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PostControversy Surrounding New Constitution (Alain de Benoist, -France, 02/07/12 5:22 am)
Nigel Jones wrote on 6 February: "It is interesting that Vincent Littrell (5 February) quotes the EU's own statements which repeatedly accuse the Hungarian Government of attacking ‘democracy,' since the major threat to democracy in Europe is not poor little powerless Hungary but the European Union itself."
I entirely agree with Nigel. The confrontation between the Hungarian government and the European Commission is interesting in the sense that it shows how a techno-bureaucratic body without any democratic legitimacy can claim the right to threaten a country which only wants to retain its national sovereignty for the benefit of its own citizens. It also shows the fate now reserved for independent peoples who do not want to surrender to supranational bodies or to "global governance."
The Hungarian government has now reached an absolute majority in Parliament and has decided to adopt a new Constitution. The content of this new Constitution can certainly be discussed, but not the right of the Hungarian people to adopt it. Personally, I do dislike several dispositions of this Constitution, but this is just my opinion. I am not a Hungarian, and it's up to the Hungarians to decide what they want to do as a constituent power.
I share all of Nigel's criticism about the EU. The only difference between us is that Nigel is an Eurosceptic by principle, while I am not hostile to the idea of a politically unified European continental block (I say "continental," because I think that the General de Gaulle acted very wisely when, considering the special links between England and the US, he opposed the entrance of the United Kingdom into the former European Common Market). What I criticize is not the principle of a European construct, but the way it has been built for the last 30 years (from a bureaucratic top instead of from the bottom, respecting the principle of subsidiarity at all local, regional and national levels; through commerce and industry instead of through politics and culture; without the approval of the people instead of giving to the European people the role of a real constituent power; in the perspective of creating a Europe-market, a vast zone of free-exchange without any precise borders, instead of creating an independent or autonomous Europe-power with clearly delimited geopolitical borders, etc.).
But let's return to the new Hungarian Constitution. The first thing to do when one wants to speak about this subject if of course to read it carefully. I did this. What is says about religion is just anecdotal. The measure which made the European Commission, the banks and the financial markets so angry is the decision to suppress the "independence" of the Hungarian central bank. I strongly support this decision. The "independence" of all European central banks, beginning with the "federal" BCE (Banque centrale européenne) should be abolished.
The main financial crisis now is the crisis of public debt. One of the reasons why the public debt has grown for years is to be found in a decision taken almost 40 years ago by the French government. By a law enacted on 3 January 1973, under Georges Pompidou (Valéry Giscard d'Estaing being the Finance minister), it was officially forbidden to the French central bank (Banque de France) to lend any more money to the French State with an insignificant interest rate. This decision was taken because such a practice encouraged inflation. This was true, but instead of trying to limit the risk of inflation with some regulations without putting an end to this system, the French government jumped to the opposite extreme.
Similar decisions were made afterwards in the other European countries. The same interdiction was renewed in the Maastricht Treaty (Art. 104), then in the Lisbon Treaty (Art. 123). By taking such a decision, the European States condemned themselves to borrowing money from private banks and financial markets. They surrender in advance to private finance. The situation became surreal, because the banks still have the possibility (that the States do not have anymore) to refinance themselves beside the central banks with an extremely low interest rate (around 0.5 or 1 %) and then to lend money to the States with a higher or much higher rate interest (3, 4, 5, 7 %). In these conditions, the States, being even unable to repay the interest of their previous loans, had to borrow always more money from the banks and financial markets, with the result that their debts and the interests of their public debts never stopped growing. After a while, the situation became unsustainable. This is the point where are arrived now.
To conclude, I would like to make a prediction for 2012 (it is probably not too late) and to express a wish:
My prediction : while 2011 was a real annus horribilis for Europe, 2012/2013 will be a (far worse?) annus horribilis for the United States.
My wish : I hope that Scotland will become an independent country in a few years.
