Friday, June 25, 2021

De Gaulle and the Idenity of Europe

One of the reasons why I'm currently writing about Charles de Gaulle is because I feel that he has been unfairly maligned in the Anglosphere. Seen as an "Anglophobe" it's quite easy to dismiss the man as just another arrogant and notable Frenchman who happened to achieve his mark in history and leave it there. But what's apparent when you study his life and influences in a bit more depth, is that what the man was trying to do was realise a certain vision, primarily with respect to France and--Europe--that philosophically opposed to many of the currents of modernity. Quite simply, de Gaulle was deep.... really deep.  I really didn't realise how deep he was, and what he was putting forward, until I started drilling down into some of his philosophical influences and ideas.  I think the dissident Right needs to give him another look. Particularly the Christian Right.

In another post, I want to talk about the philosophical underpinnings of De Gaulle's weltanschauung but what I would to put forward to my readers is the notion of de Gaulle as a "Christian anti-Buddhist".  De Gaulle strongly believed in the notion of identity and the sense of needing to protect it. What he saw with the modernisation of the world was the homogenisation of society with the concurrent loss of identity that accompanied it. Paradoxically, with the growing "official" multiculturalism he recognised that the world was becoming less diverse.

The economic forces of modernity were particularly potent in this regard. While he was oppositional to the British in many instances, he realised that they were less of a threat than the Americans who were far more "modern". Note, it's very important to separate the notion of the U.S. and modernity. The U.S. is not "intrinsically" modern but incidentally so. In his arguments with the British he recognised that Britain was acting for her own interests in a fairly straightforward way and while this may have been a threat for the French in terms of territorial integrity it did not attack the notion of French identity. The US on the other hand was pushing for a modernity--particularly in the post war period-- which would destroy the French identity and its own.

De Gaulle was not a Luddite or a traditionalist, who felt that "turning the clock back" would restore the world to some kind of imagined idyllic existence. He realised that modernity had its benefits but it had to be "tamed" in order to preserve identity. For de Gaulle, the primary means of achieving this came about by encouraging a protected "French" industry and culture even when it did not make "economic sense". De Gaulle accepted the trade-off.

De Gaulle was also awed by the economic power of the U.S. which came with all the associated political ramifications. He recognised  that France could not compete with it by going alone and would be subsumed by it.  Rather it would have to combine with other European nations, in common purpose, to promote a alternative version of modern society.  Only by combining could they form an economic power which could resist the "americanisation" of the their countries.  This is why he ceaselessly pushed for a notion of a Europe des Patries, as it was an economic model which balanced economic necessity with the preservation of national identity, hence his Fouchet Plan.

Or as de Gaulle said himself:

I do not believe that Europe can have any living reality if it does not include France and her Frenchmen, Germany and its Germans, Italy and its Italians, and so forth. Dante, Goethe, Chateaubriand belong to all Europe to the very extent that they were respectively and eminently Italian, German, and French. They would not have served Europe very well if they had been stateless, or if they had thought and written in some type of integrated Esperanto or Volap√ľk.

What's really interesting here is that De Gaulle reached this position through a sense of Christian nationalism. Something that is unheard of today, except in places like Poland or in Orban's sense of Hungary. This Christian nationalism was anti-keanotic in the sense that the nation had a right to live, defend itself, and define how it wishes to exist but it also respected the rights of other nations to do the same. This type of nation did not wish to emulate the suffering Christ but His triumphant transformation. Once again, Chesterton is probably the best English exponent of what de Gaulle was on about.

...It [Christianity] hates that combination of two colours which is the feeble expedient of the philosophers. It hates that evolution of black into white which is tantamount to a dirty grey....

If any one wants a modern proof of all this, let him consider the curious fact that, under Christianity, Europe (while remaining a unity) has broken up into individual nations. Patriotism is a perfect example of this deliberate balancing of one emphasis against another emphasis. The instinct of the [EU] Pagan empire would have said, “You shall all be European Union Roman citizens, and grow alike; let the German grow less slow and reverent; the Frenchmen less experimental and swift.” But the instinct of Christian Europe says, “Let the German remain slow and reverent, that the Frenchman may the more safely be swift and experimental. We will make an equipoise out of these excesses. The absurdity called Germany shall correct the insanity called France.”

De Gaulle is important because he embodied a philosophy of identity which he tried to politically realise. Some of his opposition to the English, and lot of his opposition to the Benelux countries, was primarily to stop the new European Union from becoming anti-identitarian. As a side note, de Gaulle recognised that any supranational tendency of the European Union would be fought by the English people if not their government. He admired the English for that.

