xenophobia and anti-imperialism: a fine line?


Mongolian neo-Nazis rebrand themselves as environmentalists. This Guardian article is a little silly – I can’t take these people seriously (must be the swastika armbands) – but brings to mind some interesting questions:

1. Is environmentalism an inherently left-wing movement, as it is branded these days?

The answer to that one is pretty simple: NO.  I wish I had a penny for every comment in the comment section of that article reminding us that Hitler and the Nazis had some of the most stringent nature protection laws around. The Green Party of Canada likes to call itself fiscally conservative. And ties to the land, natural resource extraction and use, and primary production are very conservative, nationalistic issues. In the US, conservative or right-wing means a wild west mentality of unlimited supply of natural resources, a meat-loving, take-no-prisoners attitude. But elsewhere, and especially Europe, I think environmentalism – in the sense of protecting the natural environment – can have overtones of protecting the fatherland, which is decidedly more right-wing.

2. Where do we draw the line between xenophobia and anti-imperialism?

What with China (PRC) flooding its border provinces with Han Chinese and their corresponding (destructive) business models and production methods, I can’t say I blame anyone in e.g. Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Mongolia, or Tibet who wants Han Chinese out. But because it is a systematic takeover – or, at least, a thorough one – in which the power shifts decidedly to the newcomers, who are backed on an institutional and perhaps legal level, it is very much a form of imperialism. Maybe the main decider in these definitions is in where the power lies. A phobia, after all, is defined as an irrational fear. A fear of foreign(ers) would indeed be irrational if they have little capacity to harm you, i.e. there is no power shift to the foreigners. Whereas in the case of Mongolia, corporate takeover headed by one foreign ethnic group or one foreign government certainly finds a power shift occurring. Are these neo-Nazis fighting newcomers and foreigners or rather an unjust invasion? I’m on a pretty slippery slope here so I’ll let you continue the discussion!

Last question:

3. When is environmentalism bad?

What is considered unacceptable? PETA / Greenpeace environmentalism? Neo-Nazi-style environmentalism? Environmental elitism (prioritising the environment over e.g. jobs, democratic decision making, cultural sensitivities)?


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