JE comments: Greetings to all from the Toronto airport, where I have a layover of several hours after the overnight flight from Santiago. As my countryman Bob Seger might say, I'm feeling a bit "strung out from the road." Apologies to Alain for the delay in posting this note, but now I'm curious: why will 2012-13 be worse for the US than for Europe? Some of the EU nations still have unresolved debt issues, while the US appears to be in the middle of a recovery, albeit a glacial-slow one.
(George Krajcsik, USA
02/07/12 8:12 AM)
I read with much interest Alain de Benoist's post of 7 February, and agree with him whole-heartedly regarding the new Hungarian Constitution. Defying Brussels bureaucrats (who are not elected by popular vote) and asserting national sovereignty by a government elected by a 2/3 majority is nearly like the 1956 Hungarian uprising. At that time the people rose up against communist tyranny; this time their perceived enemy is equally dangerous.
An interesting and little-noticed minor change wrought by the new constitution (the old one was written in 1949 and Soviet-inspired) is the official name of the country Magyarország (Hungary) instead of Magyar Köztársaság (Republic of Hungary).
JE comments: It's great to hear from George Krajcsik--you've been silent for too long, George! WAIS misses you.
I should follow Alain de Benoist's advice and actually read [a translation of] the new Constitution, but maybe my WAIS colleagues could answer a question: is Hungary's move a shot across the bow of the EU? It wasn't long ago that the former Soviet Bloc nations were climbing over each other to join the EU on its terms. Things are different now.
And what about the matter of the apparent restrictions on religious expression? This was the raison d'etre of Vincent Littrell's original post.
- Controversy Surrounding New Constitution; Muslims in Hungary (Vincent Littrell, USA 02/08/12 1:27 AM)
I have found the responses to my post of Nigel Jones (6 February) and Alain de Benoist (7 February) most interesting, though I confess they took the conversation in a direction I didn't intend. John Eipper is correct; my focus was primarily the religious aspect. A direct question I have is, what is the state of Islam in Hungary? I do have some thoughts.
Alain clearly brushes aside the subject of religion and gives nationalism its due while rightfully upholding the rights of independent Hungary to make its own constitution. (I think there are subtle complexities to the idea of national self-determination Alain doesn't touch on, having to do with the what I deem to be requirements of high moral philosophy and spirituality underpinning efforts towards national self-determination in concert with accepted human rights norms.)
What are the underlying sources of moral philosophy for the current party in power enacting these constitutional changes in Hungary? I suspect the moral foundations in question are underpinned by a myopia of vision that undermines the intent of the EU overall and might find antecedents in the toxic nationalism to be found in Hungary and other places in Eastern Europe that has contributed to traditional antipathies that provide a backdrop to ethnically oriented problematics and outright atrocity. (Some years ago I had one Budapest-born Hungarian friend who was a spiritually deep Christian adhering to a universalist and highly ecumenical branch of Christendom, yet when the issue of Romanians came up, this person couldn't contain a powerful expression of outright visceral hatred...and this was a well-educated and well-traveled person.)
Does the Hungarian constitution fall in line with the Charter of Human Rights for the European Union? (See http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2007:303:0001:0016:EN:PDF )
Regarding religion in Hungary, on the surface it may appear that the new constitution is in line with the EU Human Rights Charter Article 10, which states:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes
freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance."
At a deeper level, it might be that the constitution sets up conditions for future nationalist-derived resistance to non-recognized religion in Hungary. Such constitutional exclusions of established religion could have harmful reverberations across the EU and with relations with the Muslim world, unless checked. In regards to Islam in Hungary, signs of cultural and nationalist resistance to Islam can be found, similiar to right-wing backlash to Islam in other European countries. As far as I can tell, Muslims in Hungary are far and away a minority. A 2001 figure I ran across showed there to be fewer than 6,000 Muslims in Hungary. It appears that Muslims for a number of reasons have been blocked from building a cultural center in Budapest.
