NatCon 2020: Populist EU Leaders Convene in Rome: Viktor Orban, Marion Marechal, Thierry Baudet, Petr Bystron, Douglas Murray, etc – Breaking the Left’s Soft Totalitarianism

NatCon in Rome: Adios Davos, or How to Be Non-Anxiously Present in Apocalyptic Times

On Feb. 4, 2020, the second “National Conservatism” Conference took place in Rome, Italy, attracting luminaries of the new conservative movement from Europe and beyond, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, French politician Marion Maréchal, Italian Brothers  party head Giorgia Meloni and author Douglas Murray.

Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán and host Chris de Muth:

As the first NatCon in Washington, DC in July 2019, the event was organized by Prof. Yoram Hazony of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem, author of the seminal “The Virtue of Nationalism”, and hosted by Reagan veteran Christopher De Muth (Hudson Institute) and Thatcher adviser John O’Sullivan (Danube Institute). The theme was “God, Honor, Country: Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II. and the Freedom of Nations”, but “we could also have called it Adios Davos,“ De Muth said by way of introduction, chiding the globalist set that has become “openly defiant of democracy and Western values.“ The new conference set the stage for a “Replacement Davos” that will be “less intolerant, less imperialist,” De Muth said: “National Conservatism has become an inspiring vision, showing that we national patriots can get along just fine.”

Rod Dreher, author of the upcoming “Live Not By Lies!: How To Resist The Coming Soft Totalitarianism” recalled talking to an old Czech woman who had lived through Communism, who told him the new political correctness “felt like Communism is coming back. The fight against the new totalitarianism is the fight of our age. The new totalitarianism seeks to make us welcome our own oppression. Social Justice is a utopian political cult, a fanatical religion.” Google, Facebook and Amazon give us the means to dominate other people never imagined by Stalin and Mao, Dreher warned, and “social credit” will be a new form of oppression.

Dreher stressed the need to reclaim and defend our cultural identity as “Globalists try to make nations ashamed of their heritage.” Surviving the upcoming “Pink police state” will require patience and suffering, Dreher warned, and urged following the motto of Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “Live Not By Lies!”

Professor Roberto De Mattei of the Lepanto Foundation warned of the return of Communism, which is like “a subterranean river that disappears and then resurfaces when you least expect it.” He cited speeches by former EU head Jean-Claude Juncker and articles in the New York Times celebrating the 200th birthday of Karl Marx. Instead of praising the father of Communism, which killed at least 100 million people in the 20th Century, we should be reading Vladimir Bukovsky’s book “Judgment in Moscow: Soviet Crimes and Western Complicity“, De Mattei said, appealing for a “new Nuremberg Trial on Communism”, since many old and new Communist criminals have yet to be brought to justice.

Polish professor Michal Luczewski recalled the heritage of Ronald Reagan, who “both survived assassination attempts – and the assassination attempts are still going on, even after they are dead they are still trying to kill them, they were so powerful.” John Paul II. would say we should “have no fear – of the end of the world, of the fall of civilization.” That was the reason the Communists were so afraid of John Paul II., Luczewski said, citing a secret police memo on the Pope which noted that “He has a sense of humor, shakes people’s hands and kisses children.” This is what they were afraid of: He was a free man. They realized they cannot manipulate someone like that. Free people have their own agenda, the agenda of freedom and good will.” Luczewski urged fellow conservatives to be “non-anxiously present”, a Zen-like notion he saw in Reagan and John Paul II.  “When Reagan said, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!’ he was non-anxiously present. He was not aggressively shouting.” Both men were actors, Luczewski said, “playing a part in God’s play – that is how they could be non-anxiously present in apocalyptic times.”

Organizer Prof. Yoram Hazony feted the United Kingdom’s leaving the EU on Jan 31.  “Not all agree that Brexit is the right thing to do–I do.” No one could predict the future, Hazony granted, but called Brexit “like a wedding, when you are not sure of what will come, but you ask for Gods blessing. I ask for God’s blessing for British independence.” Hazony criticized the Enlightenment rationalist political theory that “we are all just consenting individuals”, with no allegiance to our nation, and contrasted this view with the Biblical view of nation as a holy covenant, tied to the land and the people. “There can be no freedom when your nation is enslaved, when your family is enslaved.” The world of free nations is the foundation of the Jewish and Christian world view, Hazony said, evoking the Biblical brotherhood of nations.

