The 2019 Italian budget, written by that eternally uneasy coalition of populist parties which presently form the Italian government, and which are held together by nothing more than their unified opposition to the establishment, has recently gone down in history as being the first national budget to be rejected outright by the European Commission. The critiques of it made by this latter body, which are nominally economic, are in fact transparently political, being but a pro-European pretext to reprimand the recent growth of Italian populism. Despite all European objections, the Italians have refused to settle their accounts in a manner pleasing to the lords of Brussels; should they hold fast to their refusal, as indeed they seem intent on doing, it will make for an interesting test-case in the European hierarchy of powers. As the procedures involved (anything from a prolonged dispute between the Italian and the European bureaucracies, to lengthy sanction movements on the part of the EU against the naughty nationalists) might stretch well into the next year, it is difficult to predict the long-term outcomes of present events. This much is certain: European power, as against national sovereignty, has rarely been put so stringently to the test.
All of this occurs, of course, against the background of an EU which has been shaken by Brexit – but a Brexit which even now is struggling to materialize, and which seems to have lost all clarity of vision and unity of will. Theresa May’s government, in attempting to straddle the line between English sovereignty on the one hand, and the clear benefits of participating in the common life of Europe on the other, seems incapable of settling on any solution which is not repugnant to almost all parties involved.
Given these events, it seems an auspicious moment to offer certain reflections on the European question, and the problem of the European Union in particular.
A Wider View
From the geopolitical perspective, which tends implicitly toward Realpolitik, the globe can be divided into the spheres of influence of three super-political giants, monstrous powers striving each against the others, by any and all means at their disposal, for absolute hegemony: America, Russia and China. If one extends this perspective past mere geography to embrace also the dimension of time,1 the contest most evidently stands between the first two, while the third has bided its days, growing its powers and its economy in the secrecy of its Asiatic bower, and poising itself to finally burst onto the stage of this undeclared war for supremacy in the Modern Era.2
Between the first two stands a continent entire, which has for over a century now been by turns an emerging player in this mundane game, and one of its major pawns. That continent, ‘an Asian peninsula’,3 which can be defined a continent at all only on the basis of its native historical and ethnic roots and culture, takes on the sometimes pathetic aspect, in this decisive century, of a dithering agent, uncertain of itself and its destiny, now tending hither and now thither, and at times even tearing itself apart in its fundamental incertitude. Europe, as this continent is called, has at last settled on, not the highest, but the most convenient road toward maintaining itself, beneath the shadow of the fiercer giants astride it: it has ‘unified’ in a manner of speaking, under a primarily economic banner, and sided with the ‘West’ over the ‘East’, dwelling uneasily, but unequivocally, beneath the essentially corrosive influence of the United States.
This has led many men, as varied as Francis Parker Yockey, Alain de Benoist, Guillaume Faye and Norman Lowell, to insist upon the paramount importance of European political unification, as a means of protecting the native fire of Europe, and reconstructing her rubbled destiny. As Daniel Friberg has succinctly put it:
A common foreign policy, a common military, and a common will to defend the global interests of Europe is the only way in which the continent can protect itself and act politically on a worldwide scale without being a mere vassal to one of the other great powers.4
If one for a moment lays aside the Realpolitik implicit to this grand struggle — if one, without denying the real exigencies of the situation and the actual limits imposed on possibility, reclaims nonetheless a higher dimension, in which human virtue becomes an actuating concern, and not the power but the excellence of man is most to be desired — if one adds, to the elements of geography and time, the element of culture as well — then these matters take on another aspect entirely, and the historical greatness of Europe becomes the guiding light of these concerns. But that greatness is primarily of the past; in this petty and diminished present, it is a greatness on the wane, a greatness which has largely even disappeared altogether, but also a greatness which might be resurrected and reconquered.
