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|From: Irish Foreign Affairs: Editorials|
|Date: January, 2012|
|The decision of all the members of the European Union, minus Britain, to adopt a course of action which Britain opposed, raises the prospect of Britain becoming more substantially foreign to Ireland than it has been since the time of Charles Haughey. Martin Mansergh of Fianna Fail, who was adviser to many Taoiseachs before entering the Dail as a Fianna Fail TD, has denied that Ireland and Britain stand on a footing of foreign relations at all. His view seems to be that Irish is a variant of British, and that British is the default position of Irish. There is much to be said for that view of the matter as an objective description of Irish-British relations during the last forty years, leaving aside the years when Haughey was Taoiseach and acted as if Ireland was an independent state in the European family of states, rather than an Anglo-Saxon adjunct. But, of course, it is not just a matter of objective description. The relationship described by Mansergh coincided with the actual relationship to a considerable extent. But that description was not dispassionate reporting of what existed—it was the statement of an ideal.
Dr. Inge, a famous Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in the 1920s, said that the loss of Ireland was the most shameful event in British history.
Raymond Crotty, founder of the Anglophile ‘Irish Sovereignty Movement’, which campaigned vigorously against the European Union on the same line as the British Eurosceptics, appealed to Britain to take Ireland in hand once more because it was unable to look after itself. His appeal was made in the London Times on 3rd July 1972.
Britain, seeing the possibility of making amends for the shameful, and in retrospect inexplicable, loss of Ireland in 1918-21, responded to Crotty’s appeal. The Irish Universities were hegemonised by Oxford and Cambridge. The newspaper of British Ireland in County Dublin, maintained without visible means of support, was built up into the major newspaper published in Ireland. The British Council became active. And the British Ambassador began to act freely in Irish politics. Ireland became a member of the EU along with Britain in 1972, and it usually seconded Britain’s advocacy of measures designed to prevent the development of the EU on the lines set by its founders.
British membership had been vetoed by De Gaulle on the ground that the position that Britain had established for itself in the world was incompatible with the development of European union. Britain was insular and maritime. “Maritime” meant that Brittania ruled the waves and had arranged by its naval, commercial, industrial and financial power, that the world should feed it and supply it with raw materials. (There is a vivid picture of the world feeding England in Rudyard Kipling’s poem, The Big Steamers.)
Europe, ravaged by two Great Wars brought about by English balance-of-power strategy in the first half of the 20th century, and other Great Wars during the preceding two centuries, made arrangements in the 1950s to ward off English mischief-making, and to make itself self-sufficient economically. If that European project succeeded, England would have been obliged to engage in a basic reorganisation of its relationship with the world, which would have had far-reaching consequences for its own domestic arrangements. A disunited Europe was essential to the mode of life it had established for itself.
Britain had stood aside from the European project when it was launched in the 1950s, when it was still an Empire, and regarded European politics with a fair degree of contemptuous dislike. It had not expected that project to amount to much, and was confident that, if it threatened to be a success, it would find ways of aborting it. And it had grounds in historical experience for this attitude.
It was necessary for it at first to give some encouragement to the European project. The outcome of the World War, which it had worked up from the German/Polish border dispute, left Soviet Communism in control of half of Europe, with strong phalanxes of support in most of the other half. Traditional balance-of-power strategy did not apply in that situation.Western Europe had to be encouraged to unite against Moscow in the Cold War, which could not be resolved by becoming a shooting war because of the speed with which the Soviet Union broke the Western monopoly of nuclear weapons.
But Europe flourished during the post-War generation much more than was good for Britain. Two conditions wre conducive to its flourishing. One was the Cold War itself, which gave it a closed eastern border in the form of the Iron Curtain, and a sense of impending danger which was a stimulus to unity. The other was a kind of international politics in the form of Christian Democracy, which was beyond the comprehension of British political understanding.
Britain, as an Occupation force in Germany, tried to bring Social Democracy to the fore after 1945, as it had been after 1918. It had leverage on Social Democracy. Its ambition was frustrated by the rapid emergence of Christian Democracy as the dominant force in post-War German politics.
