John Laughland speaks in Rome on the euro
Date de publication: 15.03.2012
The Metaphysics of the Euro
Remarks at the launch of Roberto de Mattei's "L'Euro contro l'Europa",
Fondazione Lepanto, Rome, 15 March 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour and a pleasure to speak today at the launch of Roberto de Mattei's book on the euro. Professor de Mattei is not only a figure of national renown in Italy both as a historian and as a man of political influence. He is also one of the first Europeans, and certainly one of the first continental Europeans, to have criticised the Maastricht treaty. In the book we are launching today, he reproduces the letter he sent to Members of the European Parliament in May 1992, every word of which merits re-reading 20 years on. May I remind you that by May 1992, the Danes had not yet voted No to Maastricht, the United Kingdom and Italy were still members of the Exchange Rate Mechanism, and the French referendum on that treaty had not been announced. Continental Europe had hardly discussed the treaty at all (although it had, of course, been a matter of massive political controversy in my country, the United Kingdom, where the dispute over Europe had led to the overthrow of Margaret Thatcher in November 1990). Roberto's initiative to MEPs was therefore prophetic.
20 years later, Professor de Mattei remains one of the most perspicacious critics of what is happening in Europe today. He was, I believe, one of the first to attack the "commisariamento" of Italy - the appointment of a former European commissioner as president of the Council - and the irony that it occurred on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy. Let us never forget that, however many internal political enemies Silvio Berlusconi may have had, he was in the end overthrown by by a coup hatched or at least encouraged in Brussels, and that this occurred the week after he had declared that Italian had become poorer as a result of the euro:
"We know that after the introduction of the euro a significant part of the Italian population suffered impoverishment."
This was perhaps the shortest suicide note in political history. It occurred, in turn, at the same time as George Papandreou was removed from power in Greece 9 days after he announced a referendum on the bailout plan. It was explicitly under pressure from European leaders that he withdrew this proposal and we expelled from office shortly thereafter.
The situation since then, in which a group of Northern states grouped around Germany seems to want to go ahead and create "Europe" without Rome or Athens will remind historians like Professor de Mattei of Gottfried von Bismarck's decision to call his federation of Northern states "Germany" when in fact it excluded all the Germans in the Austro-Hungarian empire. But what strikes him, as an acute political analyst, and what cannot fail to strike any objective observer, is the radically anti-democratic nature of these decisions. When Angela Merkel boasted in January that the new budget rules could henceforth never be changed by a majority in a national parliament, she was only emphasising that what the EU cannot achieve by consent, it will achieve by force.
This is indeed one of the principal lessons we must draw from the history of the European construction over the past 20 years. An organisation created ostensibly to promote and entrench democracy has in fact become a serial violator of it. I would like to remind you that referendums which produced No results against further European integration have been overruled no fewer than 5 times in the last 2 decades: in Denmark in 1992, in Ireland in 2001, in France and the Netherlands in 2005 (when they voted against the European constitution which was then re-packaged as the Lisbon treaty) and finally in Ireland again in 2008 when it in turn voted against Lisbon. To this we must add the refusal to allow a referendum in Greece in 2011 and the refusal by the British Conservatives in government to hold a referendum on Lisbon as they had firmly and explicitly promised to do in 2010. EU member states continue to lecture other European countries, for instance Russia, about democracy but they should recall the parable of the mote and the beam.
There is a second lesson we must draw from the last 20 years of European integration and it is also one on which Roberto de Mattei has written very eloquently, not only in the book we are discussing today but in "De Europa, Tra radici cristiane e sogni postmoderni" (2006). This lesson is that there is a metaphysical problem with Europe and the euro. Europe is in a state of permanent institutional revolution. Since the Maastricht Treaty was signed 20 years ago, there have been major overhauls of the treaty structure of the EU every few years: the Maastricht treaty of 1992 was superseded by the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, by the European Constitution drawn up in 2004, and by the Lisbon treaty finally ratified in 2009. This year, 2012, two new treaties have been signed by all but 2 EU states, the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance and the Treaty Establishing the European Security Mechanism. In other words, if we add the Single European Act ratified in 1986, the EU will have been in a state of permanent institutional turmoil for 27 years by the time the new treaties are ratified. In addition, accession treaties have been signed which have added new member states over this period - 3 new member states joined in 1995 (Austria, Finland and Sweden) and 10 more in 2004 (the Eastern European states plus Malta and Cyprus). Finally, the Schengen agreement abolishing border controls is also a treaty: it was originally signed in 1985, amended in 1990, and extended to nine new states in 2007. The contrast is striking with the 28 years of institutional stability which existed between 1957, when the Treaty of Rome was signed, and the Single European Act in 1985.
