100 reasons for Brexit: #14 the change from community to union #15 the EU is no longer a peacekeeper #16 collision chaos between France & Germany #17 Berlin isn’t listening
“Globalism and the European Union,” opines the historian Jeffrey J. Anderson in one of a new series of essays about Germany, “are merely two sides of the same coin”. I’ve held this view for about a decade now, but what several of the essayists in this new Routledge publication manage to do is bring a deeper understanding to the history of how that became so.
I see it as part of my job at the moment to try and use facts and balance as the gelignite that will explode positive myths about the European Union forever. One of these is the notion that the EU has kept the peace in Europe for seventy years this year. In fact it has done no such thing.
Between 1955 and 1990, two things kept the peace in Europe: the atomic bomb, and the EEC. The former (once it was owned by both sides of the old political divide) made even the idea of a European-wide war unthinkable, because any attack by the USSR would’ve been repulsed by the USA….and that, it was felt, would deliver Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The EEC, on the other hand, was a European solution based on European history, the focal point of which has been, for some 200 years, the power of an enlarged Germany.
This saw the two main antagonists as France and Germany (hard to argue with that) and thus sought to make it economically idiotic for them ever to go to war again. It was the European Economic Community, period. At the time, this quite sensibly fired the imagination of two British politicians, Jo Grimond (Liberal) and Edward Heath (Conservative) who believed passionately not just in free trade but also European peace. Unfortunately, Jo was the leader of a tiny Party and Ted still a relatively junior Minister in the Eden administration. The majority bufty-tufty view in the British Establishment was that we didn’t need Europe.
This fatal blunder doomed the United Kingdom to bad timing. De Gaulle, bitter to the end, vetoed British entry in 1963…and by the time Heath finally got us in after the 1970 UK general election, the entire construct had turned from Franco-German mutual dependence to into these two founders running a cosy stitch-up whereby taxpayers coughed up for various subsidies….of which Britain got precisely none.
Four things then changed everything – federalism, Soviet collapse, German reunification & the euro.
Agree in haste, regret at leisure
These four horsemen came galloping along at a fair old lick.
With the growing influence of thinkers like Jacques Delors, federalism gradually went from the F word to a distant dream before arriving at Must Do. I remember very well talking to an old colleague who had retired early – by which I mean, he’d gone to work for the Commission in Brussels. “One is told from Day One,” he once remarked in pre-Federalist days, “that the sole purpose of the EEC is to keep Germany busily focused on economics and the European project”. Economic interdependence was still the game plan. But Delors had other ideas.
Then in 1989 the Berlin Wall was breached and ceased to have any meaning: the USSR imploded at breakneck speed, and by October 3rd 1990 – with equally indecent haste – the old DBR and DDR became one unified Germany. Indeed, the Germans completed this task two years before the Wall itself was finally demolished. They did it with several winds behind them – euphoria among the western publics, the ambition of the unelected imperialists in the European Commission….and above all, the diplomatic power of the US urging them on. The almost universal view at State and in the White House during this period was that the Soviet collapse should be rendered irreversible. The next step was to encourage the EEC federalists to fill the vacuum created in the former Soviet satellites – which they duly did.
Less than three years after German reunification, the middle ‘E’ was dropped in the EEC initials, and the EC became common parlance….although the 1993 Maastricht treaty did also, openly and formally, rename the mother ship European Union. Thatcher signed this treaty, so as an architect of the mess she must, I’m afraid, shoulder some of the blame. Within five years, 11 EU members had been declared “safe” to join the European Monetary Union (EMU)…and four years after that, on 1st January 2002, the euro was launched.
In just ten years, Europeans experienced total Soviet collapse, reunified Germany, accepted federalism, scoped out EMU, and launched the euro. Only recently have increasing numbers of EU and eurozone citizens really grasped the sloppiness, corruption and corner-cutting involved in this process. But still hardly anyone gets why German-led globalism and control freakery have turned the Union from fluffy dream to anarchic nightmare…and totally removed the potential for long term peace.
The clue’s in the nomenclature ‘Union’
The European Union, far from keeping the peace in Europe, has become a creator of tectonic tensions and social divisiveness which, after North Korea and the USA, represents the greatest threat to peace and prosperity in the contemporary world.
