshism, it is necessary to realise that Janshism as an ideology is not just a set of ideas which reside in the minds of its proponents, nor is it merely social imaginary of a particular group of like-minded people. Janshism has material effects and, in accordance with the teachings of Althusser, material existence in civil and state institutions, as well as organisations.
In 2020, the protests introduced the slogan “Death to Janshism!” into the public discourse. It comes as no surprise that Janša, as the party leader and the most prominent advocate of this political-ideological orientation, attempted to ban the slogan by law as, in his opinion, it demanded his death. The mass recognition that the slogan “Death to Janshism” means “death to an ideology and not death to a particular person” was the moment when Janshism “liberated” itself of Janez Janša. We could then begin to think about Janshism as something that no longer primarily represents the personal views of Janez Janša “who sees the world as a conspiracy,” as Spomenka Hribar noted in 1996, in her analysis of the “profile” and political style of the long-serving president of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS). If until now we thought of Janshism primarily as the work of a politician who might be suffering from a Paranoid Personality Disorder or some other mental disorder (which could unfairly demean people with such mental health problems), we nowadays have the space to depersonalise Janshism, to think of it as a paranoid political ideology, as a social and political action. Whilst we may indeed be dealing with an individual in the highest state position who is suffering from paranoid delusions, it is politically more important that we are dealing with a paranoid ideology into which a significant share of the electorate has become interpellated.
The philosopher Boris Vezjak, who has been systematically and pertinently researching the paranoid nature of political activities of the Slovenian Democratic Party for more than a decade, points out that “we must understand political paranoia in a completely social, non-clinical context. At this point, it is necessary to go a step further and say that in order to carry out the psychopolitics of paranoia, one does not need the premise on the actors being paranoid themselves, even if they may seem so. They may be, or not.”
The term “Janshism” aptly denotes the executive position of the movement’s leader, but such designation is misleading, much as if we substituted Hitlerism for Nazism or Mussolinism for Italian Fascism. While it is true that all three leaders play(ed) a central role in the political ideology with which each of them is most closely connected, the movement’s leader is not the sole (co)creator of the fascistoid ideology and movement. Italian fascism did not encompass solely Mussolini’s political activity, but also the activities of the fascist party and its members, the party rallies, the propagandist newspaper Popolo d’Italia and other fascist mouthpieces, the armed squadre d’azione, gerarchi, manifestos, exclamations, symbolism, political speeches and implementations which the political movement introduced into the functioning of the state. In a similar vein, we can say that Janshism does not include only Janez Janša.
When we discuss Janshism, we therefore cover the entire sphere of ideological and material activities of the Slovenian Democratic Party and its supporting social formations, propagandist units, members, deputies, sympathisers, writers and collaborators, institutions under their supervision, as well as the social imaginary that connects the members and supporters of Janshism and which they seek to universalise as a commitment for the whole community. The phenomena of Janshism include various social practices and actions, such as parliamentary activities of the party, obsessive political staffing for executive positions, verbal attacks, threats and lawsuits by deputies, members and supporters, tweets and yelps of the party’s leader and bigwigs, corrupt practices, cooperation between supporters of Janshism and the Vardists (i.e. members of illegal paramilitary groups), the Slovenian Yellow Vests (which have nothing in common with the French Gillets Jaunes), as well as all kinds of statements issued through an extensive propaganda network, the ultranationalism, historical revisionism and glorification of the Slovenian Home Guard and other collaborators with the Nazi and fascist occupiers, the anti-Partisanship, employing propagandist motifs (such as the Nazi hyenas) and promotion of the conspiracy theory on cultural Marxism, which is a reflection of the old Nazi trope on the Jewish cultural Bolshevism conspiracy.
3. Janshism has the paranoid structure of fascism.
The foundation, on which the belief system of a paranoid collective subject is built, is the tenacious and persevering belief of being in great, even mortal danger and of being persecuted by others. This operates on the principle of hostile “otherisation”, according to which it recognises the Other as an enemy that embodies the definitive threat of destroying the collective subject, its culture, way of life, social order and the world as known to it. In the paranoid discourse, the “not ours,” the others, the different, the “formerly ours” who have become critics, the doubters, the questioners and the non-adherents all merge into “the genus of the enemy.” The latter, as defined by the Nazi constitutional jurist Carl Schmitt, significantly differs from a political adversary or a rival, since “[the friend, enemy, and combat concepts receive their real meaning precisely because they refer to the real possibility of physical killing.” Ultimately, once such discourse incorporates moral categories, it creates “an inhuman monster from the enemy, against which one must not only defend, but also utterly destroy it.”