If there are so few Muslims in Hungary now, and of course with continuing historical reflections of past Ottoman barbarity in what is now Hungary, as well as increasing Islamophobia overall in Europe, it makes sense from a nationalist perspective that there might be lack of knowledge, even uninformed antipathy, towards Islam in Hungary. Yesterday I was reading online about the conversion of a Hungarian woman to Islam and the unpleasant treatment meted out to her by family and friends. If cultural and nationalistic myopia get in the way of acceptance of "the other" as co-equal in ontological terms, then it is to be resisted and I applaud the EU institutions for appearing to do so, despite the flaws inherent to those institutions so well pointed out by Nigel Jones.
This post has gone on long enough. I would like to say though that I do view the EU as part of an inexorable process of necessary transcending of sovereignty. I also confess to having what some might term as a world view rooted in antinomy. An antinomial world view is one that views appearance of contradiction being rooted in a providential mystery (see Malcolm Magee's "Woodrow Wilson, Wilsonianism, and the Idealism of Faith" in the Winter 2011 issue of Faith & International Affairs for an interesting discussion of this concept of "antinomy" as it related to President Wilson's world view and foreign policy). The undemocratic nature of regional and global entities like the European Union and the United Nations doesn't in my view negate their status and ability to check the myopic particularisms of nationalistic thought and action. The lack of democratic nature to the United Nations so recently exemplified by Russia's and China's ability to reject the effort to condemn the Syrian regime doesn't negate the UN in my view. The UN is still an absolutely vital aspect to the evolving world order, despite its flaws and then need for reform. I hold a similar view to the EU.
JE comments: Budapest was Ottoman-controlled for 140 years, through 1686. I suspect this memory has inscribed a lasting anti-Muslim sentiment in the Hungarian capital. (As in Spain, there must be folk legends about the Muslim "other"; perhaps George Krajcsik could share some examples.) On the other hand, Hungary's history gives it even less justification to de-certify Islam in its constitution, given that Islam is literally one of its heritage religions.
Controversy Surrounding New Constitution; Muslims in Hungary
(George Krajcsik, USA
02/09/12 4:07 AM)
My understanding of the question of "authorized" religions or sects in the Hungarian Constitution is as follows. Authorized religions receive support from government, non-authorized religions do not. Further, one of the conditions of "authorization" is having a presence in the country for at least ten years. No religion is barred, but for support it can't look to the government even though it might operate schools, hospitals, or other charitable institutions.
I do not follow Edward Jajko's comment (7 February) about Hungarians having forgotten Cardinal Mindszenty. How?
On my one and only visit to Santiago, Chile (November, 2005) I failed to go see the Mindszenty memorial. On the other hand, I joined a travel group to Valparaiso and saw Pablo Neruda's house. How ironic I visited an arch-communist's memorial, but failed to pay homage to a man of conscience, victim of communism, and fellow countryman. I must correct that and go to Chile, again!
And now, in response to Vincent Littrell (8 February):
Over the past 45 years I have visited Hungary and some of its lost territories (in its surrounding countries) every year for weeks at a time. This gave me an insight that few non-Hungarians would have. Based on these experiences I make the following observations.
Muslims in Hungary, though few in numbers, enjoy the same religious freedom as any other religion. The new constitution does not contradict Article 10 in The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion). Still, Islam is not an "authorized" religion for a number of historical reasons, which simply means it receives no government support, but it is by no means forbidden.
Muslims who presently live in Hungary are all recent immigrants from Turkey, Iran, or Arab countries. They are few in numbers; Hungarians who converted to Islam are practically non-existent. The Ottoman empire carrying the banner of Islam held sway over 2/3 of Hungarian territory from 1526 to 1686. Of that long reign of terror, only a handful of words adopted into Hungarian and fewer than half a dozen non-functional minarets as tourist curiosities survive to this day, plus the memory of eradication of population in the southern part of Hungary. Hungarians considered themselves a shield of Christendom and saviors of Western Culture, especially after a number of unsuccessful crusades against the Ottomans conducted shortly before the conquest of Constantinople and up to the time of the fall of Nándorfehérvár (today Belgrade) in 1521. In 1526, after the battle of Mohacs, Hungary ceased to exist as an independent nation for nearly 400 years. Between a rock and a hard place--forgive the cliche--Muslims and Germans, Hungarians survived.