Viewed from this perspective, the question is no longer how to transform Europe into a global superpower – by itself this would be worse than useless, as it would be an execrable travesty were this ‘Europe’ to become merely a New New World and a Second America on the global stage – but rather how to preserve, reincarnate, or recreate what is best in Europe. Toward that end is European political power of interest to us, and toward that end alone.
And by this higher view, the question emerges – what is the role and the value of the European Union toward this aim, this goal?
The Economic Challenge
Let us begin by dispensing with the primary argument which is trucked out whenever anyone dares challenge the continuation of the European Union: namely, that grave economic consequences would follow its dissolution for all those states that had been its members, and particularly those states, primarily of the south and the east, that are economically disadvantaged as compared to the centre and the north in particular.
In the first place, we might doubt whether these consequences would be as bad as suggested, given that as of yet no heavenly bolt of wrathful vengeance has struck the United Kingdom since the vote on Brexit. Naturally, the UK is but a single case, and one that is, both now and also historically, eternally ambiguous in its relations to Europe: given that the United Kingdom never was immersed in the European Union like the other member states; given that it retained its own currency, which somewhat inoculated it against Europeanization, making its departure that much smoother; given finally that Brexit has yet to actually materialize in its primary aspects and elements, to such an extent indeed that there is even some doubt as to whether it will finally occur at all – given all of this, the United Kingdom cannot be taken as a barometer for any other state’s successful departure from the EU, not to speak of the dissolution of the EU itself.
But there is another and yet more decisive consideration, and that is simply that the economic question, important though it be to the life of man, is of absolutely secondary rank with respect to the greater question of the higher destiny of Europe itself. Two points must be made here.
In the first place, if economic stability is to be bought at the price of Europe’s soul – as some Eurosceptics claim is occurring even now – then it would be a thousand times better to risk even grave economic consequences in the individual European states than to proceed with a plan that has as its end goal the eradication of what is holiest in Europe. The globalist endgame, which would culminate indeed in a global world order under the hegemony, we do not doubt, of that curious entity presently called America (or rather the globalists who own her), would barter the very spirit of Europe on a ‘growing economy’ and ‘higher standard of living’, no matter the consequences these might wreak on the culture and traditions of Europe. That is not such a trade as a man of mettle would countenance. Far be it from us to descend into the marketplace to haggle spirit for gold, as has been the way of other peoples: the future of Europe as a political and social and above all cultural entity is of infinitely higher dignity than its GDP or its share of global market profits.
In the second place, it must be recalled that economic stability in times like ours is a recipe for complacency on the part of the people. The masses might sell their souls for iPhones and wide-screen televisions and healthy incomes; but ‘the very rich are not good; and if they are not good, they are not happy either.’5 The fundamental flaw in populism is in its hoping to persuade the people by truckling to them; it is the practice of liberalism itself to leverage its unwieldy weight on the masses, precisely by feeding the masses’ desires. The ‘right-wing populism’ of our days could well be, rather than the tide itself, but a single breaking wave that rises and crests and declines again; for the populist leaders, in slaking the thirsts of their constituency and curbing its discontents, might but strengthen the foundation for the ‘liberal-democratic’ order that has gained ascendency in our day and is casting its shadow upon all of us.
The European Union, as is known by its critics and supporters alike, is an economic, and not a political unity; it stands or falls by the economic question alone. Alain de Benoist has in fact identified this as one of the major mistakes of the EU from the very start:
Obsessed with the economy, the ‘founding fathers’ of the European Communities have deliberately left culture aside. … The Europe of today is first and foremost the Europe of the economy and the logic of the market, for it is the point of view of the liberal elites that it should be nothing other than a vast supermarket exclusively obeying the logic of capital.6
Precisely on account of this basic orientation, the European Union has done nothing but compromise and undermine the soul of Europe. It is clear that every man of the true Right in our time must, to some degree or other, stand against the European Union in this economical, anti-cultural incarnation. That Union is indeed the creature of everything that we combat. The question is whether we should seek its dissolution, or its transmutation: whether it is best that this sickly puppet regime, presently in the hands of American deep-state bureaucrats and the stateless plutocrats of the world, should be smashed to pieces, or rather that we like alchemists should seek to work its alteration from within, attempting to transform the lead of it into that golden Imperium Europa which not a few of the best men of recent decades have yearned for, and which indeed is nearer to the hopes of the original dreamers of European unification, than the ‘Common Market’ could ever be.