It became habitual with British foreign policy propaganda to characterise Fascism as a development from the Catholic social policy set out in Papal Encyclicals around 1900. An equation was made between Fascism and Catholicism, such that the London Times on August 14, 1995, could publish a large photo of De Valera on a visit to the Vatican in 1939 and meeting Mussolini on the way, as was customary, along with the comment “Irish premier Eamon de Valera with Fascists in Rome in 1939: under his 1937 constitution, he styled himself Taoiseach in imitation of Duce”.
And there was no protest from the Irish intelligentsia against this travesty of historical fact. De Valera held the line for parliamentary democracy in Ireland during the 1930s against Fascist pressure from the Treatyite, and therefore pro-British, party, Fine Gael.
The silent acceptance by academia in Ireland of this Catholic-Fascist equation might be seen as bearing out Dr. Crotty’s contention that Ireland was no longer able to do its own thinking. But Dr. Crotty, driven by his hostility to Europe, was amongst the silent.
The Christian Democracy which took Germany in hand after 1945, and gained freedom of action for itself by securing American influence as a counter to British influence, had been suppressed by the Nazi regime in 1933. Its leader, Konrad Adenauer, had experienced British occupation in Cologne after 1918. As Mayor of Cologne in the 1920s he put into effect the “social market” policies that were the hallmark of Christian Democratic Germany in the 1950s. He was nominally a member of the Centre Party—a Catholic party developed in opposition to Bismark’s Kulturkampf (Culture Struggle) against Catholicism in the late 19th century—but refused a call to become Chancellor in the Weimar Republic because the liberal (laissez faire) outlook would not allow him to implement in the Republic as a whole the policies that he applied in the local government in Cologne. He was removed as Mayor of Cologne in 1933, bided his time in seclusion, and re-emerged in 1945 with the political abilities and the economic policy which revived Germany so quickly after its catastrophic defeat, and gave substance and coherence to post-War Europe.
In Italy Christian Democracy also emerged as the dominant party, the only other major party being the Communist Party. Its leader was Alcide de Gasperi, who began his political career in the Austrian region of Northern Italy before 1914, took part in Austrian politics as a Papal Encyclicalist, did not support the irredentist claims on the Trentino by the Italian State, and stood apart from the irredentist warmongering of Mussolini urged on by Brtain in 1914-15.
French political life was far less organised than German and Italian after 1945. It was Gaullist in a general sort of way. And Gaullism, though not nominally Christian Democratic, was so in sentiment in every way that mattered.
The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989-90. The external threat to the capitalist system as a whole ended, freeing the situation for the development of antagonisms within that system. Limited war became possible once more in Europe, after two generations when it was unthinkable. The first expression of this return to normality was the destruction of Yugoslavia by extreme nationalist developments encouraged and supported by the former Free World of the Cold War.
Yugoslavia, though a Socialist state of Communist origin, had been a de facto ally of the capitalist West against the Soviet Union for 40 years, though formally Non-Aligned. Its usefulness to the West ended with the Cold War, and it was found that it had remained Communist to such an extent that its presence ceased to be tolerable. It was destroyed by extreme nationalist movements, encouraged by the former Free World and actively supported by a range of measures—from financial to military.
NATO, the Western half of the military alliance that defeated Nazi Germany established as a defensive measure against the other half, was not disbanded when the Soviet bloc collapsed. When it lost its defensive purpose, it was instantly, and without a moment’s reflection, transformed into an aggressive force. It accorded itself a mandate to interfere anywhere in the world. Its first action was in the new Balkan War. And, through this action, which to many eyes appeared as a substitute for the war on the Soviet Union by the Free World which the Soviet acquisition of nuclear weapons had prevented, the distinction between the EU and NATO dissolved.
