The following essay by the Hungarian historian Mária Schmidt was published at Látószög blog. Many thanks to CrossWare for the translation.
(The Századvég [The Century’s End] Foundation and The Watcher: Where is Europe going? — The written version of the presentation of the results of the research by Project 28 in 2018 at its conference on March 2)
March 26, 2018
By Mária Schmidt, historian
The protracted migrant crisis has generated sharp antagonisms within the European Union. It took to the breaking point the British-EU controversy, which led to Brexit in 2016. It poisoned the relationship between the eastern and western parts of Europe. The reason for this lies, of course, not only and not exclusively in the different positions on the migrant question, but the preceding controversy, which endangers trust in each other and threatens the survival of the Union.
The decisive role in the creation of the EU was played by the two superpowers in a bipolar world: the United States of America and the Soviet Union, who also competed in the ideological, military and economic spheres. The duel the two of them fought brought the victory of the consumer market economy, which was combined with the complete financial collapse of the socialist model. The Cold War was won by the West: A reunited Europe, as well its most influential state, Germany . The fact of reunification, however, was misinterpreted by the EU as well as by Germany, which therefore drew poor conclusions.
Western Europe and the Federal Republic of Germany were clearly beneficiaries of the Cold War. However, Germany did not really contribute to this victory. Western citizens enjoyed an unprecedented economic upturn for four decades until the end of the bipolar world. They enjoyed all the benefits of a consumer society, coupled with security, freedom and financial well-being. On top of that they even pinned up the flag of the moral supremacy they felt over the total communist dictatorship. In the case of the West Germans, the most agreeable thing was that they did not have to, be responsible for anything, because that was the job of the victors in the world war. They were well-content to root for the suppressed and to do business with both sides of the Iron Curtain. According to the Bulgarian sociologist Ivan Krastev, it was as if the BRD [Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Federal Republic of Germany] was always on vacation while everyone else was working. The West Germans were sipping red wine in Tuscany as they continued to support and root for socialism, which was built behind the Iron Curtain by their brothers and sisters, just as it was by us [Hungarians]. They became frustrated and felt robbed after the affair which they so enthusiastically supported finally went bust. The East Germans and the rest of them — without their prior permission — abused the moral support they had given them, and without their permission arbitrarily stopped experimenting with the socialist future. The West’s intellectual leaders were thus faced the fact that the Iron Curtain disappeared at the same time, and they found themselves in a new position they did not even want.
They were reluctant, but still willing to pester the eastern part of Germany to replace all “Ossis” [Easterners] with their third- or fourth-class west German cadres. They categorized whole generations as a useless burden, punishing them for abandoning socialism without their permission. They divided Germany again into “Wessis” [Westerners] and “Ossis” [Easterners] instead of uniting it. Let us remember that the unity of Germany — and thus of Europe — was expressly opposed by the left wing of the political class of the Federal Republic of Germany, namely the Social Democrats and the Greens, complemented by the ’68ers Left-Liberal propagandists. When the Wessis flooded the Ossis, they kicked them out of their positions, declared their education and diplomas invalid, their careers, their achievements nullified, claiming that the GDR [Deutsche Demokratische Republik: German Democratic Republic] was a guilty system, and for whose actions they [the Ossis] were responsible. All this is now can be classified as straightforward greed for, i.e. a collective immorality, in preparation for the rehabilitation of Marx, which will be sanctified by the European Union itself when Commissioner Juncker inaugurates his statue in Trier [Note: the statue of Marx was erected on April 13, after this essay was published].
Not that we were surprised. The political elites of Western Europe are rife with Marxists, former Maoists and Trotskyites, who have never been brave enough to emigrate to the socialist side and experience the “future” in practice, and so did not to have to face the vicious nature of communism and apologize for their supporting behavior. For them it was always important to have an attractive utopia in their backyard that they could believe in or could pretend that they believed in. Its updated version is the European bureaucratic union, the planned United States of Europe.