Here, then, in its simplest terms, is the alternative facing us: whether to support the transformation, or the dissolution, of the EU.
No Road Leads to Rome
It is sometimes suggested that it would be not too difficult a task to take over the European Union via its democratic elements, and press it thereby toward different ends – something like a mutiny, result of which would be a mere navigational change in direction. We ask, then, how this proposed ‘take over’ would come about – by precisely what mechanism, and through what means?
The most immediate and clearest route to perform such a ‘take over’ is also the most evidently democratic channel: through the election of the European parliamentarians.
And no doubt this would be an excellent start. The first obstacle, which is perhaps not insurmountable, is awakening the people to the importance of voting for their MEPs. The elections for these politicians are the object of a growing indifference on the part of the people; in 2014, they drew only about 42% of the voting populace, in some countries as few as 13%,7 and the numbers have been declining steadily over the past decades.8 Supposing the people could be made aware of what is at stake here, and more attention could be drawn to the representatives themselves – supposing this could become in a few major countries a truly national election, on par with the election of national parliamentarians (and this is already a most difficult task, to put the matter mildly) – it might be possible to elect sufficient numbers of the right people to form a new European political party with ideas more consonant to our own. A quantity of understandable ignorance has to be overcome here, as many Europeans do not know so much as the surnames of their MEPs, nor are even aware of the existence of the European political parties or what they variously stand for, nor have the least idea of what the rules are for their formation.9 Still less do they have a clear sense of what we stand to gain, or to lose, in the elections aforementioned.
Supposing all of this could be mitigated, the people stirred, and the European Parliament manned with a sizeable number of valid individuals – what then? One must not imagine that the result would the immediate commencement of the kind of democratic-parliamentarian wrangling that we see on the national level, in which different factions battle to get their special legislation passed, and the majority (which might be our own as well as not) wins out. No: the EU was built from the first with precisely the peril of an ‘internal take over’ of the Parliament in mind, and includes a number of very clever ‘checks and balances’ to avoid any such democratic meddling.
In the first place, the Commission of the EU, and not the Parliament, is granted legislative initiative, meaning that the Parliament cannot propose new legislation, but can only respond to the legislation proposed to it by the Commission. Moreover, essential functions which in any democratic government are generally concentrated in the work of democratically elected functionaries – such as, for instance, the forming of rules and regulations (generally assigned to the elected administrative body, or to the individuals that such a body directly appoints, who stand unequivocally beneath its power) and, above all, the regulation of national budgets (we are seeing this play out in the present situation in Italy) – are denied to the Parliament and the Council respectively, and granted instead to the Commission. Thus, even if a simple majority of the European Parliamentarians were elected sympathetic to our cause, men of good mettle and right ideas, the most likely result would be a general paralysis of the entire European political body, or an inner war between its parts which might issue in a breakdown of the system — leading, perhaps, to a necessary restructuring of its institutions.
To salvage Europe in its present state, one could hope at most for the latter; the problem, of course, is that coups of that kind are generally carried out, not by the legislative branch of government (particularly when that legislative branch is rendered essentially ineffectual and impotent by the standing laws) but by the administrative power. That power is divided between the Council and the Commission; thus, for any alteration in the direction of the EU, it is to these bodies that we must look.