There were states in NATO that were not members of the EU: the USA, Turkey, and the Fascist states of Spain and Portugal. Spain and Portugal were Fascist states when they joined the military alliance to defend the Free World, though they became parliamentary democracies later. The admission of Fascist States to NATO so soon after the defeat of Germany in what was generally called the ‘Anti-Fascist War’ may seem to contradict the declared purpose of NATO, but that is because of the continuing influence of the demonic British propaganda of its 1939-45 War. Fascism arose in the first instance as a movement to defend capitalism against the spread of Communism in a Europe disrupted by Britain’s first World War of the 20th century, and it was supported as such by the Western hero of the second World War, Churchill. The second war on Germany came about through the bungling, rudderless foreign policy of the World Super Power of the 1920s and 1930s, the British Empire—and that is effectively how it was described by Churchill in his account of the inter-War years, The Gathering Storm. And, when Britain suddenly decided to make war on Germany in 1939, after collaborating with it actively (not ‘appeasing’ it) for five years, it did so from a position of strength. German military success was gained against the odds, and was possible only because Britain launched the War without having a will to fight that was evident in military preparations.
The moment Germany was defeated, Europe fell into 45 years of antagonism determined by the fundamental incompatibility between the Eastern and Western sections of the alliance that had defeated it. The EU was founded in the Western component of the global antagonism in a situation that was overawed by that antagonism. But, although the global antagonism was one of the conditions that made it possible, it was not in any other sense the cause of it. Such constructive developments are not the product of external causes.
When the USA and Britain launched their destructive invasion of Iraq in 2003 there was frequent reference on the British media to the rapid reconstruction of Europe following the destructive invasion of 1944-5 as a precedent for the post-Invasion development of Iraq. The assumption was that the reconstruction of Europe was the work of the Occupation forces. It was a profoundly false assumption, although a necessary assumption if the ideology of the victors in World War 2 was to be sustained.
The historical fact is that European reconstruction after 1945 was the work of European political leaders acting in defiance of the British Occupation Power. Those leaders had personally experienced the consequence to Europe of the two World Wars brought about by Britain and had reflected on it and were determined that Britain should not again be allowed to play balance-of-power politics within Europe. Balance-of-power has a nice reassuring ring to it. It was Britain’s aim to maintain a balance in Europe, and surely balance is good! How could Europe reasonably object to being kept in balance?
But Britain itself was not part of the balance. It stood outside the balance, keeping the European states balanced against each other, so that it might determine the course of European events by adding its weight to one or the other side.
This strategy was not a secret, conspiratorial one. It seems to have been conceived when William of Orange became King of England during his war with France. One of its earliest theoretical exponents was John Toland from Gaelic-speaking Donegal, who underwent a conversion to fanatical Protestantism in Derry in the 1680s and went on to become one of the first Whig ideologues. It became such a commonplace of the English outlook that one finds it in a biography of Marlborough by the poet, Edward Thomas, published just before the 1914 War. And, though it was known that the manipulation of European balance and disunity was the British way, it always worked in the heat of a crisis.
But there were European leaders in 1945 who were committed to ensuring that it would work no more. That is how the rancours of the War were set aside so quickly by France, Germany, Italy and Benelux and the constructive statesmanship of integral European development was set in motion west of the Iron Curtain and under cover of the global antagonism between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, during a period when the Cold War made British strategy inoperative.
The ending of the Cold War gave the EU a problematical frontier to the East, and restored the possibility of British balance-of-power politics, at a time when the founders of the EU had passed away, and the history of the development had been reduced to little more than sentimental fancy.
Britain had been admitted to membership on 1st January 1973 when it seemed to be reshaping itself into a European state under Edward Heath’s Government. Heath was displaced by Margaret Thatcher a few years later and his outlook on this and other matters was rejected and held up to scorn. When the Cold War ended, Britain was well-placed to influence EU development from within along lines which served its own globalist interests. It encouraged random expansion eastwards in a way that diluted the original developmental impulse of the EU. It encouraged the aggressive attitude towards a Russia that seemed to be drifting helplessly, compensating for the War that dared not be fought between 1945 and 1990. It helped the EU to lose itself in NATO to such an extent that the neutrality of some EU countries was reduced to a pedantic pretence. And it allowed superficial measures of European integration on the wrong lines, while disabling the institution which might have made them functional by direction, the Commission, and gained exemption for itself from everything it didn’t want.