Both Germany and the European Union therefore misinterpreted the events of 1989-90.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the BRD and the western part of the EU started from the notion that once the model they operated won, they could continue to move into the new millennium unchanged. Therefore, the task before them was identified as a assimilation rather than a merger. Thus the West Germans did this with East Germany and Western Europe with Eastern Europe. “Connection” conditions were imposed, whose execution was rigorously requested. By no means did they ever use, nor do they use, the term “merger”.
The connection requirements developed by the West were, in reality, the same unilateral dictates at a level that we had never experienced before. From 1990 to 2004 and until 2006, we were stalled, and after that, we were only allowed to enter the external circles. Meanwhile they forced us to open up our markets to them, picked out the parts of our economy that seemed attractive to them, paying particular attention to our public utilities to get them for cheap, but they denied our workers the possibility of accepting employment in the West. With the new markets they were able to counterbalance the economic stagnation of the early 1990’s, which should have warned them of the structural defects that led to the 2008 financial collapse.
Neither Germany nor the leaders of the European Union ever raised or asked the question: what is meant by and what would cause the merger of the eastern and western parts of Europe? Because the vocation and responsibility of a united Germany are not the same as the enlarged Federal Republic of Germany. Because a United Europe is completely different from a Western Europe enlarged by the absorption of Eastern Europe.
It would be good for Germany and the European Union to finally realize that without the equality of the eastern part of the Union, there is no chance of succeeding in overcoming the present obstacles and those of the near future. Germany should understand that it is neither a Western nor an Eastern country. It is in the middle, that is, a Central European country. It tried both sides of the Iron Curtain. Its geostrategic position makes it possible to form a connecting link between the two sides of the continent, to strengthen its unity and modus vivendi. Its central position, demographic and economic power also assigns this task to it. If is it able to fulfill this vocation and can find that task and the role that it owes to itself and to Europe.
The Western elites, however, are still in the process of patting their own shoulder, while talking about how generous they were to accept us. Yet we will only be able to prepare for the challenges we face if we accept the EU as a common home for peoples of equal value. The prospects that some Western European politicians, such as French Presidents Hollande and Macron, have outlined are based on the assumption that the European Union is the Western Europeans, and the inclusion of Easterners was only a sort of operational accident, that should be remedied as soon as possible by returning to the original arrangement.
By original arrangement we mean: Western Europe in the Cold War period from 1945 until 1990. When everything else was well organized, limited and visible. Their standard of living grew steadily, living in unimaginable abundance and freedom compared to the East Bloc. They do not understand now, as they obviously did not understand then, that the competitive position the socialist model implied was a key factor. The two halves of the continent, forced into opposing camps, interacted mutually. The western part was forced to build up its welfare system and the east was squeezed to allow consumption. Thus, the “golden age” experienced by the West partly contributed by the eastern part of Europe. Their erroneous past interpretation implies that they think there is a way to return to that past.
The western ’68ers vanguard wants to get the their old world back so they can be among themselves. The idea of a two-speed Europe, also known as the Core European Creation, hopes for the return of the good old times. However, we are not willing to think about the future as a project to restore the past, or to think of a new ultimatum developed by the West for us. As for the idea of a two-speed Europe, Czech Prime Minister Babiš asked in Budapest on 26 January 2018: Why are there two? How fast is one, and how fast is the other one? Where and at what speeds they are going? And why?
The ones who derive themselves from the 1968 student movements hope for the restoration of the past, since they have attained full power in the field of culture, science and the media over the past five decades and gained control over politics at the end of the 20th century. Their members are educated in Marxist dogmas, their youthful experiences were gained in various Marxist radical parties, movements, where they became accustomed to irresponsibility, prosperity and security. First of all, their own ideological, cultural and scientific life is endangered by those who did not find themselves afraid, dull, and silent coming out of communist dictatorship. Those who have questions, who have criticisms, ideas, and have their own opinions damage the well-crafted, politically correct canon of the elites affirming the status quo at all costs. They endanger the very comfortable and privileged situation in which this vanguard is so well-equipped for and where it moves so confidently.
