When the ideas of Herfried Münkler are gaining ground in the EU, it really is time to get the hell out.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has called an emergency meeting of top EU officials for this morning, to discuss efforts to sort out Greece’s ‘rescue’, and express his growing concerns about the degree to which ‘democracy’ is making crisis management too slow.
European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, Olli Rehn, have all been invited to the meeting in Brussels.None of these attendees were elected by us.
In fact the Greek problem has nothing to do with democracy, and far more to do with going round in circles trying to persuade greedy banks to ‘get more involved’ in the bailout – EU code for write-offs – and of course some of the bankers insisting (rightly as it happens) that if they do that they will be breaking EU law.
I hear however that the main immediate thing worrying Belgium’s answer to the Great McGonigal is the heavy sell-off in Italian assets on Friday. Italy’s stock-market regulator late on Sunday introduced temporary measures aimed at curbing speculative attacks, but once this starts there are a hundred ways round every curb. This too has nothing to do with democracy. The meeting as a whole, in fact, is chiefly a ducks-in-a-row session: eurozone finance ministers will meet later in the day to discuss both the Greek situation, and the results of stress tests on European banks scheduled for release on July 15th. Neither of those issues either, as has been obvious from the start, have anything whatsoever to do with democracy.
There is a point to me labouring the D word. It has been subject to heavy usage by the top EU bananas over the last week. None of these instances, needless to say, have involved more democracy: the general tenor has been more centralisation with “far less democracy at the periphery of the Union”. (That’s a direct quote from a Sprout last Friday).
If you’re running the EU, every cloud has a silver lining. The crisis caused by over-enthusiastic bank lending (and French intransigence ten years ago about fiscal controls) has now become the perfect vehicle for the wearing of jackboots in public as well as private.
This trend was reinforced by a carefully briefed and highly disturbing piece in Der Spiegel at the weekend. Intro’d by ‘Democratisation can’t save Europe’ – and headed ‘The Need for a centralisation of Power’, it was written by Herfried Münkler. More about this chap in a second.
I’ll give you a flavour of the piece (my emphases):
‘The poor image Europe is currently projecting is largely the result of the impotence of its elites….Belgium’s democracy has long been incapable of reaching the most basic decisions….a more extensive democratization of Europe would lead to a very similar situation because Europe is at least as diverse as Belgium on national and economic issues. Pushing for the democratization of Europe is akin to playing a reckless game that can quickly lead to European disintegration….elections to the European Parliament, which has been chosen directly by the European population since the late 1970s, have done little to assuage this skepticism: Voter turnout is notoriously low and those who do vote tend to favour populists in disproportionately high numbers…..the central theme for the rebuilding of Europe is [that it] needs a strong and powerful centre — or it will fail…..The instrument of the plebiscite, in particular, has proven to be a treacherous spanner that political players have thrown into the European works time and again. In the current situation, democratization would strengthen the capacity of anti-European players and significantly increase the number of those wielding vetoes in Brussels…’
There’s no point in commenting on these views, as they’re obviously those of a State fascist. But given that Spiegel is often an EU mouthpiece on such issues, the article worries me greatly. So let’s take a closer look at Herr Münkler.
Our Herfried is fascinated by war as the ultimate way to solve problems. He is also the originator of the term ‘post-heroic society’. His thesis is simple: there are no heroes arising from the population any more, and so ‘populist’ democracy is failing more and more. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Münkler had this to say about liberal democracy:
‘Fukuyama’s famous thesis on the end of history comes out of the view that there is no fundamental alternative to liberal-democratic politics and the capitalistic social order. But such a thing, if you allow me to formulate it pointedly, is nothing other than the self-reassurance of a post-heroic society that imagines itself to be secure through the idea that it is surrounded by things like itself.’
Or in English, we stick with democracy purely because other people do. Hmm. To put it in one Sun headline, the bloke believes that a strong Europe ruled without democracy (except at a tightly-defined centre) is the only way to protect us from our enemies. He doesn’t seem to have given much thought to protecting us from those leaders dishing out orders at the centre, but then he wouldn’t: it’s not his bag. For Münkler is as hard-Left as they come. He recently took part in a Left-acclaimed documentary called ‘Reloading Marx’.
Irish liberal-Right writer Mark Humphreys describes the man thus: ‘Few people express the mad beliefs of the postmodern left as clearly as Herfried Münkler‘.
Yet as a political theorist, Münkler is becoming increasingly influential in EU thinking about the future. This is hardly surprising: he is both German, and an enthusiast of the controlling SupraState concept.
AS George Osborne jets off to Brussels later this morning, his mind will no doubt be distracted by his biggest problem right now – his new identity as The Man who introduced Andy Coulson to David Cameron. But he should read some of Münkler’s works, and ponder on why he is a favourite of both Angela Merkel, Herman Van Rompuy, and Der Spiegel.
I have seen the planned future of the EU, and it irks.