Ireland joined the EU as a kind of British satellite. Its Government, urged on by the Opposition parties, changed its Northern policy under British pressure in 1970 and that submission left it disoriented, caught in a Constitutional obligation which it could neither implement nor repeal. It entered Europe in the spirit of leaving a history which had become alien to it. But Europe was not a haven for lost souls. It was a combination of definite states and nationalities committed to the construction of a supra-national framework. Ireland was a national state constructed two generations earlier through a Constitutional war of defence against British military government, but the national impulse of its existence had gone awry, due to its 1970s submission, and it did not quite know what to do with itself.
As a state which had all but lost the national reason for its existence, it might have sought a new purpose in Europe as a supporter of supra-national development through the Commission. But that was what it was least of all capable of doing because it was what Britain was most opposed to.
Ireland, though profiting greatly from the European self-sufficiency arrangements tended to by the Commission, became a second voice for Britain in the business of aborting EU Constitutional development—not knowing what it was doing, being unable to think about it since Europe came to it as a relief from thought.
There was a brief revival of independent spirit in the Irish state when Charles Haughey became Taoiseach. This was noticed by European leaders and Ireland was handsomely rewarded for ceasing to be Britain’s alter ego. But Haughey, with whose active personal direction of government the Celtic Tiger development began, was reviled by the media in general, and was obstructed by a civil service shaped to the listless mode of Irish existence, and when he was got rid of he was presented by the media as having been disgraced.
The disoriented condition of Irish public life was worsened by the denial during the boom years of the political source of the boom. The unpopular political resourcefulness that brought it about had been blackguarded and all its traces removed from the system as a matter of principle when the time came for handling the end of the boom.
During that era when Ireland seemed bereft of national will, and was seconding Britain in Europe, its currency got separated from sterling—by accident. Ireland was being towed along in Britain’s wake as usual when Britain, in response to a currency crisis brought about by George Soros, suddenly left the ERM mechanism, leaving the Irish Punt in it to become part of the Euro.
The establishment of the Euro as the currency of most EU states, but with Britain allowed to retain sterling while remaining a full member of the EU, and with the supra-national authority of the Commission being marginalised, and replaced by the InterGovernmental Conference, was an arrangement made for disaster. It built currency conflict into the economic life of the EU, and deprived the EU of the only institution with a degree of political authority which might have controlled the fortunes of the Euro.
Ireland played an active part in the undermining of the Euro. Pat Cox had his moment of glory as the leader of the European Parliament in the reckless, absurd, demagogic campaign against the “corruption” of the Commission.
The pre-EU anarchy of Europe was restored within the façade of the EU. The natural result was a crisis. The crisis has had the effect of bringing to mind what the EU is supposed to be about. It has, as we go to print, precipitated an unprecedented degree of Franco-German purposefulness which forced a vote in which 26 of the 27 states voted against Britain.
Ireland, as a Eurozone state, could hardly have voted with Britain. If this development is followed through in a substantial European political development, Ireland will once again be taking a major step towards independence from Britain—without wanting to.
Official Ireland is now at ease only in connection with England. It was once at ease with itself and open to the world. It recoiled from itself in 1970 when it could neither stand by its own Northern policy in the face of British pressure, nor accept that the North was part of the British state, de jure, to the extent that this was so in accordance with the wishes of a majority, and indict Britain of systematic sectarian misgovernment of the Six Counties in exclusion from the democratic system of the state. It could not assert its own policy against British disapproval, but neither could it discard its own policy and hold Britain accountable for the mischief-making mode of government that it established in the North as the means of enacting and maintaining Partition. It maintained a flimsy critical posture with relation to British policy on the North, but fundamentally it excused Britain of responsibility for the mess it made in the North by adopting the British pretence that the Six County region of the British state was an Irish state, even though not a shred of sovereign authority attached to it, and virtually all its legislation was enacted at Westminster. And, by recognising this misgoverned region of the British state as an Irish state, it was led to plead guilty for the unstable condition of the North because of its failure to recognise it as a state—and an Irish one at that.