But 1968 means something completely different to us than it does to them. For us 1968 was not the boundary of an era, but instead 1956 and 1989-90. We already learned in 1956 that socialism can not be reformed or masked into human form, as well: terror and total dictatorship are the essence of the system, not the accessory. True, 1968 also taught us something. That we no longer understand each other with our generations who live on the west side of the iron curtain. We are bound by the common adoration of beat music, the farmer, the long hair and beards on the boys, the miniskirts on the girls, and the demand for change that was the challenge of the decade between ’56 and ’68, and its predisposition. However, with regard to the political content of the rebellions, there could have been no greater difference between us.
Not only because of the West’s main claim: the immediate end of the Vietnam War in the Soviet sphere of influence meant official government policy. But first of all because the confused and essentially utopian ideas of the Westerners have always clashed with the cold reality of socialism in the experiences of those living and wanting to escape from it. The Westerners spluttered about overcoming capitalism, and dreamed of direct democracy. They fantasized about how American productivity will be combined with the morality of the Chinese (Mao and morals, congratulations!), while they continued to blabber about the Third World. No wonder they were so isolated in the West as well, and neither the citizens, nor the workers, nor the majority of the students were with them.
While the Western student movements were unable to distinguish between Utopia and Reality, and they played at being revolutionaries without taking any serious risk, people living under Soviet rule looked at the ruthlessness of a totalitarian dictatorship. The Western European elite was then bound by “revolutionary snobbery” and transformed into a “limousine Left”. Because of their enthusiasm for the Third World, they rejected “Europeanism”, the central political and cultural role of Europe. This was particularly annoying for our region because we wanted to defeat the Soviet Union’s guardianship so we could become “Europeans” again. And of course we wanted democratic institutions, for which we were ridiculed in the eyes of the progressive Westerners, and even made us become bourgeois.
Between the present-day Western elites of the ’68ers and our region, the misunderstanding goes back half a century, and the main reason is that this vanguard is unable to give up on Utopia. Back then they chased the miracle of ideal socialism, and were not interested in what the existing, realized socialism was, in which we had to live. They now fantasize about Multiculturalism, the United States of Europe and the victory of globalization.
In 1968 they discovered the anti-fascist struggle and they fought it until recently. Everyone who had been opposed to them became anti-Semitic, thus Nazis, and they were excommunicated. Today, the attitude towards the Jews is no longer fashionable in this form. Their place was captured by the Palestinians and the Third World, where so many were exploited. The new major crime now become racism; the new Holy War has become the anti-racist war. Of course, just as with anti-fascism, they are now the chief priests for that, too.
The sixty-eights were utopians, and they remained as such. Only today it is not world socialism, self-management of workers, the elimination of exploitation, etc. that is their goal, because they live too well for that, but universal human rights, the markets and freed trade, the priority of financial markets, that is: globalization. The equality they proclaim is believed to be the result of Multiculturalism, globalization and the trinitarianism of immigration. And then the Great New World will come.
They are not interested in our experiences today, either, our needs, our goals. Even as they wanted to destroy everything then, they still work at it today. They cannot build, create, create value, but they do not want to at all. For example, they spluttered about the Arab Spring, but they have no idea how it could become a livable world again for those who are so worried about it.
We, the Hungarians, the Poles, the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Romanians, and the rest of us, who won our national independence only three decades ago and have been freed from the squeezing of the Soviet Union and the communist attempts imposed on us, are convinced that within our own nation state we can best represent the interests of our compatriots. We believe that nation states are able to ensure that their citizens’ human rights are adequately protected, and that their welfare and security are safeguarded. We do not want to renounce our sovereignty to any distant center, to the hands of bureaucrats, who cannot be recalled and therefore cannot be controlled by us. Democracy means that our business is our responsibility, so we have to decide on it. We are on the verge of reality and we will not let ourselves be forced into another utopian experiment.