In fascist and fascistoid ideologies, “our nation” is the “we” being threatened by an external or internal enemy, both at the same time or even by a hybrid enemy (an example of a hybrid enemy coming from the capitalist West and the Bolshevik East was the Nazi construct of the Jew representing a threat at the heart of the Reich). Fascism is a perfidious form of nationalism.
Similar to the most recognisable forms of classical fascism which constructed the enemy (the construct of a Jew and a Bolshevik with Nazism and the construct of a liberal and communist with the Italian fascism), the phantasmatic enemy which Janshism must destroy is primarily “the communist” and/or “the leftist.” Since hostile otherisation uses a heterogeneous group of others to construct the enemy as a formless mass entity according to its value-inverse image (whilst describing others with pejoratively charged semantic markers), the terms used by the Janshist discourse are not classifier categories, but rather disqualifying political insults. The “hostile communist” (which has nothing to do with the theories and practices of communism other than the imaginary continuity with the Communist Party of Yugoslavia) can also adopt modified labels and imagery whose main function remains the same – the construction of the enemy. Consequently, the subjects of the attacks include the so-called worshippers of totalitarianisms, the transitional Left, the deep state, the UDBA mafia (members of the State Security Administration in Yugoslavia), the Network, “the uncles from behind the scenes” and their helpers, the trenirkarji and the opankarji (tracksuit wearers and pointed peasant shoe wearers; denoting people from the former Yugoslav republics), the ANTIFA terrorists, the cultural Marxists, the Soros hirelings, the non-Slovenes, the Balkanoids and other dissenters of the nation who are helping to reinstall “communism” or “totalitarianism” and thus destroy the Slovenian nation. Similarly, Vezjak notes about the Janshist construction of the enemy that “the demonised Other (i.e. the Left) is not just an enemy, but also a villain, uncontrollable in itself, who wants to grab us by the throat, finish us off and throw us into the pit to rot. This is the radically dangerous Other, the obsessive creature from which we ought to expel the evil spirit.”
4. Janshism is palingenetic nationalism.
Fascism is primarily a paranoid form of nationalism. The historian and political theorist Roger Griffin believes it strives for palingenesis or the rebirth of a nation by creating new myths and imagining an alternative, a sort of “retrotopic past” (as we could say in unison with Bauman). Griffin further elaborates that “fascism seeks to regenerate the social, economic, and cultural life by founding it on the basis of an intense sense of national belonging or ethnic identity.” At the most banal level of Janshism, this feeling is promoted by the loud sound of the many Slovenian church bells, the promotion of Volksmusik (heavily influenced by the Oberkrainer music), the strudel and the beef soup, whilst at the institutional level this includes (the museum) myths of Slovenia gaining independence in 1991, the politically tendentious and biased rethinking of the past, rehabilitation of Nazi collaborators and Fascism with simultaneous demonisation of the Partisan movement. Georgi Dimitrov’s account from the 7th Congress of the Comintern (1935) is as relevant today as at the time it was written: “The fascists are rummaging through the entire history of every nation so as to be able to pose as the heirs and continuators of all that was exalted and heroic in its past, while all that was degrading or offensive to the national sentiments of the people they make use of as weapons against the enemies of fascism. Hundreds of books are being published in Germany with only one aim – to falsify the history of the German people and give it a fascist complexion. The new-baked National-Socialist historians try to depict the history of Germany as if for the past two thousand years, by virtue of some historical law, a certain line of development had run through it like a red thread, leading to the appearance on the historical scene of “a national saviour,” “a Messiah” of the German people, a certain “Corporal” of Austrian extraction.”