We begin then with the evident centre of gravity, and certainly the administrative heart, of the EU: the Commission, the body which is responsible for suggesting legislation, for making rules and regulations, for approving or rejecting the national budgets of the member states, for drawing up a budget for the EU, for negotiating trade relations with foreign countries, for arbitrating over the debates in the Parliament and for executing the right implementation of the Treaties. This body is presided over presently by one of the few European functionaries whose name (though probably not face) is likely to be recognized by the broad run of Europeans: Jean-Claude Juncker. What can hypothetically be done with this Commission?
Much is made these days of a ‘democratic deficit’ in the EU, which is the special bureaucratic way of admitting that the EU is evidently built to be resistant to too great a popular influence. The foremost locus of this ‘democratic deficit’ is the Commission. The Commission, which is evidently delegated the better part of the powers of the Union itself, is comprised entirely of men nominated by the Council. There is one nominee for every Member State of the Union, selected by that nation’s head of state, who is also member of the Council. It appears then that the quality of the Commission hinges decisively on the quality of the Council.
The European Council,10 being composed of the heads of the governments of the member states, along with the Presidents of the Council and the Commission respectively, can evidently be influenced most directly of all the bodies of the European Union – namely, through the election of so-called populist governments, like that of Orbán, Salvini and Kurz, the first and last of whom indeed are members of the Council.11 This throws the impetus of any change in this direction back on the shoulders of populist elections in the many diverse nations of the Union, and points to the importance of activism and guerrilla metapolitics on our part.
There is, however, a further layer of complexity. Even supposing that the Council could be for once manned with a surfeit of respectable individuals, this would not necessarily have the desired effect on the Commission; for while the members of the Council do indeed have the power to nominate the Commissioners, these Commissioners must be selected in consultation with the Commission President (currently, the ever-presentable and indisputably sober Juncker), who is not so nominated. They must moreover be confirmed by the Parliament, which means that it would be necessary to form a solid Council and Parliament to affect any real alteration in the Commission; given that either of these tasks separately is of utmost difficulty, it beggars the imagination how one might hope for both simultaneously, any time in the near future. Moreover, the Commissioners, though appointed by the Council members, are their own individuals, and swear under oath to defend the ‘Treaties and Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union’; the which means that, unless we should be fomenting oath-breakers in the halls of Brussels, we must expect the Commissioners to be bound by the very documents which have made the European Union into the horrifying globalist, pro-immigration and anti-European juggernaut it presently is.
We cannot at present enter into a technical discussion of these documents, their influence, scope or aims, or the degree to which their byzantine bureaucratese is structured precisely to defend the extant powers and direction of the EU. We have lain forth these observations merely to indicate the extremely problematic, complicated, and trying nature of any internal EU ‘take-over’; it is difficult to imagine that any transformation of this kind could come about save with the passage of many decades of continual and applied work. And one is well permitted to wonder how the EU could in the meantime be checked in its worst tendencies, and if Europe has so much time left to her in this, her historical extremity, to regain control over her own institutions.
This much is clear: any attempt to alter the EU can come only via national, and indeed local, awakening. The brunt of this strategy falls squarely therefore on the transformation, not of the EU itself, but of national governments, national politicians and political parties, national figureheads and leaders: the single viable way to change the direction of the European Union, is to change the spirit of the nations which compose it.
This leads to the apparent contradiction that the EU can only be changed by temporarily orienting its constituent nations against it; the existing Union can only be saved by opposing it. That is a troubling balance, which, as we are seeing even now in the dispute over immigration, Brexit, Schengen free passage, and the Italian budget, among a great many other things, must sooner or later lead to the disequilibrium of the EU, and very possibly to its final dissolution.
Which leads us naturally to the other possibility which must be considered by any philo-European: namely, the abolition of the European Union, and the return to the pre-European status quo of a tapestry12 of individual nation-states. It is to this question we will turn in the continuation of this article.
