Friday, 27 June 2014

Strange Bedfellows, by Matthew Cooper

In what other universe but the funhouse mirror of Europolitics could Hungary’s Viktor Orbán make common cause with David Cameron?

The one being a populist Hungarian patriot in every sense of the word – including the economic sense – and the other being … well, David Cameron, who certainly talks the talk of national sovereignty but somehow manages to keep peddling slow-boil privatisation?

But in this case they both seem to have a clear and relatively well-founded sense that electing Jean-Claude Juncker to the presidency of the European Commission would be a big step away from subsidiarity and from democracy within the EU.

Juncker clearly has not shown that great a respect for Greece’s national sovereignty, having done his level best first to oversee the auctioning off of all of Greece’s state assets and then to discredit Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras as ‘unfit’ to lead the nation of which he is a part.

Cameron and Orbán do, in this case, share a good and healthy instinct about the nature of his leadership. Tsipras’s own support of Juncker simply shows the extent to which he is an ideologically-consistent procedural democrat – including at the European federal level.

However, it is clear in this case Juncker did and does not feel the same way about Greek elections as Tsipras does now about European ones.

But the alliance between Cameron and Orbán bespeaks the direness of the choice that now faces Europe.

Britain has long been cautious with regard to what it sees as its national integrity, and that from a long history of balancing itself between involvement with and detachment from Europe, arguably going all the way back to Saxon times.

Think of the massive swing towards Continental involvement that was accomplished at Saxon expense, cultural and economic, beginning with the Bastard’s reign in 1066, which underwent a reversal only with Edward III’s reforms and protections aimed at preserving and promoting the commons and the English language nearly three hundred years later.

Orbán is at times criticised in the Western press, such as the Financial Times, for hypocrisy in adopting policies of nationalisation in despite of his centre-right and anti-communist past.

But these criticisms are wholly misdirected. Industrial nationalisation is not the sole intellectual property of Marxism-Leninism, and Orbán understandably does not wish to see his nation placed again as firmly under the thumb of what he sees as an unaccountable supranational power as it was under the Soviet Union.

This being the consideration, it is understandable but nonetheless quite strange how Poland and the Baltic nations can be so cavalier about joining and participating in Euro-Atlanticist institutions, given their histories. 

Srue, they may feel that NATO and the EU can help to protect them from their neighbour to the east. But do they actually believe that a commitment to the ideology of European liberalism (however contested that commitment may be in Poland, where the Catholic Church is still a powerful presence) is any true guarantor of their respective national sovereignties?

It is not only because I tend to sympathise more with the Eurasianist geopolitical perspective that I feel Orbán’s scepticism on this point is far more intellectually defensible. One need only examine the recent track record of that ideology in such places as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Romania.

Britain likewise deserves the chance to express her independent foreign policy. But this chance will only come for her, as it will only come for any other European nation, when the deep links between the patriotism attaching to national integrity and sovereignty, and economic patriotism (including in the forms of national water, mail and rail), are explicated clearly.

Otherwise, national sovereignty will remain little more than an empty slogan, as it remains subverted by the private interests controlling the nation’s wealth, to which, pace Ricardo, the appeal to patriotism has never been sufficiently strong to keep expensive capital from haemorrhaging out of the nation’s borders, or cheap labour from flooding in.

This is not merely a British problem, of course. Every nation in the world seems subject to the dilemmas of such distorted politics.

Make no mistake – I find it very heartening to see Cameron leaning this way. But in the end, I am convinced that Orbán will be shown right.

Only a party evincing the ideals and priorities of old-fashioned Labour politics can rightly avail itself of all the necessary intellectual and moral tools necessary to safeguard the traditions and ancient honour of the British people and nation.

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