Hazony cautioned against believing “the lies told about us National Conservatives: when I  move around a room like this, people say to me, I just met so-and-so, I can’t believe how nice they are! Then I ask, Why not? and they say, Well, what they say about them in the papers is so terrible! Then I ask, Well what do they say about you in the papers? and they say, Oh, but that’s not true.” Hazony warned: “We come to believe the propaganda of the other side.” This is “the most important thing that’s happening at this conference and others like it: We cease believing the lies told about us National Conservatives.”

French professor Édouard Husson noted that European conservatism, formerly centered around Angela Merkel and the German Christian Democrats, is now shifting to Boris Johnson and British conservatism: “The torch is passing.” In 2015, Angela Merkel opened borders against the advice of her own border patrol, Husson observed, admitting terrorists who then struck in France in November of 2015, “but France did not protest.” Husson saw the immigration issue as key for the Brexit vote. “Angela Merkel doesn’t realize it, but she is the first person responsible for Brexit.” Merkel moved her party to the left, Husson said, ruling with Social Democrats, criticizing Pope Benedict, adopting Green views on nuclear power and opening the borders. He expressed hope for the “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) to form a new conservative base in Germany, without Nazi overtones: “Please, German friends, we need you.”

Thierry Baudet (Forum for Democracy, Netherlands) and Beatrix von Storch (AfD vice-chair)

Although many speakers focused critically on the dominant role of Angela Merkel’s Germany in modern Europe, there were no German speakers on the stage. AfD vice-chair Beatrix von Storch and AfD foreign policy spokesman Petr Bystron were in the audience and drew a positive resumé: “It’s crucial for Conservative parties in Europe to network and get in touch, and this conference offers a suitable venue to do that. We all face similar challenges, share a Christian heritage, and want to preserve the European nation state, to safeguard democracy and liberty,“ von Storch said to Gateway Pundit.

“Our opponents act globally, and combat us internationally. That’s why it’s essential to also network and forge alliances. This conference will be an important step in that direction,”  Petr Bystron told Gateway Pundit. “After Brexit, the failed Impeachment of Donald Trump, and the local elections in Germany, which forced out a Communist governor in Thuringia with the votes of the AfD – these are all signs of the conservative resurgence.“

Petr Bystron (AfD foreign policy spokesman) and Marion Maréchal

Marion Maréchal, niece of French Reassemblement National party head Marine Le Pen, called conservatism “the new humanism of this century, because we define all the needs of the human soul: honor, family, security, which progressivism is seeking to replace. There can be no humanism without these needs. We are trying to connect the family to the society, the nation to the world, the past to the future,” Maréchal said. France is a revolutionary nation,  Maréchal said, and has no tradition of conservatism except a few figures like Viscount Chateaubriand, Honoré de Balzac and Charles de Gaulle. “That’s why we have the Yellow Vests,” Maréchal said, the “French version of Brexiteers, necessary to protect their material and immaterial heritage. This is what remains in a time of attacks on free speech, when Islamic studies are taking over the academy and every day in France churches are ransacked, to the indifference of the media.” Conservatives are “best equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century”, Maréchal found, including population growth, the environment and EU. “No reform can be expected of the EU. The solutions will only come from national governments. We need a new coalition of national governments to engage in a power struggle with EU”, she said, envisioning a “Latin alliance” of France, Italy and Spain together with the Slavic Visegrad countries, and “in alliance with the UK, USA, and Russia, who we must not leave alone in their conflict with China. We do not need to speak in the same voice, but sing in the same song.”