1Cf. Robert Steuckers: ‘Geopolitics is a mixture of history and geography. In other words of time and space. Geopolitics is a set of disciplines (not a single discipline) leading to a good governance of time and space. Geopolitics is a mixture of history and geography. No serious power can survive without continuity, be it an institutional or historical continuity. No serious power can survive without a domination and a yielding of land and space.’ Interview with Troy Southgate, http://robertsteuckers.blogspot.com/2012/03/interview-with-robert-steuckers.html (accessed 31 October 2018).
2The problem of China in particular must be addressed elsewhere; in my opinion, it is not given half as much attention as it ought to be by our circles. This is partially because the growth of the Chinese threat is so insidious as to be practically invisible; it works through the subtle mechanisms of economy, infiltrating markets across the globe through individuals who are assumed by our Western eyes to be merely individuals, when in fact few Chinese abroad can be considered ‘individuals’, but must rather be seen as extensions of the Chinese collective. Between this and the unprecedented investments that China has been making in every corner of the world, it ought to be clear that we should take China very seriously indeed as a global player. But in the present essay we must dedicate ourselves to other concerns.
3Fernand Braudel, A History of Civilizations (trans. Richard Mayne, New York: Penguin Books, 1993), p. 304.
4Friberg, The Real Right Returns, Second Edition (Arktos, 2018), p. 29.
5Plato, Laws, Book V, 743c (trans. John M. Cooper).
6Taken from ‘“Europe a Market” or “Europe a Power”?’
7See http://www.europarl.europa.eu/elections2014-results/en/turnout.html. Let it be noted as well that in Belgium and Luxembourg, which show remarkably high turnout numbers, the vote is compulsory. These numbers should be compared with voter turnout in national parliamentary elections, which are consistently much higher, running commonly between 70 and 80% particularly in Western European countries. Cf. https://www.idea.int/data-tools/question-countries-view/521/Europe/cnt.
9A particular note on a difficulty here, so far as the Deep Right is concerned. The ‘right-wing’ is today universally associated with nationalism, and nationalism is obviously incompatible with the European Union. This makes for a particular difficulty in any attempt to establish a European party based on ‘right-wing’ principles, and indeed the present Europarties tend strongly toward the ‘political centre’, which we have good reason to suspect if not to detest. The two Europarties which are presently considered ‘far-right’ are, to put it lightly, underrepresented in the Union: the Alliance for Peace and Freedom has a total of four European Mps, three of whom hail from Greece (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alliance_for_Peace_and_Freedom); the Alliance of European National Movements has none (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alliance_of_European_National_Movements).
10Not to be confused with the Council of Europe, which has little or nothing to do with the EU, nor with the Council of the European Union, which body shares legislative responsibility with the Parliament. The jargon of the EU is certain to confound us here — that pseudo-language which is implemented, we have no doubt, to obfuscate its true structure and aims to the uninformed.
11In the case of Italy, of course, Salvini is joint Vice-Prime Minister with Luigi Di Maio; the Prime Minister, and consequently the standing European Council Member for Italy, is Giuseppe Conte, who, however, stands squarely on the side of the ‘populist’ government he heads. The question as to which of that government’s poles he more surely tends – whether toward Salvini and the Lega or Di Maio and the Five Star Movement, is subject for another place; suffice it to say that he has done his best to maintain his neutrality in all disputes between these two allied factions, and has thus far done an admirable job of it.
12I gladly borrow here the fine metaphor of Martin Locker, who speaks with great persuasiveness and eloquence of this position in our recent Interregnum podcast on this question.
Well written and precise as always. That the “populist leaders…might but strengthen the… ‘liberal-democratic’ order” is a reasonable fear that we must address at some point. Inside the garish denial of the populist nations towards a broader European coalition is the potential for a conflict which may extend beyond economic and diplomatic contingencies; far be it from me to announce any love for the passivity and bureaucracy of the extant European Union, but stirring tensions between these nations seems a particularly bad course of action, particularly over something so secondary as economics. Surely a transfiguration of the present order into a more accommodating and prepared political entity would be ideal, but I look forward to reading your conclusions on this difficult subject.