Another Historical Perspective on Europeanism

Another Historical Perspective on Europeanism

Dieter Gosewinkel, Social Science Research Center, Berlin/Free University Berlin; Jane Caplan, European Studies Centre St Antony’s College, University of Oxford
United Kingdom
Vom - Bis
13.05.2011 - 14.05.2011
Url der Konferenzwebsite
Henriette Müller, Social Science Research Center Berlin

In recent years, the concept of a “Fortress Europe” has become a firm staple of political discourse about the European Union. The idea stands as a symbol for the ambiguity of European politics. On the one hand, European institutions and member states promote liberalism and democracy by insisting on individual freedom and civil rights, and ensuring free markets as well as the freedom of movement and labor. On the other hand, Europe has a restrictive and anti-liberal immigration policy with regard to its system of border patrols and detention centers that are used to curb illegal immigration into the European Union. Positive values such as human rights, rule of law and civility are thus contradicted by anti-liberal tendencies as a source of European integration and history.

The workshop “Anti-liberal Europe: Another historical perspective on Europeanism” organized by Dieter Gosewinkel (Berlin/Oxford) and Jane Caplan (Oxford) at the European Studies Center St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, on 13-14 May 2011, examined the all too often ignored anti-liberal influences on concepts of Europe and the European integration process. The participants, a group of mostly German and British historians, agreed that anti-liberal thinking has to be analyzed as an essential element of the shaping of Europe and European history. The primary aim of the workshop was to explore the emergence and impact of intrinsically anti-liberal concepts and the experience of violence in or with Europe. The secondary focus investigated the continuities of anti-liberal concepts in their significance not only in historical discourse, but also in current debates on European integration. In his opening speech, DIETER GOSEWINKEL (Oxford/Berlin) argued that anti-liberal European concepts and Europeanization by means of violence and war had not simply blocked but rather strengthened the process of European integration. As such, they represented one of the necessary conditions for its broad and far-reaching success.

Interpreting anti-liberal concepts as essential to the shaping of European history necessitates a reconsideration of the main narrative of European history and historiography, in particular the first half of the 20th century. Due to diplomatic initiatives in the 1950s, a positive idea of ‘European unity’ was crafted and realized as a means to come to terms with the dark side of 20th Century European history. The 1950/60s vision of unified Europe, in its basic form, drew on this historical experience and aspired to transcend purely national perspectives. The focus of the keynote by WOLFGANG SCHMALE (Vienna) was therefore how to (re-)write the history of 20th century Europe in light of the fact that the history of Europe was grounded in its two world wars. From this perspective, fascism and ethnic-cleaning were an integral part of European history. As a result, it emerges that other political ideologies, intellectual groups and states among Europe acting in a distinctly anti-liberal way also profoundly influenced and shaped 20th century European history.

Focusing on the colonial policies of Great Britain and France in the case of Kenya and Algeria from 1945 to 1962, FABIAN KLOSE (Munich) showcased the contradictions of anti-liberalism in Europe. During World War II, the USA, Great Britain and the allied French exile government as part of the Allies, proclaimed liberal principles as the moral basis in the struggle against Nazi Germany (e.g. in the Atlantic Charter of 1941). These principles were enthusiastically embraced by the people in their colonies. Nevertheless, both countries violated these Allied promises after the war, and racism again advanced as a central part of the relationship between colonizers and colonized. For the European powers, however, this aggravated their dilemma of acting as supporters of a liberal order while violently defending their colonial ambitions. This dichotomy was surpassed by the Allies in proclaiming the state of emergency in their colonies. In Klose’s view, this colonial state of emergency was a legal manifestation and a symbol of an anti-liberal Europe during the process of decolonization from the end of World War II to the mid-1960s. The ambivalent political behavior of Great Britain and France towards their colonies during and after World War II shows that not just European dictatorships and collaborating regimes relied on anti-liberal models.

JÜRGEN ELVERT (Cologne) concentrated on the general outlines of National Socialist ideas about Europe. Elvert claimed that Nazi concepts of Europe were to a great extent a continuation from the Weimar Republic or even the 19th century. With Hitler’s coming to power in January 1933, Germany’s “European mission”, which was deeply rooted in the 19th century German “Sonderbewusstsein” had already been part of public opinion. The main themes in Hitler’s foreign policy, such as the revision of Eastern territories after Versailles, the “Anschluss” of Austria, as well as the expansion of economic and political hegemony in Central and Southeastern Europe, had been already part of the Foreign Ministry’s agenda in the 1920s. Thus, the goals of revisionist policy before 1933 became part and parcel of Nazi considerations on how Europe was to be re-shaped both politically and geographically along the lines of a new racial ideology.

One of the propaganda terms created in accordance with Nazi ideology was “Fortress Europe”. In its fight against the Soviet Union, the Nazi regime declared the “European Civil War against Bolshevism”. However, the Third Reich propaganda torpedoed its enemies on both sides in the East and in the West. CARL WEGE (Bielefeld) pointed out that even intellectuals like Walther Kiaulehn or Carl Schmitt shared the Nazi propaganda and the ‘Fortress Europe’-metaphor. Calvinism and Puritanism as integral parts of British and American culture were considered “un-European” in Kiaulehn’s and Schmitt’s writings and characterized as gospels of materialism. Therefore, both saw Great Britain more part of America than of Europe, which was divided into an Atlantic and a continental part as a result. The strategy behind Kiaulehn’s and Schmitt’s anti-liberal argument was gradually to construct an ongoing process of alienation between England and Europe.

