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In this state of oblivion and confusion, all appeals to national sovereignty and democratic self-government become suspect. If we go along with them, descent into fascism will be all but unstoppable, as Philippe Sands seems to suggest in a recent review of Laurence Rees’s The Holocaust. Sands recalls Primo Levi’s pithy summary of the logic of fascism: once most people manifest the belief that “every stranger is an enemy”, that belief will become the major premise of a syllogism and “at the end of the chain, there is the Lager”. Sands assimilates the Leave campaign’s souverainiste language of taking back control to the major premise in that syllogism. But in doing so, he misunderstands Levi’s point about the distinctive nature of fascism. And it bears recalling that Levi joined the partisans as a member of the Partito d’Azione, which had its origins in the 19th-century liberal nationalism of Mazzini and Garibaldi. The idea of a chain of inference linking Garibaldi to Goebbels — and the concentration camps — would have horrified him.

Another reason for the failure of Böckenförde’s, Manent’s, and Siedentop’s prescient analyses to resonate more widely in the European intellectual sphere is that faith in technocracy has replaced faith in democracy. In the field of EU studies, no one embodies this trend better than the Princeton academic Andrew Moravcsik. When Siedentop’s book came out, he dismissed it as having a “whiff of Oxford high-table history” and teaching us “very little” about the future of the EU.

Confronted with the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty by both the French and the Dutch in 2005, Moravcsik insisted that the problem of democratic legitimacy, which was then troubling the electorates too, was exaggerated. “Far from demonstrating that the European Union is in decline or disarray or in desperate need of democratic reform” — he asserted — “the crisis demonstrates its fundamental stability and legitimacy.” As late as April last year, Moravcsik wrote that the Brexit referendum lacked “real significance” because “the government would probably do just what EU members . . . have always done after such votes. It would negotiate a new agreement, nearly identical to the old one, disguise it in opaque language and ratify it. The public, essentially ignorant about Europe, always goes along.”

Even those who accept that something is wrong with EU institutions are for the most part only prepared to admit that some change to the “administrative-technocratic” structure can fix the problem. Coralie Delaume (a journalist) and David Cayla (an economist) do not agree. In their La fin de l’Union Européenne (Michalon, €19), which is causing a stir on the other side of the Channel, they argue that the “democratic deficit” cannot be “corrected with some clever institutional bricolage”. Indeed, the problem runs deeper. The European project was constituted in an undemocratic way, premised on the transfer of legislative functions to unrepresentative institutions whose powers grew and grew over time.

Clement Attlee saw this clearly from the outset. In 1950 he rejected British participation in the Schuman Plan with these words: “We have always been willing, and are now, to enter into . . . international arrangements, but the point of this plan was that it was something entirely different from the international arrangements. This was to set up a supra-national authority.” An authority, he added, that is “utterly undemocratic and is responsible to nobody”.

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Anonymous
April 19th, 2017
11:04 AM
Fantastic piece, very thought provoking. It is extraordinary that nowadays, national pride's chain of inference becomes descent into fascism. "Liberals" have been peddling this canard unopposed. As a result it has become generally accepted. Ironically, if legitimate concerns continue to go unaddressed, it will eventually come true. But so far there has been demonstrably very little appetite for it despite the best efforts of the police and their lobbyists (see Hate Crime statistics and how they are gathered and then used to peddle a false narrative). Finally here this author is highlighting the fact that the establishment has been so often on the wrong side of history. Does education immunize against common sense? is is used as a substitute for independent thinking? Is group-think unduly rewarded by the system? Clearly there is a problem there.

geomat33
April 2nd, 2017
11:04 PM
The alternative model to both neoliberalism and collectivism is emerging called cooperative liberalism or coliberalism. This development not only affirms that Brexit was the right decision, it also provides the economic pathway for doing so. This development, while exposing the EU as a well-intentioned but flawed experiment, offers a practical pathway to achieving the original goals of the EU. "Coliberalism affirms the long-standing belief that human progress is the result of cooperative effort based on trust and underpinned by an attitude of selflessness, grounded in empathy. It is a rejection of the neoliberal concept of trying to organize society on the principle of self-interest and enforced through the market by its monopoly on defining value, which it defines solely in terms of financial profit and loss. Coliberalism works by relegating the market to being a subset of society rather than being its central institution, as it is under neoliberalism. This has the effect of quarantining the broader community from the withering impact of self-interest while freeing the market to deliver economic benefits with minimum regulation and minimum taxation. Under coliberalism the traditional process of sharing wealth through salary, wages, taxation and redistribution is expanded to include human creativity and social capital as recognized by direct feedback through Trruster. Coliberalism frees the market to automate to improve efficiency while sharing the gains more equitably and more broadly on a global basis by rewarding human creativity, ingenuity and social capital building. While coliberalism is a rejection of the dominion of the market over the individual, it is also a rejection of collectivism in all its forms, which can be broadly defined as the dominion of the state over the individual. Coliberalism can be broadly defined as a system of social, economic and political organization based on individuals cooperating freely for mutual benefit, guided by online feedback and within the bounds of common law." http://bit.ly/2nMgSvT

Anonymous
April 1st, 2017
8:04 AM
Adolf Hitler was the biggest threat to democracy in the 20th Century The EU is the biggest threat to democracy in the 21st Century World War 1 was in the early 20th Century, and its now 2017 I hope that the 21st Century does not have to fight the great wars again to regain or maintain democracy

Democracy lover
March 30th, 2017
7:03 AM
Excellent piece. Thank you for this wake-up call article.

anonymous
March 29th, 2017
7:03 PM
If colonization and it's inherant threat to indigenous culture by military force is wrong then the same result through political peer pressure is just as wrong. If America or any other country wants to participate in the melting pot culture, let them. However those who desire to truly preserve indigenous cultural identity of a country by maintaining autonomy, that is their right as many of the countries have fought, loved, died and worked hard over centuries to create the country and the unique culture. Long live Brittain! Vive Francais! And for all those liberals giving lip service to diversity it is exactly that which you threaten in your demands to integrate. Especially when the demand is against the will of those experiencing forced integration. Trade cooperation should not require a loss of cultural autonomy.

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