Saturday, September 23, 2006

Supernationalism is Super-particularism

Tony Judt (Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945) on the personalities of the men who formed the European Coal and Steel Community (precursor to European Community):
It is perhaps worth pausing to remark on a feature of the Community which did not escape notice at the time. All six foreign ministers who signed the Treaty in 1951 were members of their respective Christian Democratic parties. The three dominant statesmen in the main member states--Alcide De Gasperi, Konrad Adenauer and Robert SchumanÂ--were all from the margins of their countries: De Gasperi from the Trentino, in north-east Italy; Adenauer from the Rhineland; Schuman from Lorraine. When De Gasperi was born--—and well into his adult life--the Trentino was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and he studied in Vienna. Schuman grew up in a Lorraine that had been incorporated into the German Empire. As a young man, like Adenauer, he joined Catholic associations--indeed the same ones that the Rhinelander had belonged to ten years earlier. When they met, the three men conversed in German, their common language.

For all three, as for their Christian Democrat colleagues from bi-lingual Luxembourg, bi-lingual and bi-cultural Belgium, and the Netherlands, a project for European cooperation made cultural as well as economic sense: they could reasonably see it as a contribution to overcoming the crisis of civilization that had shattered the cosmopolitan Europe of their youth. Hailing from the fringes of their own Countries, where identities had long been multiple and boundaries fungible, Schuman and his colleagues were not especially troubled at the prospect of some merging of national sovereignty. All six member countries of the new ECSC had recently seen their sovereignty ignored and trampled on, in war and occupation: they had little enough sovereignty left to lose. And their common Christian Democratic concern for social cohesion and collective responsibility disposed all them to feel comfortable with the notion of a trans-national "‘High Authority" exercising executive power for the common good.

But further north, the prospect was rather different. In the Protestant lands of Scandinavia and Britain (or to the Protestant perspective of a North German liki Schumacher), the European Coal and Steel Community carried a certain whiff authoritarian incense. Tage Erlander, the Swedish Social Democratic Prime Minister from 1948-—68, actually ascribed his own ambivalence about joining to the overwhelming Catholic majority in the new Community. Kenneth Younger, a senior adviser to Bevin, noted in his diary entry for May 14th 1950--—five days aft learning of the Schuman Plan--that while he generally favoured European economic integration the new proposals might "‘on the other hand,. . . be just a step in the consolidation of the Catholic "‘black international" which I have always thought to be a big driving force behind the Council of Europe." At the time this was not an extreme point of view, nor was it uncommon.
None of this was particularly new: the proximal origins of Adenauer and Schuman has been commented on a lot, a efforts to turn Schuman into a Catholic saint, although fruitless, have highlighted the Catholic predisposition to such organizations. This formula--people from the margins acting on de-nationalized, religious idealism--reflects, however, how and when European integration succeeds. Appealing to a common European identity does not succeed as well as working from the boundaries of nation-states, where identities arise more from common experiences rather than concepts of national unity. Supernationalism is super-particularism: the leading elements are the periphery, where conflict is not only more prevalent, but so is the desire to avoid conflict.

[ETA] How funny is it that German, the language that was upheld as a sign of national belonging and sovereignty, was used in this internationalist fashion.


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