What de Gaulle was trying to advocate was that strangest of beasts, a Christian Nationalism. Nationalism gets a bad rap in modern culture and its malignant versions are certainly to be deplored but the version advocated by de Gaulle was based on the deep love on his own nation and the deep love of the others. His was a true multiculturalism.

Ultimately, though, he was defeated.

The causes of his defeat were multifactoral but can be broadly divided into four categories:

Politically: The reality of the military threat posed by the Soviet Union meant that political policy was directed towards the military unification of Europe under a supranational command. NATO was not just a alliance but a supranational coordinating body. This military unification came with all sorts of economic, cultural and economic homogenising forces. Particularly when driven by the U.S.

Culturally: The barbarity and slaughter of the Second World war reawakened a profound pacifist movement within the European peoples, which saw the origin of the Second World War laying primarily in malignant nationalism. Movements which weakened the sense of identity came to cultural prominence. Incidentally, these movements fed and nurtured pacifistic strands of Christianity which worked to transform Christianity and undermine the notion of identity in it as well. Furthermore, their was a rejection of their own sense of identity by the European youth, particularly in the sixties and an idealisation of the Americanization of life. De Gaulle literally  had the cultural rug pulled underneath him.

Economically: The expansion of big business post war, partially facilitated by the formation of the EU, was an effort to increase the material standard of living in Europe. Europe's historical habits of protecting its own national interests meant that its market was very inefficient. This led to the dismantling of many of the protectionist barriers that was a characteristic of pre-War Europe.  The problem is, however, that an "efficient" market is a culturally homogeneous market.   When "wealth" is the primary metric of well being, sovereignty passes from the cultural elite to the economic. And as we've all seen, globalist millionaires don't care much for national sovereignty.

Deliberately: The destruction of the European national identities was not a consequence of chance misfortune, but the result of the deliberate co-option of the European Economic Community from the outset by "grey men", senior public servants,  who thought it a way to wealth and peace.  Their aim was to economically integrate the European markets to such an extent that national interests became subordinate to economic ones, thereby destroying European nationalism.  What's really interesting is that many of the men who pushed for this state of affairs have remained relatively unknown and assumed very quiet lives, outside the spotlight despite the profound effect that their policies have cause. Perhaps the "greatest" of the these men, someone who should be considered as a type of "anti-de Gaulle" and yet was perhaps of the greatest influence in the destruction of the modern nation state:

Jean Monnet.


John Rockwell said...

"Deliberately: The destruction of the European national identities was not a consequence of chance misfortune, but the result of the deliberate co-option of the European Economic Community from the outset by "grey men", senior public servants, who thought it a way to wealth and peace."

Bureaucracy is the enemy of distinction unfortunately. Good for Imperial Rule as in China and extremely durable no matter the Royal Family the Empire always ends up reunified.

Older Civilizations with longer historical existences respectively lost their Martial Aristocracies only to be ruled by Bureaucracies.

The same process happened to Europe.

John Rockwell said...

Recommend reading this book:

One of the reviews:
"The assumption that a divided world of competing states, such as the Westphalian system that arose in Europe (and which still holds today in the modern world), must be the stable state is challenged in this work. The situation of ancient China during the Spring & Autumn period and the Warring States period is used as a counterexample for how the balance of power can be tipped irrevocably leading to one state becoming supreme and absorbing or conquering others. The example of the kingdom of Qin (which went on to conquer its neighbors and create a unified China) is examined at length both for how it employed self strengthening methods to increase its own economic and military strength, and how it dealt with its enemies who naturally attempted to balance against Qin's rise.

Then an examination is conducted of Europe and why a similar situation did not arise of one state ultimately becoming strong enough to overcome the balance of power to unify Europe. In contrast to Qin, Victoria Hui argues early European kingdoms employed self weakening methods, that may have enabled swift short term raising of military strength but at the expense of long term loss of state revenue and loss of state power to intermediaries. The classic examples include taking out loans from merchants (often secured against future tax revenues), tax farming, and use of hired mercenaries. It is argued these short term expedients were the easiest ways in the more heavily monetized economy of Europe at the time, as compared to the Warring States period of ancient China. So whereas Qin and its neighbors were forced to extend the state apparatus wider and deeper to the local level to extract extra taxes and levies for its wars, in turn building up the centralized state and national armies, European rulers ended up dissipating their power through inefficient and unreliable mercenary forces, and landing themselves so deeply in debt that the ruler could become effectively hostage to others.

