We hereby publish Marco Malaguti's talk at the international workshop sponsored by the ID Foundation at its Bratislava headquarters last Nov. 30 on the problem and threat of wokeism.


Dear friends and attendees,

among the various common threads that unite the totalitarian doctrines that have bloodied the last two centuries of Europe there is, without a doubt, that of the topos of awakening. The age of great ideological contrasts begins, not by chance, with the Enlightenment, the word of which immediately evokes the light that awakens, which brings light into the darkness of the night. In turn, Marxism, historically understood, has always underlined the importance of the awakening of working-class and proletarian forces, which made them become aware of their own strength and which, at the same time, allowed a radical criticism of the structures of power. The wake-up call was also taken up by the right-wing totalitarianisms of the twentieth century: “Deutschland erwache!” was perhaps one of the most famous slogans of the National Socialist dictatorship. Contemporary so-called wokeism is no exception.

All the listed doctrines presuppose, therefore, a state of sleep, negatively connoted, to one of waking and awareness, instead positively connoted. In short, all these doctrines are united, in theory, by the contempt and devaluation of the past, seen as the realm of sleep and unconscious ignorance, and by the glorification of the present and the future, seen as the area of dominion of awareness of the truth, finally discovered. However, we see how behind this claim to define what is awakening and what is sleep there is the unconcealed desire to brand everything that comes from the past as retrograde, irrational and dangerous. On the contrary, it is the future that is radiant and promising, according to the typical Marxist image of the "Sun of the future".

I will not delve further into the history of political doctrines and philosophy, it is simply enough to know that the woke ideology is the latest in this series of declarations of war against the past and the history of Europe, yet another constructivism which, as it already indicates the word, has, as its goal, not only the construction of a new society and, above all, of a new man, but of a surveillance apparatus against any possible return, in a conservative or revisited form, of what was the conservative culture and society. The imperative "Stay woke" indicates precisely this, staying awake so that the past, seen as a nest of exclusion, oppression and violence, never returns. In truth, far from being non-violent, wokeism makes extensive use of violence, physical, verbal and psychological at the same time.

Not even too paradoxically, wokeism shares an important belief with conservative culture, that according to which the past and the men who populated it are not something perpetually consigned to oblivion, but rather an element that exercises, in a lively and pervasive way, a heavy influence on the present. The call to “stay awake!” typical of wokeism is, upon closer inspection, a call to continuously monitor this influence of the past and, where necessary, to purify and fight it. While conservative culture, while recognizing countless defects and distortions in the history of peoples and their past, identifies it as the repository of wisdom capable of guiding them towards the future, for wokeism it is exactly the opposite. Our roots as Europeans and Westerners should therefore not only be studied and vilified in every way but, precisely because they are alive and continually exerting their influence, they should, according to the wokeists, be deconstructed. woke, decostruite.

The main obsessions of so-called wokeism are essentially two: the hypothetical racism and the supposed sexism which, according to them, reign unchallenged in Europe and the West. In the United States the first was faced by the wave of the so-called Black Lives Matter movement, the second by the neo-feminist wave of the MeToo movement. It should be reminded that with the definitions of racism and sexism the progressive exponents of the so-called "woke culture" do not mean exclusively what, with these definitions, the dictionaries indicate, but rather the entire history of relations between the West and other peoples and between man and woman throughout history. Wokeism therefore does not limit itself, like the old totalitarianisms, to stigmatizing the past, but aims to actively fight it, precisely because it recognizes the indisputable strength and the essential antidote of the past and of tradition as opposed to their constructivist utopia.

Censorship and removal of the past, therefore, are not enough, something more is needed. According to wokeism, to build the new man, or better said, the new person, it is necessary to provide a new all-encompassing Weltanschauung. The woke perspective on the problem of man is actually anything but new, just as the alleged strategies aimed at its creation already appear rather old.

The perspective underlying wokeism is that according to which every social relationship, every legacy transmitted from the past, every national, religious, political identity is nothing more than an artifice, a social construct. Wokeism is the triumph of subjectivism: in the woke perspective the person is no longer just an individual but a radical subject, where the term "radical" refers to the matrix that lies at the root of everything. The idea that man is a product of a land, of a history and of a culture represents a chain to which wokeism contrasts the utopia of man who builds himself according to his own preferences and needs or, perhaps more correctly, according to his wishes. This exasperated subjectivist monadism undoubtedly constitutes the liberal root of the woke Weltanschauung, to which, however, is added in an even more pervasive way, a legacy born of Marxism.

As materialistic, woke culture cannot help but consider every existing social configuration as the product of a conflict of blind material forces. The social configuration, which Marxists call superstructure, is therefore the result of those relations of forces which the same Marxists call structure. This is where we can find the basis of woke theories and actions within Western culture. To change the supposedly unfair relationships relating to the superstructure, it is necessary to act on the structure.

