Peeter Helme: What kind of conservatism does Estonia need? ({{commentsTotal}})

Estonia needs a unifying conservatism. In a society in which left-wing and liberal forces are taking advantage of people’s various understandings of nationalism, immigration, same-sex unions, gender roles or family models, nothing unifying can come from anywhere but the conservative wing, writes ERR editor Peeter Helme in his opinion piece.

I have thought for some time already that I should speak out on ideological issues more frequently. I haven’t written or spoken about conservatism. But I should. I should, because I consider myself a conservative and I feel that our society needs conservatism. Thus the headline of today’s story should be, "What kind of conservatism does Estonia need?"

I have noticed that the more the world as a whole and Estonia are forced to admit that the last few decades’ left-wing and liberal programs have proven to be faulty, harmful and downright inhuman, the more aggressively leftists and liberals tend to not only defend their perceptions, but also the more hostile their attitude is toward those possessing different worldviews. And that bothers me.

At this point I will critically point a finger at my good colleagues at the newspaper Sirp, who acted foully by allowing socialist Rein Järvelill and Ahto Lobjakas, who I think refers to himself as a liberal, to attack Hardo Pajula’s collected essays like lions in October. This is not journalistic, when two opinion leaders are simply allowed to pummel a person.

Looking at this issue of Sirp, I recalled a February issue of Sirp as well in which Rein Raud wrote about conservatism. He claimed that a large portion of Estonia’s conservatives aren’t even actually conservative. Raud in fact built himself a wall and then set about beating on it. This piece would have even been funny if Raud — who I respect as an author and expert on Eastern cultural history — hadn’t been talking so seriously about something which he — pardon me — knows nothing about.

In that piece, Raud made a common mistake which leftists keep making when attacking conservatism — they believe that the latter is the same type of ideology as leftism. Unfortunately that is not the case. If it were, conservatism wouldn’t be conservatism, but rather fascism or nationalism.

The latter, however, are more closely related to social democracy and other leftism — which I am not competent enough to differentiate between — precisely because the aforementioned phenomena speak of nationalism, traditional gender roles and the family model, they also represent a specific ideology together with its canons, its core texts and its formalized structures of thought.

Nothing could be further from conservatism, however, than that whose nature is amorphous, taking on shape, form and rhetoric based on the situation. This is an attitude toward life, not an ideology.

Those who happened to watch the episode of "Foorum" aired on Nov. 9, when coalition talks were taking place, saw how Social Democratic leader Jevgeni Ossinovski confirmed that a right-left division does not apply today. I totally agree that in the case of concrete steps in a particular situation, labels really aren’t important. The same fundamental difference that prevents leftists from understanding conservatives is highlighted once again, however. If Rein Raud thinks that conservatism is an ideology, then Ossinovski believes that it is political technology.

And this brings us to the biggest problem in Estonian — as well as the entirety of occidental — society. We are ruled by a liberal ideology considering itself to be self-evident which considers dissidence an engineering challenge solvable with the help of political technology and does not understand that attitudes toward life and worldviews are not arithmetic operations.
Right and wrong only apply here to the extent that it is wrong to impose one’s own perceptions with increasing aggression and begin talking about neoreactionists as Marek Tamm did in this fall’s issue of the journal Vikerkaar.

At the same time, this brings us to the answer to the question, “What kind of conservatism does Estonia need?”

The answer is simple: Estonia needs a unifying conservatism. In a society in which left-wing and liberal forces are taking advantage of people’s various understandings of nationalism, immigration, same-sex unions, gender roles or family models, nothing unifying can come from anywhere but the conservative wing. Time will tell whether there is necessarily a party for this or whether some other force will help us find this unifying conservatism.

I will recall as well that this September, Estonia received a president who calls herself a conservative. On March 16, she (yet as a member of the European Court of Auditors) wrote an opinion piece in [daily] Postimees in which she warned against thinking that conservatism meant remaining stuck in the past.

No, that is not what conservatism means. It can increasingly be seen that if anyone is stuck in the past created by themselves, it is leftists and liberals.


Peeter Helme is an editor at ERR as well as the nephew and cousin, respectively, of Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) leaders Mart Helme and Martin Helme.

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla

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