About the European Union
by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Another tiff between the European Union and Poland (and, similarly, Hungary) amply demonstrates that the problem of European governance is systemic rather than extrinsic. It is imperial centralization vs. national sovereignty and authoritarianism vs. democracy.
To comprehend the roots of the present crisis, and to keep himself informed, an erudite layperson should read at least four monographs about the European Union: first, John Laughland’s The Tainted Source: The Undemocratic Origins of the European Idea (London: Warner Books, 1998); second, Pierre Manent’s Democracy without Nations: The Fate of Self-government in Europe (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007); third, John Gillingham’s European Integration, 1950-2003: Superstate or New Market Economy? (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004); and, fourth, Todd Huizinga’s The New Totalitarian Temptation: Global Governance and the Crisis of Democracy in Europe (New York and London: Encounter Books, 2016).
A bit on each author is warranted. Laughland is a conservative British nationalist free marketeer and gold standard nostalgic; Manent is a Christian democratic French nationalist; Gillingham is an American scholar and libertarian; Huizinga is a former US diplomat and social conservative.
Laughland lays out the poisoned roots of Europe most succinctly. “The European idea” is inimical to nation-states and democracy. Sovereignty expresses itself in the ability to control borders and to enact legislation through a national government. “The European idea” supports open borders and aspires to override national legislatures.
Instead, according to Manent, the European Union endeavors to exercise democracy via supranational structures. That is a doomed undertaking because democracy grows organically from local self-government. Furthermore, self-government reflects national aspirations. Without nationalism at the grassroots, there is no democracy which, after all, expresses itself best by addressing local concerns, uniting them together at the national level to give them their peculiar, national and cultural, dimension. Democracy by fiat from above is not viable for it divorces the people and their everyday concerns from the decision-making process at the top.
That is precisely what the Eurocrats love. European integration has been an elite project from the very beginning. Gillingham is best at explicating it. He focuses on the obscure process of the creation and operation of the EU, including its inner workings. The process is still in place and, thus, applicable to the new members as well.
What may still be shocking to the newcomers is routine practice for the old members. The nation-states of Western Europe that accessed the structures of the EU before 2004 bore earlier the brunt of continental integration. In the process, their elites became largely pliable. They subordinated themselves gradually to the “European idea” and the surreptitious process, the so-called “Monet method,” dubbed after its main sponsor, Jean Monet, of implementing it.
According to Gillingham, the “Monet method” is the key to understanding the EU’s modus operandi. Its secret is to appear to be acting tactically when you are moving strategically. Usually, the Euro-enthusiasts wait for a crisis to unveil a new stage of their project.
In the late 1940s, with America’s help, Western Europe’s economy began to rebound. However, a glut of coal and steel occurred. Layoffs and unemployment in the industry threatened social peace, which the Communists were eager to exploit. Hence, a need arose to rationalize the process.
In 1951 the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was launched as a provisional emergency measure. When the crisis had passed, instead of dissolving the structure, it became a permanent European bureaucracy bankrolled by national governments. The first bureaucratic plank of the future EU was thus put in place.
The process has repeated itself with exact precision. As Gillingham recounts, an agricultural crisis of the 1960s gave birth to another European emergency institution inexplicably retained as permanent. Furthermore, like Lego blocks, it was joined and coordinated with the ESCC.
Others proceeded punctiliously according to the same rules of discretion and desirability. Upon completion of each plank, their architects, led by Jean Monet, would publicly swear that it was all unprepared and coincidental and ultimate in the bureaucracy creation. They were misleading, of course.
As Gillingham, Monent, and Huizinga show, each stage was carefully planned and premeditated. It was also concealed from national electorates. In private, Monet and his confederates would gnostically sneer at the plebs who could not possibly comprehend the awesome sublimity of “the European idea.” Hence, the people should not be told, for they would be confused and, most likely, adversarial.
So much for the transparency and democracy behind the “Monet method.”
Further, the purveyors of “the European idea” loath and demonize nationalism. Both Manent and Laughland argue that “the myth of nationalism” which the EU purveys serves as a tool to undermine national sovereignty and replace nation-states with an empire. Although the empire is supposed to be pan-European, it will be led by Germany, the continent’s most wealthy state.
Thus, Berlin gets to impose a blueprint of the imperial enterprise. Instead of nation-states, regions will be favored. Raume (spaces) and even Grossraume (great spaces) will become basic units of the empire. There will be further political unification and economic harmonization. Zollverein (customs union) for the members-only will prevent free-market competition. The Germans detest the balance of power and free markets as a British invention preventing Germany from controlling Europe.
Britain’s balance of power paradigm is predicated on the idea that no single power controls Europe. Free markets serve as a litmus test here: any nation, and, really, any individual, his or her nationality notwithstanding, should be able to compete economically anywhere in Europe. Sovereign nations should maintain control of their borders but not impede free trade.
However, the German search for harmony precludes any of this. Hence, “the European idea” tends to reject free market in favor of soft autarchy, seaborn power in favor of land-based power, and Adam Smith in favor of Friedrich Liszt as well as Alfred Thayer Mahan in favor of Karl Ernst Haushofer.