5. Janshism is politics of eternity and sacrifice.
The party’s anthem is a symbol which evokes an imaginary past and constructs the tradition of belonging to the chosen group, whilst clearly revealing the nationalist core of the Janshist imagery: “They all wanted to take what was ours, they wanted to take our land, but thank God we have our Slovenian Democratic Party, our golden treasure… God bless this beautiful country of ours and protect our good people, so that we all remain happy, healthy and proud of our Slovenia. God bless this beautiful country, God bless the Slovenian nation, the Slovenes will never be alone, because the Slovenian Democratic Party will always be with us…” This obscure text is interesting, not because it reveals the banal pathos of nationalism, but because it postulates the relationship between the subject and the object of governance as a relationship between the victim and its saviour. The historian Robert Paxton points out that victimhood is one of the core principles of fascism, whilst Jason Stanley adds that fascism refers to “a sense of collective victimhood to create a sense of group identity that is by its nature opposed to the cosmopolitan ethos and individualism of liberal democracy.” The party places itself above history as a transcendental, God-sent force which, like a guardian angel, unfailingly watches over the persecuted (and ethnically pure) Slovenes. How to understand the Party which puts itself into such relationship? We might benefit from Herbert Marcus’s explanation that “19th century political philosophy was based on the dichotomy of the state and society,” but fascism replaced it with “the triad of the state, the movement (the party) and the nation.” Fascism placed “the movement” and its “leadership” to the top of this triad. The Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg argued that since “the state becomes a means for preserving the nation,” the Party must seize this means and subordinate it to its own particular goals, only to present them as universal goals of the entire (national and ethnically homogeneous) community.
The historian Timothy Snyder called such understanding of social reality “the politics of eternity,” which replaced the former “politics of inevitability” as the heir to the Enlightenment-derived ideologies of liberalism and socialism. “Whereas inevitability promises a better future for everyone,” says Snyder, “eternity places one nation at the centre of a cyclical story of victimhood.” The nation is considered the eternal victim of the Other (the Jews, the cultural Marxists, the Leftists) and the Party, as personified by its leader, is seen as its protector. “Eternity politicians leap from one moment to another, over decades or centuries, to build a myth of innocence and danger. They imagine cycles of threat in the past, creating an imagined pattern that they realize in the present by producing artificial crises and daily drama.” Snyder noted a consistent consequence in the form of a belief that the government is not here to improve the situation of the citizens, but to protect “us” from the Threat. The “us” in this case is the nation as an entity, not the individuals comprising it (especially those who are, due to their criticism or disobedience to traditional conventionality, symbolically or physically expelled from the nation as destabilising, detrimental and disposable parts). What is more, the Party will protect us from our own will and from ourselves unless we coordinate ourselves with its direction (Gleichschaltung).
6. Janshism is not merely “right-wing populism.”
An important difference between the classical hard and current soft versions of fascism-related movements, euphemistically called “right-wing populism” or “illiberal democracy,” lies in the pragmatic necessity of concealing their fascist intentions. This difference is more a consequence of realpolitik response to the “post-fascist” conjuncture established after the Second World War than of any significant ideological disagreements. Not only does the defeat of fascism in 1945 mean the destruction of white supremacist and militant regimes of the Axis powers, it also defeats the legitimacy of fascism as an ideology. Should today’s politics declare itself to be openly fascist or fascistoid, it would encounter greater resistance than the politics which cunningly hides its similarities to fascism and pretends to be democratic, centre-right and conservatively liberal.
Moreover, we tend to forget that historical fascisms came to power precisely because they had concealed their “true” nature or, to put it anachronistically, presented themselves as “right-wing populist” and “illiberal-democratic” movements. In his memoir, entitled The World of Yesterday: Memories of a European, the Austrian writer Stephan Zweig describes the astonishment of his contemporaries, how “[in] the clutch of our conception of justice we believed that there was a German, a European, a world conscience” and that in “that none of us in Germany and in Austria in 1933 and even in 1934 thought that even a hundredth, a thousandth part of what was to break upon us within a few weeks could be possible.” He adds that “National Socialism in its unscrupulous technique of deceit was wary about disclosing the full extent of its aims before the world had become inured.” Both Zweig (on German Nazis) and Piero Gobetti (on Italian fascists) report that the regimes rose to power, because they were able to form alliances with the more moderate parties and politicians. The revolutionary liberal Gobetti writes: “None of them comprehended the historical situation of which fascism was the outcome; they persuaded themselves that what they had here was a passing phenomenon, one they could defeat if they were shrewd, and that was best handled by dealing, collaborating, setting out preconditions as bargaining chips.”