The utopian globalists are contemptuous and uncomprehending of the national feeling, or as they term it, in the face of the revival of nationalism. They are incapable of understanding the dynamics that reinforce national differences and characteristics as a counter-effect of over-centralization and homogenization. Even the “advanced” West is not free of all this. Catalonia, Basque Country, Corsica, Scotland and Wales, the Irish also, the Bavarians and the Lombards and all over Northern Italy. Yet they should understand that independence movements, referendums, secession or self-determination are the answers to the emptiness of universalism. Because in a world that is global, where the people are losing their homeland and their homeyness and become strangers in their own country, and where they are relocated. This is the feeling that is increasingly encouraging the rebellion against the elites of the West and that psych up the new settlers against the West. Because there is no one who would sacrifice his life or his freedom for humanity. For his country, his family, his faith and love, many people did, and would do it today, but die for universal human rights? For Multiculti? For the Eurozone? For the European Union?
Europe has never known such prosperity before, has not lived in such material abundance as it does today. Our poor in Europe are rich by global standards. At the same time, today, in Europe, in the standard of living decides who lives in what part of the continent. Within Europe there are huge income differences. The income of citizens living in the eastern part of Europe, formerly socialist countries, does not even reach one-third of the West. However, this difference in income and standard of living does not impinge on either the Western European political group or the Western intellectuals, and as a consequence it is increasingly removed from the perspective of the Union’s decision-makers. The objective of the Cohesion Fund would be to reduce this gap if some decision-makers did not want this to be a means of political blackmail. All this is a clear proof that the “humanitarians” are totally indifferent to raising up our poor. Today’s decision-makers of the EU, when talking about income disparities, compare western welfare states with the third world. They are especially worried about the poor in Africa. That is why they look at the migration crisis faced by our continent in recent years as a chance to deal with the two problems simultaneously. They can exploit the impoverished of the African and Asian continents to facilitate their conscientious objection to colonization, while hoping to find solutions to the demographic crisis they are facing. Through migration, they want to achieve their ultimate goal, the “historically unique experiment” to populate the United States of Europe — what they have dreamed of — with a new type of man made from different cultures.
Between the two sides of Europe, the utopian West and the reality-oriented East, the differences of views are also of a moral nature; in other words, they are about values, because the European Union has not become a community based on common values, as they sabotaged reunification. The leaders of the European Union and Brussels have committed themselves to the utopian, globalist political culture beyond nation-states, and therefore the mention of religious or national traditions in any positive context is considered scandalous and poses a threat to the Union’s transformation into the European Empire. It was not by chance that they lost and made taboo any debate about faith, identity, patriotism, freedom of thought, the most important core values. When, therefore, Viktor Orbán speaks of these, and of national sovereignty, the preservative power of Christianity, the importance of family, the insistence on Hungarian culture, he breaks a taboo, thus preventing the execution of the project in a well-designed and smooth way, for which the Western bureaucratic caste is working up a full head of steam. This is the reason why everyone who disagrees with these elites, “becomes” a low-minded, backward, and, of course, nationalist, populist, a.k.a. becomes a “racist”.
But we can not let ourselves, because once before we had to participate in a social conversion attempt. At that time, the Communists had envisioned the socialist world revolution, a proletarian internationalism, and a world order based on equality that a new type of socialist man — which they wanted to create — would realize. We still vividly remember what the professional humanists of the communist faction were doing as they transformed our world into a huge “socialist-type man-training institution” through humanity-correcting efforts. Then proletarian internationalism and the interests of the Soviet Union were considered forward-looking. Today, liberal globalism and the supporters of the United States of Europe flock to the same sign. We lost half a century because of that failed experiment.
That is why it is so important to understand that if there are no borders and the nation states cease to exist, then there will be no social network. The welfare state created by the social market economy is a nation state. If globalization inhibits the nation state, the welfare state is also impossible.
Everyone who considers national feelings, religious faith, the role of the family, and rejects gender theory, or even questions of the multicultural vision they plan for, is considered by the Western elites to be the enemy.
Thinking about a common Europe? How? To get off their high horse to and arrive at the heart of the matter, they should give up lecturing us, so we can start talking to each other.
Previously by Mária Schmidt: The Gravedigger of the Left