Marion Maréchal, niece of Marine Le Pen

Dutch Forum for Democracy head Thierry Baudet picked up on Yoram Hazony’s reference to the anonymous architectural motifs on the Euro bills, featuring generic “windows and bridges” as a sign of transparency and interconnection: “You can see that ugliness is intimately related to their project. We as conservatives must get over all this infighting, with all these words that left-wing journalists throw at us. We must not only point out we’re not like them, but also mount a defense of beauty, like this wonderful hall in Rome we are meeting in, where we are surrounded by this incredible beauty. We defend beauty, we stand with all the beauty that European civilization has created, and we oppose the nowhere cities these global elites are imposing on us: The Nowhere ideology of globalism vs. the Somewhere of national sovereignty.”

Author Douglas Murray (“The Strange Death of Europe”)

Douglas Murray, author of “The Strange Death of Europe” and “The Madness of Crowds”, noted that he is “not a Nationalist, so it’s a little strange to be on a stage where you only agree with two-thirds of the motto.” He observed that “Nationalism sounds much different in America than it does in Europe”, where Nationalism had caused such bloodshed in the 20th Century. “Nationalism can go wrong, but then everything can go wrong. Love can go wrong. Love caused the Trojan war, yet nobody’s advocated abolishing Love.” Murray criticized the term “Populism” as “a euphemism for popular, which means elected. I have yet to hear a good definition of populism used in the pejorative way.”

Murray noted that “Trump supporters like to claim Brexit as theirs, but Brexiteers don’t really adopt the Trump movement, whatever that is. Brexit was their own thing.” He criticized the BBC for recently producing a clip claiming there’s “nothing British”, a strange notion for a broadcaster named “British”. “It’s like pretending there’s no such thing as steel”, Murray jibed. “Steel is also made up of component parts, it takes work to put it together, but it still holds up bridges.”

He observed that “The EU just not right for Britain. It may be right for you, but it just didn’t work for us. Strangely, people from the South always told me, You can’t leave us with the North, and people from the North always said, You can’t leave us with the South; people from the East said, You can’t leave us with the West, and people from the West said, You can’t leave us with the East.” So he was left to wonder why the regions even want to belong together, Murray quipped.

“If you read the German press or the American press, you would get an entirely false view of Brexit, and why the British people wanted it. If you read the New York Times, you would get a comparison of Boris Johnson to Donald Trump,” and that would be the end of the analysis. Reading the mainstream coverage of Brexit, Murray said, you would think the British were simply manipulated by Russia, or by Facebook ads. “You would think we were very happy with the EU until a few Russian bots got into our mother’s Twitter account and, hey presto, suddenly you got Brexit.” On the past weekend, EU council head Donald Tusk “urged the breakup of my country,” Murray objected: “It is not for Brussels to tell my people who should be allowed to be British. If we are to get along in future, that is one of the things that will have to stop.”

Murray cited the Five Questions British Labour politician Tony Benn liked to ask of people in power: “What power do you have; where did you get it; in whose interests do you exercise it; to whom are you accountable; and how can we get rid of you?” Of course, “When Tony Benn met Saddam Hussein, he asked none of them,” Murray quipped. “We didn’t know how to get rid of these people in the EU, and at least now we know where the levers of democracy are. We had no Yellow Vests, we had no riots and cars burning in the street. We were asked our opinion in a vote. And for the first time in EU history, that voted counted.”

Video:  Douglas Murray: Nationalism Can Be Positive or Negative



The highlight of the conference was the appearance by Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who was interviewed by Chris de Muth. Orbán recalled: “I visited Margaret Thatcher in the 1990s when I first became PM and went to London. She was not in office any more, but I went to visit her; she opened the door and she said ‘I totally disagree with you’” over Hungary’s decision to  stay out of the Kosovo conflict. But Orbán continued to admire Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who changed the world with one sentence. “Reagan said: ‘We have a new strategy: We win, they lose.’ That made us think the captive nations of Eastern Europe could be free”, Orbán recalled.

His relationship with Pope John Paul II. was “complicated” as a Calvinist in Hungary, Orbán  noted, saying he was the only Calvinist to visit John Paul II. On his visit, the Pope looked at him and said: “You are not important for what you have done, but for what you will do.”