As Roberto de Mattei says in this and his previous books, there is a metaphysical aspect to this permanent change. In the early days of European integration, EU leaders used to justify this constant institutional change by saying that the EU was like a bicycle which had to keep moving forward or else it would fall over. This metaphor was in fact originally used by the Marxist guerrilla Che Guevara, to describe the revolution which, he said, was like a bicycle. Indeed, the doctrine of permanent change, in reality as in society, is an absolutely key element of Marxist metaphysics. It is very clearly stated by Engels in his Dialektik der Natur where the co-father of Marxism draws heavily on the theories of Charles Darwin to promote a modern form of materialistic Heracliteranism: In the latter work, Engels explained how Darwin’s theories of random genetic mutation and had revolutionised the very understanding of nature itself.
"The new view of nature was ready in its basic outlines: everything rigid was dissolved, everything fixed has evaporated, everything which had been held to be eternal became transitory, the whole of nature was proved to be moving in eternal flux and circulation."3]
To understand the key role of Darwinism in Marxism - and then, by extension, in the political metaphysics of Europe - I beg you to read, if you have not done so, Friederich Engels' funeral oration for Karl Marx at Highgate cemetery in London on 17 March 1883. Engels specifically included two evolutionary biologists among the tiny group of 9 or 10 mourners, one of whom went on to become the Director of the National History Museum, and in this speech, Engels make the link between Marx and Darwin explicitly clear. “Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history,” he said. That law, Engels told the mourners, was that social and political arrangements, and indeed even law and culture itself, were dependent on the level of economic development. This is the origin of the famous Marxist doctrine of the state as a "superstructure" for ever-changing impersonal class relationships. It should never be forgotten, indeed, that Marx and Engels were in favour of globalisation, which they called "the bourgeois revolution", because they were convinced that the cosmopolitan forces of international capitalism would sweep away all traditional social structures, especially the family and the state. I have to say that they were right. I mention this link with Darwinism, among other things, because it is also a subject on which, as I am sure you know, Professor de Mattei has written.
As Roberto de Mattei shows in this book and others, the EU today is welcomed by its supporters precisely because of its institutional relativism. Gianni Vattimo, for instance, praises Europe specifically for its "artificialità" and its "radicale antinaturalismo". According to Vattimo, the EU denies supposed laws of nature and restores to man his ability to model the political and social order freely. (Mattei, De Europa, p. 31). National sovereignty in Europe, therefore, is being dissolved not to create a super-state but to create a non-state (L'euro contro l'Europa, p. 46) - a system in which the lines of responsibility are deliberately blurred because they change all the time. This culture of indeterminacy and relativism applies above all to those key political and social concepts, state, nation and family. The euro is a specifically post-national construction, as is evidenced by the fact that the bridges and windows on the euro notes are not, in fact, real bridges or windows at all. They exist only in the artists's imagination but nowhere in real Europe. National symbols, meanwhile, are relegated to the meanest coins. At the time of the Maastricht treaty, the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, and other European idelogues, specifically said that nationhood in Europe had to be overcome or else there would be war, and it is this hatred of nationhood - and of the notion of Christian Europe - which inspired the attacks on Serbia in 1999 and which continue to inspire the verbal attacks on Russia today: when Russia's president, Dmitri Medvedev, visited Paris in March 2011, he took an hour out of his official schedule to visit Notre Dame for a service of veneration of the Holy Crown of Thorns, the symbol of Christ's royalty over the world. This desire to create a non-state and a non-nation in the place of Europe's existing nations and states, of which the euro is the primary instrument, is nothing but the old Marxist-Leninist doctrine of the withering away of the state in new guise. I hardly need add that the same people who attack the nation also attack the family: the most pro-European member of the British cabinet, Francis Maude, has just written that the Conservatives must support gay marriage, while the veteran MEP and former revolutionary, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, wrote in Le Monde on 24 February 2012 that left-wing parliamentarians should support the Treaty Establishing the European Stability Mechanism, which he described as "a first step towards a federal Europe", by "following the example of their predecessors who in 1975 voted the Loi Veil legalising abortion".