After a vicious anti-reformation movement, led by Peter Pazmany, which converted 65% of the population to Catholicism, came German and Polish troops to aid Hungarians to drive the Muslims from Hungary.
Into the southern part of Hungary, made desolate by Ottoman conquest, poured semi-nomadic families from Wallachia and Serbia. These people would graze their sheep and cattle on mountain meadows, where they would also hide, living in tents and burrows dug into hillsides, and periodically descend to towns to rob, murder, and pillage. Most of these people were eventually assimilated and became more "Hungarian" than the Hungarian themselves. Consider, for example, Petöfi Sándor the poet whose family name was Petrovic, indicating Serbian origin.
As to the "visceral hatred" exhibited by Vincent Littrell's Budapest-born friend, being a well-traveled, ecumenical Christian, I can only say he is to be pitied. The Treaty of Trianon (after WWI) is considered unjust by a very large percentage of Hungarians, because it awarded nearly half of Hungarian territory to Rumania. Vincent's friend's misguided emotions may be attributed to that.
On a related issue: why should any nation give up its right to its way of life? Must every club accept anyone who wants to join?
JE comments: I'm very grateful to George Krajcsik for this lesson in Hungarian history. Steve Torok used to treat us to the Hungarian perspective quite frequently. How much I miss Steve! It's hard to believe that he's been gone for nearly four years.
And yes, George: you must return to Chile soon! I plan to do just that on my next opportunity--and stay for more than three days. (And to anyone who has the chance: don't miss the Neruda house in Valparaíso: five stories, and five rooms. Whatever your politics, it's one of the most unique and charming dwellings you'll ever see. I was struck by the transparent glass door on the bathroom. Don't know why anyone would want that.)
Post Unpublished - please check back later
- France, UK and EU (Nigel Jones, -UK 02/08/12 6:57 AM)
It is always a pleasure (and happens with surprising frequency) when my old intellectual sparring partner Alain de Benoist (7 February) "entirely agrees" with one of my posts! (Though I suspect that we often reach identical conclusions by looking from the polar opposites at a given question).
Alain has clearly studied the Hungarian question in more depth than I. All I can add to the matter is that I see a familiar pattern once again raising its ugly head. Viz, a government elected with an overwhelming majority of its own people being bullied and overruled by an unelected outside power. The Hungarians, of course, have plenty of experience of being bullied by an over-mighty foreign power. When they resisted in 1956, they were crushed by Soviet tanks. Resistance in 2012 will be crushed by the less spectacular, but no less powerful, forces of the EU's economic tanks.
I would, however, like to widen the discussion to take up some of Alain's other points by borrowing a title from my hero George Orwell and writing a few "Notes on Nationalism," since I believe that it is old-fashioned nationalism--or, if you prefer, patriotism--that will destroy the European Union. Let me try to explain.
Alain, as I hope he would agree, is a patriotic Frenchman. France, perhaps because of its unhappy experiences of occupation in the 20th century, is still an intensely patriotic, not to say nationalistic, nation. It was instrumental in setting up the organisation that has evolved from the Franco-German Iron and Steel confederation to the Common Market, to the European Economic Community, to the European Community and finally to today's European Union.
The EU, in all its manifestations, is a French project, founded by two Frenchmen (Monnet and Schumann) and was seen by France as a way of avoiding a fourth ruinous war with Germany, while dominating smaller European countries. The EU's structure is that of a French department of state; its civil servants are either French or French-minded; its subsidiary institutions likewise.