As an avowed Anti-Communist, Orbán said he is not just against the Soviet Union, “but against the Communist mindset”, which still pervades the Left: “Now they have a new language, but the same mindset. We are still the same radical anti-Communists as 30 years ago, we are fighting the same battle.” Orbán said Europe could either be “a bottom-up cooperation of nations” or “top-down, imposed from a centralist regime.”

The difference between his situation and that of Conservatives in Germany, Italy, France and Spain is “we don’t have a coalition. When I stand up and say something, I don’t have to compromise. I am a very lucky man, because I am the only leader in Europe who can say what he wants.”

The one condition to be successful in politics is “courage,” Orbán noted. The formerly Conservative European People’s Party EPP in Brussels (which has suspended Orbán’s Fidesz party) “is becoming center, then, liberal, then left. If you can’t stand up and say, Guys, what are we doing? then you will lose your way.”

“Hungary is a freedom-loving nation, which is good for us. We are an Eastern nation that moved to the West”, Orbán remarked on the history of the Huns. “The basic instinct of Hungarians is to appreciate stability. Hungarians understand we have to have stable government or we are in trouble. Conservative politicians must be successful or they will kill you the next day, since you are all alone. That is why we have to have successful policy, with unemployment down, debt down, and growth of 5% every year. Otherwise I would be gone tomorrow.”

In the United States, “many people hate Trump more than they love their country,” Orbán wondered, “but if your country is not Nr. 1, what is? Hungarian people are not nationalist, but they realize we need the nation. We are accused of being populist; when I was young, populism meant you promise something that you couldn’t fulfill. But if you promise something that you fulfill,  that’s called democracy.”

In the migrant crisis of 2015, “liberal governments failed to protect their own society and their borders. If they cannot protect their own society, and provide good governance for the people, what are they good for? That’s why liberal democracy is over; what comes after we call illiberal, postliberal or Christian democracy. Nobody likes these terms outside of Hungary but that’s what we call it.”

Orbán called Central Europe “the growth engine of Europe. What I represent is not just the success story of a country, but of a region. And they are all National Conservative governments in Central Europe.

As a result of mass migration, the outcome will be “Western societies with decreasing Christian and growing Muslim communities. The left supports this. In Central Europe, we have a different approach. Possibly they will be happy in the West. We just ask they don’t force us to follow them.” The migrant crisis “raised the question of national identity. These issues were not fashionable. Now you can’t avoid that dispute. This is now central to the debate in Euro countries; what does it mean to be French, Italian, German – that is more complicated. Don’t miss the chance to clarify intellectually who we are as a country.
The major challenge to European politicians is: In 20 years Europe will look very different in the West and the East. How can we cooperate if we are becoming so different?

Host Chris de Muth noted Orbán’s “Natalist program” to reward families for having children, and asked what the Hungarian Prime Minister hopes to achieve in the next  years. Orbán noted that Hungary had taken on the leadership  of the Conservative movement in Europe without wanting to: “We play this role now, but we are a small country. We hope other, bigger countries will take over the fight.” Speaking earlier, Spanish Vox leader Santiago Abascal had said: “We want to do everything,” Orbán recalled: “That is the energy we need. Good luck to all the newcomers, even if they don’t belong to our party family.”

After the conference, Orbán went on to meet with Italian Lega leader Matteo Salvini, who had to cancel his appearance at short notice, to send a message to the European People’s Party EPP in Brussels: The Conservative movement is here to stay.

Video: Yoram Hazony: On the Rebirth of Nationalism in Europe


The speeches will be uploaded to the National Conservatism channel here.

Photo of author
Jim Hoft is the founder and editor of The Gateway Pundit, one of the top conservative news outlets in America. Jim was awarded the Reed Irvine Accuracy in Media Award in 2013 and is the proud recipient of the Breitbart Award for Excellence in Online Journalism from the Americans for Prosperity Foundation in May 2016. In 2023, The Gateway Pundit received the Most Trusted Print Media Award at the American Liberty Awards.

You can email Jim Hoft here, and read more of Jim Hoft's articles here.


Thanks for sharing!