Such absurdities are nothing but the attitude of metaphsical revolt described by Albert Camus in L'homme révolté: the refusal to accept reality as given. The refusal by the authors of the European Constitution to insert any reference to Europe's Christian heritage or to God was therefore no coincidence: the EU project, and especially the euro, is a monument to the idea that there are no inherited political or social realities and that we owe no debt to our state, to our history or of course not to God. It is quite simply a rejection of reality, as is the project of integrating Turkey into the EU on which Professor de Mattei has also written, in a book, published in 2009, La Turchia in Europa, which I had the honour of translating into English. This project is unrealistic from the political, economic, social, cultural and religious point of view; yet we are now in the 6th year of negotiations with Turkey, negotiations which have always led to accession in every single previous case. At the same time, our EU leaders push away as far as possible our biggest non-EU European neighbour, Christian Russia.
This rejection is visible above all in the monetary domain. Roberto de Mattei understands this point perfectly well and he concludes this book with it when he calls for a return to "the real" in the international monetary order (p. 58), that is to say to money which is based on a real commodity like gold. This is the point on which I would like to conclude. The creation of the current world monetary system based on paper alone, which resulted from the progressive reduction of the role of gold, and the progressive increase of the discretionary power of the state, culminated when President Nixon chose the Feast of Assumption in 1971 to announce that US dollars would no longer be reimbursed in cash. The resulting monetary system, or lack of system, is based on precisely this rebellious attitude to reality - on the idea that man must create his own systems and not inherit them or work with what he has. It is no coincidence if paper currency is called "fiat currency" - by creating it, man attributes to himself the power of creation - fiat - which of course belongs only to God. It is emphatically not the humble "fiat" of the Angelus ! As the great counter-revolutionary philosopher and politician, Edmund Burke, understood - he devoted about one-third of his Reflections on the Revolution in France to economic and monetary questions, specifically attacking the revolutionary currency, the assignat, for being an act of sacrilege - the creation of money "ex nihilo" is fundamentally diabolical. Both the historical Faust and the Faust in Goethe's play were alchemists who produced money for their lords. The creation of money, which is also the creation of time, is a nothing less than an attempt to seize the absolute by mean of human will. Engels, incidentally, quotes Faust to explain his dialectical materialism.
Ever since the last link to gold was cut in 1971, states have amassed mountains of debt. The French budget has not been balanced since 1973 and nor, I expect, has the Italian. The current attempts to limit debt through treaties are ridiculous because the very core of the financial system itself, the currency, is in fact nothing but a debt instrument which is never honoured by the central banks which issue it. Writing treaties is as futile as signing Declarations of the Rights of Man - such texts are but "chaff and rags". Debt is the very basis of our financial system today and it is nothing but the mortgaging of the future to pay for the present. Only a Europe which has stopped making babies could so shamelessly pass on such debts to its children. The situation can be changed only when our debits - i nostri debiti - are replaced by our credits, that is to say by our credo.
(For a report in Italian on the event, click here. For a short introductory video, also in Italian, click here.)
Quoted in La Repubblica, 4 November 2011: http://www.repubblica.it/economia/2011/11/04/news/g20_ultimatum_italia-24390352/
"Das Wichtige ist, dass Schuldenbremsen in jede nationale Verfassung oder so in die Rechtssetzung eingeführt werden, dass sie bindend und ewig für die Verabschiedung von Budgets geltend sind. Das ist ganz wichtig. Man kann also niemals sozusagen durch neue Mehrheiten in einem Parlament verändern ...", (emphasis added). See Pressekonferenz Bundeskanzlerin Merkel nach dem informellen Treffen des Europäischen Rates, 30 January 2012, http://www.bundeskanzlerin.de/Content/DE/Mitschrift/Pressekonferenzen/2012/01/2012-01-30-eu-rat-bkin.html. See also "Germany to set the terms for saving the euro," The Guardian, 31 January 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jan/30/eu-summit-eurozone-treaty-deal
Friedrich Engels, Dialektik der Natur, Marx Engels Werke Band 20 (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1990) p. 312.
Conservative Party must back gay marriage or it will be unelectable, Francis Maude to warn, The Daily Telegraph, 7 March 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/9127505/Conservative-Party-must-back-gay-marriage-or-it-will-be-unelectable-Francis-Maude-to-warn.html
"Mécanisme européen de stabilité : la bourde historique de la gauche", Daniel Cohn-Bendit et autres, Le Monde, 24 février 2012.
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