General de Gaulle, as a nationalistic Frenchman, saw the EU--along with the remnants of the French empire, still tied to France despite notional independence--as a way of projecting a French "Force du frappe" (power) in rivalry to the hated Anglo-Saxons. As Alain rightly notes, he kept Britain out of the Common Market because, as a nation as big as France, it might challenge France's leading role. De Gaulle also had a personal issue with Britain and America as he had been forced to flee to London in WWII and entirely depended on British support for his "Free French" movement. Had it not been for Churchill's backing (which he later regretted) no one would have ever heard of De Gaulle. FDR was no fan of De Gaulle and opposed him until that became politically impossible. For a proud man like De Gaulle, this humiliating dependence on the Anglo-Saxons was intolerable, and he had his revenge by keeping Britain out of the Common Market while he had the chance.
When Britain finally got in in 1973, the architecture of the EU was already set in stone and was impossible to alter. (You cannot build a Wren cathedral when Le Corbusier has already designed the ground floor.) It is this basic incompatibility of a continental system with an "Anglo-Saxon" one that has made the EU ever more unpopular in Britain ever since--along with its increasingly sinister anti-democratic power grab. The country that bred the Levellers, the Chartists, and the Suffragettes and invented Parliamentary democracy around 1700 doesn't take too kindly to being run by countries whose democracy is fragile and recent at best, and whose leading political figures over the past couple of centuries have been Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler and Franco.
Now its time for a bit of honesty: I think Alain's animosity to the Anglo-Saxon model is rooted in history. If I were French I would resent a country that has won every conflict with France (and there have been many of them) since the 100 Years War ended in the 1450s. I would resent the two nations who liberated France in two World Wars, and the graves of whose soldiers who died in that liberation still litter the soil of north and eastern France.
Nationalism is still a force far more potent than the ersatz new "European" identity, with its stupid flag of stars and its hated nomenklatura promoted in Brussels. That was OK in the good times, but in economic winter, older ties reassert themselves. That's why German flags are burned in Athens. Why Germans grumble about lazy Greeks, and why little Sarkozy gets angry with the City of London. No doubt its all very sad and anachronistic, but--hey--so is Europe!
As for Alain wishing Scotland independent (because it would weaken the England he dislikes), it might surprise him to learn that I, and most English people, heartily desire such an outcome too. Scotland is heavily subsidised by the English taxpayer. The only problem is the Scots themselves--according to opinion polls they don't want independence, because they want to continue sucking on the teat of the said taxpayer.
JE comments: With this posting from Nigel Jones, the dormant Jones-Benoist polemic will be jostled back to life. I believe Alain will deny that he's a French nationalist; I've always seen him more as a champion of pre-modern (i.e., pre-national) cultures and institutions.
- Hungary and the EU (Carmen Negrin, -France 02/09/12 4:34 AM)
I differ with the analysis of Alain de Benoist (7 February), inasmuch as there was a referendum in Hungary in 2003 as to whether Hungarians wanted or not to adhere to the European Union. The results were 83.8% in agreement with a 45.6% participation.
JE comments: A question for our EU-watchers. Has any referendum on the EU been held since the beginning of the Debt Crisis? EU membership used to be viewed in the peripheral European nations as the quickest ticket to riches and respectability. Now the Greek experience is showing otherwise.
Post Unpublished - please check back later
Croatia's Referendum on the EU
(Nigel Jones, -UK
02/09/12 7:19 AM)
JE asked on 9 February if any nation has held a referendum on the EU since the beginning of the Debt Crisis. The answer is "Yes." As recently as 22 January 2012 the people of Croatia (or the 45% of them who turned out to vote) voted to join the EU in 2013 by a 66% - 33% margin. The news from the southern end of the Balkan peninsula clearly has not reached them yet! The way things are going it looks like Greece will tumble out of the eurozone as Croatia tumbles in.
JE comments: My thanks to Nigel for the update. Does Croatia still see EU membership as a ticket to "riches and respectability" (my words, perhaps clumsily chosen)? Two-thirds of voting Croats must think so.
- Post Unpublished - please check back later
- Controversy Surrounding New Constitution; Muslims in Hungary (Vincent Littrell, USA 02/08/12 1:27 AM)