According to Laughland, Berlin also hates competition and conflict. However, democracy is the conflict resolved through the ballot box. Conflict is the essence of being human. Ideas need to clash. Alternatives need to compete. That is not possible without conflict. To claim otherwise is to court a totalitarian solution.
Gillingham also argues, however, that the initial thrust behind the European integration was free markets. He is correct to a point. However, in the “European thinking,” free markets were an element of the puzzle rather than a model itself.
In practice, they are highly regulated. In theory, at the inception of the “European idea,” free markets were to play a crucial role. Nevertheless, they also were supposed to operate within a supranational structure. We should recount briefly.
There have been several attempts to unite Europe. The Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation were superseded by Napoleon and Hitler and Lenin and Stalin.
It was the Nazis and Communists who envisioned a “United Europe” – red or brown. Moreover, it was not the nationalism of nation-states but the imperialism of the Soviet Union and the Third Reich that drove the “European idea.”
Laughland goes into gory details of how Europe’s national socialists and fascists hailed “the European idea.” Why? This is because they were the enemies of freedom and democracy. They wanted a planned economy and a total dictatorship.
What about other liberal Euroenthusiasts? Sadly, they also succumbed to such temptations, usually in a mild corporatist form. At best, they preached the idea of subsidiarity with the Vatican’s blessings, which Laughland abhors with more than a whiff of good, old-fashioned English anti-Catholicism.
Just for the record, he should save his ire for other subjects. Subsidiarity at heart teaches us that the central government should only exceptionally interfere at the grassroots because local problems should be addressed in situ by the little people concerned, which is also the essence of self-government, as Manent never tires of reminding us.
Nonetheless, the Eurotechnocrats do have their heroes. The most prominent among them were the pioneers: Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, Józef Rettinger, and others. Von Coudenhove-Calergi was a Habsburg loyalist who envisioned a united Europe as one of the five global empires ruling the world.
On the anti-totalitarian side, the French effort matched the Austrian and German contributions to uniting the Old Continent. Early on, two significant orientations emerged. The Mount Pelerin Society consisted of libertarians and monarchists such as Friedrich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. The latter was a Catholic Habsburg loyalist, while the former two tended to one-worldism.
At any rate, at this stage, the Mount Pelerin Society envisioned the restoration of the status quo ante of 1914. There would be monarchies and nation-states in Europe; borders would be retained and national sovereignty, but there would be no customs, and free trade would obtain. Anyone from within the European zone could work, study, or live anywhere she or he wished. Decentralization would apply.
However, according to Gillingham, there was stiff competition. France’s Jean Monet led it. He envisioned a Europe that would be organized along French lines. It would be top-heavy and organized from above. Centralized and bureaucratized, Monet’s new Europe would operate according to a plan.
While reluctant to advertise his vision openly, he grounded it initially in the language of Christian democracy and social solidarity. Thus, he was able to enlist under his (false) banner the likes of Italy’s Alcide de Gasperi, France’s Robert Schuman, and Germany’s Konrad Adenauer. Thus, national politicians helped usher in a supranational project in Europe.
Nowadays, the leaders of the project talk about it quite openly. Their ambition is boundless. As Todd Huizinga argues, the European Union is but a testing ground for global governance. Everything that flies on the Old Continent will be applied at the global level. The idea is to subject the entire world to legal measures as contrived by the leaders of the European Union. Hence, a Spanish judge could get Chile’s General Augusto Pinochet detained in Britain, while the EU feted Poland’s last Communist dictator, General Wojciech Jaruzelski.
As a rule, each social engineering project arises discreetly away from the scrutiny of local parliaments and other democratic oversight bodies. It is then unveiled, funded, and rammed down the throats of the unsuspecting populations.
Lately, of course, it has been the agenda of the sexual revolutionaries. Characteristically, in Central and Eastern “New Europe,” there is no more trickery and obfuscation at work as was much the case earlier in Western Europe. The post-Soviet zone nations are simply told to shut up and obey the EU Diktat or else.
Even if the people are allowed to vote on an issue in national referenda, the EU takes no defeat as the final word. Usually, the electorate votes until it gets things Brussels-right, as was the case in Denmark and Ireland.
Another trick is to ignore the electoral defeat altogether, for instance, on France’s constitutional issue, and try to implement the EU agenda via bureaucratic means, as Gillingham has noted. Hence, even if the idea of a European constitution falls flat on its face among the voters, it can be introduced as EU regulations via bureaucratic fiat. One way or another, Brussels gets its way. Moreover, that is usually Germany’s way as well.
Huizinga thus warns us that by violating all rules of parliamentary democracy and national sovereignty, the Eurocrats have succumbed to a “totalitarian temptation.” Laughland stresses that the temptation has a distinctly German feature. At the same time, Manent bewails self-government’s death, and Gillingham laments that the free marketeer’s dream is buried in the graveyard dug by a European Superstate.
Consider yourselves warned. So should the Poles and Hungarians and anyone else who tries to emulate them. Brexit happened for a reason.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Washington, DC, 24 October 2021