But it was always a fluffy dream. The ‘Modell Deutschland’ so-called of a social market economy kept the German and French economic values relatively similar until reunification, federalism, and the launch of the euro. Since those events, they have zoomed apart: Germany has turned globalist, indulged in a period of salary + benefits reduction, and adopted a considerably more neoliberal economic model. France, by contrast, has not only retained its communitarian model, it has also invested massively (and unaffordably) in its health, community and transport infrastructure. Furthermore, it is far and away the most food self-sufficient nation in Europe: its export performance may be dire, but the French people will never starve.
Be in no doubt: France and Germany have been on a collision course for nearly a decade….and that collision is now very close indeed. It drives, in fact, the fiscal “ideas” of Wolfgang Schäuble and his captive Eurogroupe.
But there is an equally key point here: not only have the EU and eurozone been the very antitheses of peace keepers in the past, if current trends continue, France and Germany will be economically independent. The whole point of the EEC will have been lost.
A dominant Germany, Fiskal Union & ClubMed
France remains in my opinion by far the most important country when it comes to the inevitable demise of the eurozone as we know it. While Berlin can bully the smaller miscreants, it will struggle to do that with Spain and Italy: with France – although Schäuble and Dijesslbleom remain fixed in LaLaland on the subject – the process of making it obey neoliberal fiscal discipline will prove to be impossible.
That Germany is calling the shots in Europe now is a self-evident truth. That Germany also no longer bothers to hide its determination to do that is a fact that an increasing number of British and the French citizens find anything from irritating to repugnant. Chancellor Merkel’s disgraceful comment on the Tsipras resignation as “part of the solution for Greece” was a flagrant admission of happily interfering in Greek democracy. But the despicable treatment of the Greek People has drawn enormous criticism across the continent. It falls into three groups:
- Here we go again, goose-stepping Germans demanding this and whingeing about that…when $150 billion euros of the Greek hole was money paid to Germany for munitions, including one submarine that never arrived.
- After the relief they got from everyone in 1953, how dare they now refuse humanitarian relief for Greece?
- Having failed to pay any reparations to Greece or pay for the artefacts and gold it plundered, how dare they now demand full repayment of an unrepayable loan?
Unfortunately, the assumption underlying these issues is that Germany surely must feel some guilt about the damage and suffering they inflicted during the Second World War. The reasons why Germany no longer feels that way are, however, there to be seen if one studies the timeline and of structure of recent German history.
One reason for zero-guilt has developed very clearly over the last fifteen years. Although sometimes pretending naivety, Berlin understands perfectly well what France has been extracting since 1955: reparations by another name. This has become starkly obvious in the context of continued incontinent State spending by the French, either directly from EU funds or indirectly via simply going way over the eurozone deficit rules…and then smiling politely. Last March, France got a serious and direct reprimand from the eurogroupe (ie Schäuble) for the first time about its deficit behaviour: what most people don’t know is that the Troikagroupe (which is what they are now, the IMF having backed away) demanded an immediate improvement and got their way.
The law on cash payments to French artisans will change dramatically in November. Currently, the maximum one can pay in cash is €10,000. This will be decimated down to €1000. It is a direct attack on the way France ‘works’ in general, and on small businesses in particular – that is, classic multinational neoliberal destruction, using the same modus operandum that devastated the Athenian tourism-vital wholesale food markets. It is not a French policy: it is a Diktat from the eurogroupe.
Germany feels no guilt about this at all. It sees it as payback time, full stop.
Secondly, we mustn’t forget that half of Germany used to be Soviet Communist…it’s where the Chancellor comes from. Under the Hoeneker régime, a ridiculous but (among young Ostis) widely believed myth was propagated: that as part of the USSR, East Germany fought against the Nazis. It didn’t kill millions of Jews and it didn’t invade anyone: the DDR, Hoeneker asserted, was one of the good guys. Ergo, why feel guilty?
One should not lay too much store on this attitude today: any former DDR citizen who can read must know that Onkle Erik lied about everything on an industrial scale as if he might be trying to exceed the targets for one of Stalin’s Five Year Plans. But it can be interesting talking to some easterners (as I have done) about German war crimes; they tend, on the whole, to have a case of complete dissociation on the subject.