Today, the supporters and sympathisers of Janshism are trying to eliminate its criticism by denying the most obvious characteristic of fascism. They say that we do not have fascism, because we do not have “dictatorship, repression or restrictions on freedom of speech.” They add that if we had a fascist government, if it really existed, it would impose “severe fascist sanctions” on the citizens who “keep spouting nonsense” and protesters who “provoke the police.” If we had fascism, the fascist authorities would immediately suppress the protests and imprison, liquidate and disable its political opponents. Such a conception of fascism recognises it merely as a fully formed “hard dictatorship,” since it is based on a serious misunderstanding of fascism as a social phenomenon. However, it fails to understand the significance of its genesis and development within each social context. The relationship between the old and the new fascism is a relation of similarity, as well as invention. As Palmiro Togliatti pointed out in his book Lectures on Fascism (1935): “We must not look at fascism as something defined once and for all; instead, we must observe it as a fluid social phenomenon during its own development.” Only by following magical thinking can fascism arise unified and in its entirety, without a real cause and any scientific explanation from a social reality (just like Athena sprang from the head of Zeus fully grown and in a full set of armour). Janshism has all the potential to become a regional version of full-blooded fascism.
7. Janshism is inherently totalitarian.
The difference between the hard fascism of the 20th century and the soft fascism of the 21st century is illustrated by the tragic fate of the Italian philosopher and socialist Giovanni Amendola, who coined the adjective “totalitaria” to describe the tendency of Italian fascists to take over all state institutions. The Nazis called their own activities for a totalitarian takeover of all aspects of the society coordination (Gleichschaltung), which means the subordination of all political, social and cultural organisations of the German nation under the control of Nazi politics and ideology. Correspondingly, it included the complete removal of opposition.
The physical, squadristic violence utilised by the fascist organisations to silence and liquidate the anti-fascist critics is not a productive tactic in liberal countries of the post-fascist era. The classic coup d’état, by which the fascist party illegitimately seizes power and which usually involves physical violence, persecution, silencing or liquidation of its political opponents, is therefore replaced by the more time-appropriate method which the theorist and publicist Rok Vevar called “an administrative coup d’état.” With the latter, “violent means are not a matter of street clashes, but of inter-ministerial and inter-office fights for power. These institutions are invaded without any hesitation by administrative procedures and their party’s army.” Vevar describes the operation of the current Janshist government by saying that “a violent front is currently unfolding, pushing its administrative tanks through the systems, subsystems, administrative and expert structures (by means of knowledge, skills, social and civilisational manners), with which the state is ensuring its institutional functionality.”
In his unsparing analysis of the legal principles and constitutional developments of the Third Reich, the German lawyer Ernst Fraenkel describes how destroying institutional functionality, especially as regards legal operations, allows the party to replace the rule of law by creating the “dual state.” The dual state is a state of two aspects: on the one side, there is “the normative state” (where legal norms and the constitution still act as a protection of the capitalist order), while on the other “the prerogative state ” is defined by arbitrary political action in favour of the party and its privileged groups against their enemy. Gáspár Miklós Tamás, the Hungarian dissident philosopher, summed up the essence of fascism as “the division of the state and human community into two parts”, whilst Jason Stanley defined it as “the politics of us and them.” Janshism represents the division of the Slovenian community into two parts by delivering the harangue of “they threaten and destroy, we build.”
As the highest body of the paranoid collective, the Party sees its mission as destroying the phantom internal enemy. The Party’s leader claims that “the enemies control practically everything” and are “willing to use any means” to defend their position. The paranoid imaginary of the Party presupposes that the enemies are everywhere – they are “the old network” that has kidnapped the country (state capture), which means they are structurally entrenched in the neural network of the political and civil body of society –, but at the same time hidden enough to act “as uncles from behind the scenes.” Though these grey eminences are hidden from our view, they are “in complete control of the whole of Slovenia.” The only way to conquer such a total enemy is to fight it with an equally absolute and total takeover of power. When under the pretext of a real or fabricated crisis the Party deposes high-level civil servants and appoints its own apparatchiks in their place, it does not merely ensure obedient and subservient operatives which will enable it to take full power, it also fights the enemy by replacing the phantom enemy’s Network (i.e. communist) with its own Janshist network. We can therefore conclude by saying that the Janshism project will not be completed until it has conquered the entire society and its last enemy has been destroyed.
Translated by: Helena Marko