More importantly, both Kiaulehn and Schmitt continued their careers after National Socialism without serious interruption. PETER SCHÖTTLER (Berlin/Paris) further exemplified these biographical continuities before and after the Second World War by focusing on Gustav Krukenberg. Krukenberg, a German lawyer and diplomat, frequently spoke out in favor of Europe and a German-French rapprochement – in the interwar years, the Nazi era and after World War II. During the Third Reich he was a brigadier general of the SS and German commander of the division Charlemagne stationed mainly in Eastern Europe. He spent a number of years near the site of German war crimes and he undoubtedly knew about them and, maybe even participated in them. Nevertheless, after the Second World War his concept of Europe corresponded basically to that of Adenauer’s: German-French reconciliation as the core of a European peace framework.

The strong focus of a German-French rapprochement after the Second World War, however, did not automatically represent conservative concepts of Europe in both countries. UNDINE RUGE (Berlin) and VANESSA CONZE (Giessen) presented two intellectual groups in France and Germany who clearly shifted to anti-liberal thinking. In Ruge’s case study, the “Ordre Nouveau”, a French group of nonconformist intellectuals founded during the interwar period with protagonists like Alexandre Marc, opposed not only liberalism or capitalism but also the nation-state and its old-fashioned nationalism. Instead they advocated a “Europe of the Regions” in which society and politics would have to subordinate to the individual and its federalist groups and organizations.

Conze instead focused on the classic conservative and anti-liberal intellectual concept of the German “Abendland” (occident), which referred to the medieval European community of nations and emerged after World War I. German Catholics interpreted the outcome of the war as the collapse of the Prussian-Protestant society, and therefore Catholicism, as a vision of a better future. In this context, the term “Abendland” defined a cultural European unity based on the same religious background. As the Catholic Church claimed to be relatively untouched by the National Socialism, the Abendland-ideology was widely accepted in 1950s West Germany. Due to the common cultural values, the ideology claimed a legitimate place for Germany among other European states and therefore gave an extensive background for reorganizational interests.

Anti-liberal ideology with regard to Europe was not restricted to Western Europe. It should also be asked how Europe was imagined “behind the curtain”? JANA WÜSTENHAGEN (Halle/Berlin) analyzed imaginations of Europe behind the “Iron Curtain” at the example of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The official East German concept of Europe was based on the assumption of two separate German states that were embedded in a pan-European security order. However, when the SED leadership mentioned a common, indivisible European culture, it meant something completely different from Western contexts because the term “Europe” was used only as a politically tendentious term. As a result, the euphoric notion of Europe that had accompanied the revolutions 1989/90 was replaced by a widely spread disinterest in Eastern Germany towards its institutions due to different expectations on Europe.

The concepts of anti-liberal ideologies discussed during the workshop illuminated that anti-liberalism has become a firm perspective on Europe in European history. At the same time, the workshop illustrated the diversity of concepts, groups, historical contexts and intellectual approaches during the 20th century; a deviation from the diplomatic initiatives for European unity in the 1950s. The question remains, however, of how to differentiate and conceptualize precisely liberalism, anti-liberalism and even non-liberalism and to situate them in the mutual (mis-)perceptions and imaginations in the political discourse shifting over time. Any future history of European integration will not only have to take into account the plurality and different constructions of (anti-)liberal traditions but also their geographical/regional diversity across Europe.

Looking at the current state of European institutions, it becomes clear that anti-liberal concepts never disappeared from the European integration process. Instead, the European democratic project constructed by Jean Monnet in the 1950s had a clear elitist and, in that respect, politically anti-liberal thrust. This elitist conception of the European Union continues to shape politics and policies in the European Union today and is one of the reasons for the community’s perceived deficits of democracy, legitimacy, integration and lack of popularity among the European people. Therefore, anti-liberal movements, however constructed, should be seen as challenges to the liberal union of Europe which helped transform European ideology; as such, they are an integral part of European history and the European integration process that deserve the attention of future research. This workshop was undoubtedly a first step in this direction.

Conference overview:

Keynote Lecture
Wolfgang Schmale (Vienna): Writing the History of Europe

Panel 1: Old Concepts – New Perspectives: Anti-liberal Europe
Chair: Ruth Harris (Oxford)

Dieter Gosewinkel (Oxford /Berlin): Anti-liberal Europe: A neglected source of Europeanism

Fabian Klose (München): Europe as a colonial project: A critique of its anti-liberalism

Comment: Michael Freeden (Oxford)

Panel 2: Anti-modernist and Conservative Concepts of Europe
Chair: Robert Gildea (Oxford)

Vanessa Conze (Giessen): Backwards to the future: Europe in German interwar Catholicism

Undine Ruge (Berlin): The conservative origins of the ‘Europe of Regions’

Comment: Christian Bailey (Oxford)

Panel 3: Europeanism in Dictatorship and Collaboration
Chair: Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann (Oxford)

Jürgen Elvert (Cologne): The ‘New European Order’ of National Socialism

Jana Wüstenhagen (Halle/Berlin): Communist Europeanism: The example of the GDR

Comment: Michael Drolet (Oxford)

Panel 4: Anti-liberal continuities of thinking in Europe after 1945
Chair: Jane Caplan

Peter Schöttler (Berlin/Paris): Three kinds of collaboration: Concepts of Europe and the ‘Franco-German entente’ between Versailles and the Elysée Treaty

Carl Wege (Bielefeld): ‘Kulturkritik’: Cultural conservatism and the idea of Europe after 1945

Comment: Martin Conway (Oxford)

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