The second part of Victoria Hui's argument centers on the use of ruthless strategems. While both Europe and ancient China had its fair share of intrigues, alliances, and treacheries, she argues that Europe never reached the scale of bloodshed that the Chinese Warring States reached, not just in the numbers of killed but the purpose of war. The wars of national annihilation did not take place in Europe, and ended up in usually exchanges of territory or settling of succession issues. Tying in to her first point, Victoria Hui argues that the self weakening expedients practiced by the monarchs of early Europe led to inconclusive wars and states weakened to the point that no major state could get sufficient advantage over another to the point of truly being able to conquer and absorb another major state. The example of Napoleon is used as an example where a European power did attempt to adopt self strengthening measures that lead to a brief period of dominance in Europe, but which ultimately could not be sustained due to the long term weaknesses inherited from the self weakening measures of pre-Revolutionary France.

All in all it is a fascinating work and undermines some of the underlying assumptions of some followers of international relations today, which is dominated by a viewpoint that is very Western in focus and which assumes that a self balancing Westphalian system is the "natural" or stable state of affairs. The unification of the Chinese Warring States into one state and one dynasty demonstrates how fragile a balance of power can be, how it is not necessarily a stable equilibrium, and how a tipping point can be reached beyond which one state emerges as the "universal Leviathan"."

The Social Pathologist said...

which is dominated by a viewpoint that is very Western in focus and which assumes that a self balancing Westphalian system is the "natural" or stable state of affairs.

I don't think that the Westphalian system was set up to be "self balancing", outside observers have conferred onto it this property. Rather the Westphalian system was a method to bring about some kind of peace to Europe.

What's interesting about the system is that it did become self balancing and stable What the Westphalian system did do is enshirine the right of national identity with a degree of tolerance. It let people and and nations be who they are, as opposed to the Chinese system which wiped out everything that wasn't approved.

David Landes in his Wealth and Poverty of Nations, recognised the weakness of the Chinese approach. Despite may intelligent ideas originating in China, if they didn't get official approval they were dead. On the other hand, the pleuralism of Europe ideas had "spaces" in which to flourish. True diversity is the incubation of originality, homogeneity kills everything. China's great leap forward into modernity, like Japan's has come about from a mass importation of Western technical ideas, all of which were outsourced from the Christian peoples. Most of China's advanced machine tools come from Germany still.

The Westphalian system is only the natural state of affairs if you allow the legitimacy of the nation state. That notion is a cultural one. Destroy the idea of the right to be nationally different then you destroy the capability for national identity.

That will open the door to a homogenised empire.

John Rockwell said...

Indeed. I think its only when the Wars of Annihilation went into full force like WWI and WWII did the Bureaucratic State come to dominate and homogeneity got increasingly imposed like in China. Although the 100 years war between France and England helped develop the Bureaucracy.

People in Europe didn't pursue War as ruthlessly in turns of amorality post-Westphalia or even in the Medieval Era, Early modern Era prior to the 30 years war until the 20th Century.

There was no Legalism equivalent or draconianism in Europe that was so totalitarian:

"The book describes a government system that was developed and implemented by emperor Qin Shihuang and his Prime Minister LI Si in 211 BC. Qin Shihuang was the emperor that conquered all other states that ended the Warring States Period that lasted from 401 - 221 BC. The emperor would not have succeeded with his victories without applying the Legalist system Legalism is not only a theory, it was implemented.

The purpose of the legalist system was to make the state as powerful as possible with at its head a king or emperor that had absolute power. The emperor decide what had to be done and could not be challenged by any person or group. The emperor used the law to tell the people what to do and think. Nobody could refuse what the law specified and nobody was allowed to question or criticize any law the emperor had issued. The emperor decided when and how to change laws. It was not the "role of law", it was ruling with laws.

To achieve absolute adherence severe punishments were applied. Nobody could question a verdict nobody could issue a pardon. This also required a "thought police", the "universal mutual surveillance system." Families were organized in groups of five ten. Each member had to report if anybody was acting or expressing opinions forbidden by law. A person that did not report suspicious behavior was punished the same the person that had broken the law."

And absolute in its slaughter as in China and possibly much of the Orient until the Modern Era.

This is an example of the Totalitarianism and absolute carnage of Legalism since the Administrative State in China has dominated instituted by the Qin:

I think Christianity helped hold the horrors by which Wars could go back. The Chivalry of Europe whilst having flaws is better than what has happened elsewhere in the Orient and in Latin America where Human sacrifices were carried out.