It was in that mood of denial of realities at home that Ireland joined Europe as a British satellite. It sought to lose itself in Europe, and to lose its Northern Ireland problem in Europe, therefore there was much fantasy about what Europe was.
Europe, an arena of contentious nationalities, was no place for a state with an existential problem. Ireland was the odd man out. Instead of availing of the opportunity to remove itself from the British sphere and to flourish in Europe on the ground of its nationality, it provincialised itself. By denying itself it could only revert to the status of a British province which had accidentally become a state and did not know how to conduct itself as a state.
It sought to ‘modernise’ itself by escaping from its ‘history’, as if it was something apart from its history. And it took its place like a wraith at the heart of Europe—Brussels—where Flemings and Walloons apologised to nobody for being Flemings and Walloons and refusing to become Belgians in any other way than by using the Belgian State as the site of their antagonism.
The Irish Sovereignty Movement of Raymond Crotty and Anthony Coughlan campaigned actively against Europe as a deadly danger to Irish independence. But, if it was a danger, it was only because Ireland, entering Europe at a moment when it was becoming unsure of what it was itself, could not avail of the opportunities of national development provided by Europe, and was therefore overcome by a feeling of nonentity.
Economically it benefited greatly by moving from the British world market to the protected European market. Individuals prospered, but the national sense of the collective wilted.
Ireland might have contributed greatly to European culture by insisting on its own history. It asserted its right to statehood by a military act of rebellion against Britain during the Great War. Britain justified its intervention in the European War of 1914, expanding it into a World War, by declaring that its only purpose was to establish democracy and the rights of small nations as basic principles of a new world order. Ireland put that declaration to the test by voting for independence in the post-War election and establishing a national Government, only for Britain to impose military government in defiance of the democratic election. And, when Britain launched another World War, Ireland declared neutrality, and armed as best it could to deter British occupation.
By taking its stand unapologetically on its own history, and reviewing European affairs in the light of it, Ireland might have made a major contribution to the political culture. No other state was so well placed to do so. By failing to do so Ireland left Europe at the mercy of the British propaganda/history in which Britain is presented as an agent of Providence. And that was a very immoral thing to do.
But Ireland rendered itself incapable of doing what its own history required of it. It left Europe in the lurch. And before long it was actually denying its own history. Its official position now is that the British war of destruction on Germany (and on Turkey a few months later), which was described as such at the time by James Connolly and Roger Casement, was actually “Our War”, which we should celebrate annually with poppies.
It used to be the general view that the Irish state was founded in war with Britain, when Britain refused to take heed of democratic voting. That view has now been discarded. The Insurrection of 1916 and the Election two years later are no longer seen as constituting acts of the state. The Taoiseach in a recent address told us that the democratic state was founded by a British Act of Parliament which in 1922 imposed colonial Dominion status on Ireland, under threat of intensified military action if Dominion status under the Crown was not accepted and the Republic destroyed.
And, naturally enough, this reversion towards provincialism is accompanied by a revival of anti-Germanism, in harmony with Britain.
British anti-Germanism is increasing. It is a respectable part of the national culture. As some philosopher said, “To define is to negate”, and Britain has defined itself over five centuries by three great hates—of Catholicism, of France, and of Germany. They arose in that order, but the new hate never displaces the old. They are all kept in working order in popular culture. Germany, for centuries the ally of England against the two others, began to be a hate figure when it defeated the French aggression of 1870, becoming the strongest military power west of Russia, and embarked on a course of economic development and began to be a power in the world market which Britain saw as its market because it established it.
Britain nurtures the major hates of its historical development all the time, with only changes of emphasis. Since it was through them that it became what it is, and the objects of them have not gone away, it assumes that they remain relevant to its well-being. Britain is a well-conducted democratic state which takes care not to lose itself in the altruistic political illusions that it persuades others to adopt.