Defeated on the economic battlefield, the Marxist Weltanschauung has only changed its perspective. As already sensed by the so-called "Western Marxism" of the Frankfurt School and by their only apparently postmodern opponents, the most promising battlefield lay elsewhere. The rise of psychoanalysis and the philosophy of language had in fact shown to progressive philosophers and sociologists a decidedly easier field in which to battle the so-called injustices of their time. If in 1989 economics seemed to prove that liberals and conservatives were right in every way, the same could not be said of the smoky and abstract fields of psychology, linguistics and semiotics. Triumphant economic liberalism, then, appeared (and still appears) little interested in these fields of study, proving itself willing to grant the progressives an area of no interest to it.

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Having therefore abandoned the field of economics, but not the general plan of superstructural revolution to be implemented by acting on the structural basis of society, it was therefore necessary to redefine what this structural basis was. Exiled to the field of abstract intellectualism by triumphant liberalism, the "Western Marxists" replaced the idea of the old structural basis, made up of production relations, workers and factories, with that of a new structural basis, made up of relations between the sexes (psychoanalysis) and language games (philosophy of language). To obtain a more equal society, in short, it was no longer necessary to act on the dynamics of economic exploitation, but on the sexual and linguistic ones, a perspective that proved to be absolutely fertile and which at the same time did not upset the neoliberal structure but which, on the contrary, it tended, in many points, to reinforce its dynamics and ideological scope, which in itself was quite anemic. The class struggle has therefore not disappeared, but has only changed chameleon-like in the form of the struggle between sexes (or "genders") and the struggle for inclusive language. This does not mean, of course, that the forces operating today in the wave of so-called "wokeism" are made up of Machiavellian Marxists in disguise, but rather highlights the existence of a practice, a modus operandi, which acts in the service of a sort of ur-progressivism, preceding both Marxism and the Enlightenment itself, which would be of great interest to study.

Wokeism is therefore configured, in Hegelian terms, as the synthesis of the opposition between liberalism and Marxism, which inherits from the former the individualistic-solipsistic Lockean and Stirnerian utopia of the Subject as an autopoietic entity and builder of itself, and from the other the praxis of superstructural revolution to be implemented with targeted interventions within the structure. By making a further parallel with history we could also highlight notable similarities with the historical episode of the Chinese cultural revolution and, more generally, with Maoism.

Unlike Soviet socialism, often labeled by Mao as a reactionary and bourgeois phenomenon, Maoism shares the doctrine of the so-called permanent revolution with contemporary wokeism. Here the difference with previous totalitarianisms could not be more marked. The utopias of the new man and the new society are not, for wokeism, a paradisiacal state which, once achieved, will last forever in its form, but rather a state of movement and of perennial redefinition of the existing, a creative chaos in which freedom would express itself, and for itself, at the hands of individuals who constantly change their shape and identity. Among other things, wokeism also shares the endo-directed dynamic with Mao's cultural revolution. Wokeism is not a revolution of the oppressed against the oppressors, but rather a revolution implemented from above, by the Western ruling classes, against their own people and which, exactly like the Maoist cultural revolution, assists, in this struggle, the most indoctrinated and fanatical people of society: young people, and in particular students. The fact that, in the academic, cultural and political fields, many Western exponents of wokeism were, in their youth, militants of Maoist student movements, constitutes an interesting and weighty element in support of this kinship relationship.

Although it is therefore a recombination of old elements, wokeism presents itself as a new cultural phenomenon, a phenomenon unknown to contemporary conservatives and identitarians who can therefore no longer oppose it with the classic arsenal of criticisms once destined against classical Marxism. Eastern Europe, which has known the communist dictatorship and the long decades of oppression by the dogmatic socialism of Moscow, can easily recognize the classic dynamics of disinformation and propaganda implemented by wokeism, but must also realize that it is faced to a phenomenon as new as it is insidious, the study of which represents, for conservatives, an imperative necessity. The troubled history of this part of Europe, which has known communist oppression through direct experience and which at the same time has remained alien to postmodern Western influences, therefore constitutes an excellent basis for reacting to today's tide of wokeism, as it offers , as a point of observation of the phenomenon, the privileged and indisputable one of reality. Far from any excessive optimism, however, we must remember that today's wokeism is primarily an irrational, emotional phenomenon and, as such, insensitive to any appeal to reason. Contrasting wokeism exclusively with reason and logic is sterile. Once again it can be our past that helps us. In fact, when we talk about evoking positive emotions, the Beautiful, the Sublime, the Perfection, no one is able to win battles more than the conservatives and traditions of the European peoples. Thank you.

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Research fellow at the Machiavelli Center. A philosophy scholar, he has been working for years on the topic of the revaluation of nihilism and the great German Romantic philosophy.