Third, it would be a mistake to see the orginal Bonn Republik anyway as having been suffused with guilt about the activities of SS, Gestapo and some regular soldiers during the War. As Mary Fulbrook points out, as early as 1951 Konrad Adenauer got away with a speech in which he declared (my italics) “Some terrible crimes have been committed in the name of the German People”. Over time this has become a classic escape route for Germans: I knew nothing about it, we thought it was just Allied propaganda, I never saw any atrocities and so forth.
It was all the Nazis, you see – not we good Germans. It was all down to that Austrian freak Hitler – not we good Germans. Hitler had a hypnotic character and eyes – we couldn’t resist. We were only obeying orders.
It didn’t wash at Nuremburg and it doesn’t today. What of the Stauffenberg circle who saw what Hitler did and lost their lives failing to asassinate him? As for him being an Austrian freak, Hitler fought in the First World War in German uniform, and was awarded a German Iron Cross. From 1920 onwards, he campaigned remorselessly for a Greater German Reich. Many senior Nazis – Speer included – disobeyed all of the Führer’s more nihilistic orders.
The reason why Oliver Hirschbiegel’s brave 2004 filmic depiction of the Führer’s final days in Der Untergang was so controversial in Germany was its acknowledgement that Adolf Hitler was no freak, and probably not even insane: he was merely a central European bourgeois who was polite to women, liked cakes, and hated Jews. There are plenty of his ilk thriving across Europe in 2015.
As for “I didn’t know anything”, this is hogwash. During 1965 I spent three months in what was then West Berlin, working with Kristlichjudischezusammenarbeit, and attending lectures given by those who had been German Resistance members under the Third Reich. To a man and woman, they all attested to the widely approved nature of Krystallnacht (the destruction of Jewish shops) and the unmistakeable stench of burning flesh that lay across the countryside for many square miles around every death camp. “Where did they think these Jews-in-the-night were going?” a Bonhõffer aide asked me rhetorically, “on their holidays in perpetuity?”
There were also those who supplied the Holocaust with its tools of death. Within Glienicker Park (where I was based in West Berlin) lay the infamous venue Wannsee, where the final solution’s excruciating details are laid out for all to see. Competitive poison quotes, slave labour railway carriage designs, human furnace size alternatives….none of the purpose was hidden. Considering the size of workforce involved in the operation, it is ludicrous to suggest that the vast majority of German citizens “didn’t know”. But then, no more ludicrous than suggesting a scorched-earth austerity programme in Greece could promote economic growth: the ability to hoodwink is closely correlated with the desire to believe…and self-exculpate.
Denialism – and to an extent, nihilism – is deeply embedded somewhere in the German psyche. All the young, vigorously anti-Nazi postwar Germans I knew before 1980 are now in their Seventies. It was all a long time ago: their children and grandchildren don’t get it. And nor do they want to. But they do say crass things like, “Europe is learning German again”.
Why does any of this matter for Brexit?
It matters for one reason above all others. It matters for a reason that invites Leftist UK voters to take off their blinkers about the EU, and Rightist voters to do the same in relation to David Cameron.
The British Left needs to face facts: the EU is not a force for peace and harmony, it is a directionless seed blowing with the wind of neoliberalism. It is a born catalyst for social division, growing wealth divides, and yes – even civil war.
The British Right needs to face facts: David Cameron is not a brave and principled reformer out to do battle with the Horrid Hun and Beastly Brussels. The British Prime Minister is a convinced corporacrat in favour of multinational globalist banking and business, and therefore desperate to compete in that pigswill with all the other sociopathic hogs.
For all Britons regardless of political affiliation, there is an acid Troika of test questions that can be put to the occupant of Number Ten Downing Street:
Can you bring about EU reform that will bring key Sovereign powers back to the UK?
Can you get the EU to abandon federalism, and go back to being a purely economic community of nations?
Can you persuade Brussels, Berlin and Frankfurt to cut their losses on the euro, and stop blaming innocent European citizens for an ill-conceived and hubris-fuelled mistake?
If he can answer a straight ‘Yes’ to all three – and if he has succeeded by the time of the referendum – then we should all vote to stay in.
But if he can’t and they won’t, we should all vote to leave at the earliest opportunity.