A few days before the famous 26 to 1 vote in the EU, Channel 4 carried an anti-German report that was a bit unusual in that it was conducted by a slightly Anglicised German who makes a living in British broadcasting, Matt Frei:
“Who would have thought that more than two decades after the Brandenburg Gate was opened, Germany has effectively become Europe’s economic policeman? Chancellor Merkel has the power to tell the Greeks and the Italians how to get their economic houses in order. Berlin even has ways of making you quit if your name is Silvio Berlusconi.”
He interviewed Olaf Henkel, “a former business leader”, who once supported the Euro, but now sees it as divisive and putting Germany in the position of laying down the law. And he commented: “If that’s true, perhaps it’s just as well that most people don’t know that the German Finance Ministry used to be the headquarters of Hitler’s Luftwaffe”. And he concludes that Germany does not seem to be willing “to save the world by writing cheques and overcoming its hang-up”.
He went to Wittenburg, where Luther launched his theology, to explain the German “hang-up”, which is causing it to refuse to save the world. It arises from the fact that the Germans have the same word for debt and guilt: Schuld. In the grip of a primitive superstition: “No wonder this is predominantly a cash culture, wary of credit cards, intolerant of the very concept of living beyond one’s means.”
Irish anti-Germanism was, of course, more vulgar. A photo of Angela Merkel caught mid-way through a wave so that sheseemed to be giving a Nazi salute appeared in the Irish Times. That was before the 26 to 1 vote in Europe. A different note was struck after the vote.
If Europe actually does unite against Britain, and makes economic arrangements which consolidate the Euro and diminish the influence of the City of London in Europe, that will be a very serious matter for Britain. Historical precedent suggests that Europe cannot do this, but less likely things have happened. The much stronger historical precedent, which told Major Street in Dublin Castle in 1920 that the Irish would not stand by their vote for Independence once the will of the master was brought to bear on them, proved to be mistaken. It was this that brought Dr. Inge, the famous Dean of St. Paul’s, to make the statement referred to above—and looking at those who now conduct the Irish state, one can only wonder how it happened.
So precedent is not omnipotent. The 26 to 1 vote in Europe is unprecedented, as was the 1918 Election in Ireland. And it is not certain that it is just a flash in the pan. And, if it isn’t, then something substantially new in the world is about to happen. Britain is concerned because it is isolated from Europe. Ireland is concerned because it saw no alternative but to be one of the 26 and thus isolate itself from Britain. It is now faced with the dire prospect of having to act the part of a European state in European affairs, instead of dragging along in Britain’s wake.
And the Irish Times, the newspaper which Britain left behind in Ireland when it found it had to leave, is greatly concerned. Life will become impossible for it if Europe coheres, with Ireland as part of it, and Britain strikes out on a separate course of action. Its concern was expressed in its editorial of 13th December:
““The use by David Cameron of the veto in Brussels on Friday has unleashed a new and malign dynamic not only in the EU’s European and bilateral relationships, but in its domestic politics. For the British prime minister this was a crossroads moment of real significance that has called into question the long-term engagement to the EU… And it has sharply re-emphasised… how much the country’s European policy is driven by a specifically English agenda.
This is a statement of disillusionment. The Irish Times takes the worst-case scenario as the one that will probably happen. Ninety years ago it was dismissive of the Election, the Dail and the Declaration of Independence, being sure that England would know how to brush that nonsense aside. But England didn’t. And the Irish Times is really the only newspaper in Ireland to-day that has memory. It is the purposeful paper of the English remnant, conducted by an Editor subject to the continuous supervision of a Directory with all concerned being bound by an annual Oath of Secrecy (see John Martin’s Past And Present, a record of the journal since 1859, published in 2008). It has achieved marvels in recent decades in the way of fostering forgetfulness in others, and that ensured that it did not itself fall into forgetfulness of its reason for existing.
England let it down badly in 1919-21—and of course it was always England. It was England that made the State and brought it to the verge of complete world dominance—the classic work on it is rightly called The English Constitution.
The trauma of 1919-21 causes it to expect the worst now. If the worst happens, and England returns to grand isolation with Ireland playing a part in a secure Europe, the Irish Times will have to contemplate the fate worse than death—becoming Irish.