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A European ‘way of life’? September 17, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Not sure I fully agree with this analysis. Daniel Trilling in the Guardian, correctly in my view, argues that there’s something noxious about ‘the incoming president of the European commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to unveil a new role on Tuesday: vice-president for protecting the European way of life.’
And what is the ‘European way of life’? Attempting to define it demonstrates how impossible it is to answer that question.

But I think Trilling over-stretches in the following:

It is nationalism, not populism or an “anti-establishment” feeling among voters, that poses the greatest threat in Europe – and it is a problem that cuts across the political spectrum. As the sociologist Sivamohan Valluvan argues in a thought-provoking new book, Europe is experiencing its third historic surge of nationalism…Nationalism is an inherently exclusionary ideology, argues Valluvan, in which political community is always defined in opposition to “alien” outsiders, however much we might wish it otherwise.


But it can take many forms. Alongside the conservative nationalism of the right, which emphasises tradition, religion or ethnicity, there are liberal nationalisms that can be just as powerful and as exclusionary. Think of the way that British governments, from the 1990s on, have made a forceful distinction between deserving and undeserving migrants: for instance, in policing access to the welfare state. Or of the way in which supposedly European values of tolerance and free speech are deployed in order to stigmatise outsiders who, for religious or cultural reasons, are assumed not to share them.

Those are some fairly massive generalisations about nationalism. I can think of the SNP immediately, or even SF, as examples of nationalist formations that have eschewed precisely that approach across the years. Sure, SF is republican as well, but the point stands.

Moreover I’m always struck by those who seem to think that say, British Labour or continental conservative parties aren’t somehow ‘nationalist’. Those with long memories will consider that 1914 disabused most of us of the idea that nationalism is embedded within nations and indeed the left.

Indeed the term ‘nationalist-right’ seems to me to be a better definition of the dynamics he is describing.

Curiously Trilling takes a different route again in the following:

Since the Brexit referendum, the EU, especially among liberals, has often been held up as the antidote to nationalism. Yet for all its laudable aims – and its successes in reducing conflict between states – it plays host to its own, pernicious kind of civilisational chauvinism, one that draws a rigid line between “Europe” and neighbouring regions to the south and the east. The long history of ideas about European superiority, and the racist logic through which they were enforced, cannot be ignored here. We all know that “European” is often still used as a synonym for “white people”. Indeed, when Von der Leyen proclaimed that her new commissioners would be “as diverse as Europe is”, noting their gender balance and range of national backgrounds, she seemed not to notice that all of them were white.

None of this is wrong, but it is perhaps attempting to bring together radically different phenomena.

Europe can only be a very shallow short-hand for the very diverse populations that live on this part of the continent. But Europe isn’t a nation and a European ‘nationalism’ doesn’t come close to existing. Indeed the complexity is such that those who adhere most closely to Europeanism tend to the opposite, and are enthused by the multiplicity of nations working together. That can be starry eyed nonsense in its worst iteration, but a more sober approach incorporating that is no unpositive. For an example of very real movements of people I can point to no better examples than those who we see in this state, or those of us who have moved across Europe to various points. That there are contradictions in regard to those outside the EU is unquestionable – but it is also worth keeping in mind that it was precisely those flows within the EU that have been used by the English far-right and nationalist-right to gain support.

And I’ve puzzled over the following and still am no clearer as to what he means:

It is understandable that people in Britain might feel there are more pressing issues than appointments in Brussels. But the rightwards drift of the commission has an important connection to our own arguments about Brexit. The question of the UK’s future relationship with the EU has to be more than a choice between fighting to remain within an unchanged Fortress Europe, or leaving to create our own Fortress Britain instead.

Is that the question, is that the choice? I’ve never heard or read it defined as such. Anything but. In reality Brexit means that the UK will leave an area where the citizens of 27 nations are able to largely move at will across its expanse.


1. tafkaGW - September 17, 2019

A total head-in-hands own-goal in terms of naming of that vice-presidency.

But is it so surprising from a German CDU politician, who’s party has spent the last 3 years trying, unsuccessfully, to appease the AfD?


2. FergusD - September 17, 2019

“Those with long memories will consider that 1914 disabused most of us of the idea that nationalism is embedded within nations and indeed the left.“. Maybe I have misunderstood this but surely 1914 showed that social democracy IS nationalist in outlook. They all abandoned their internationalism to support their ‘own’ national bourgeoisie. Except those who split off to form the CPs.

GW – haven’t some Die Linke politicos been voicing support for greater German military spending?


WorldbyStorm - September 17, 2019

Sorry I wrote that incorrectly FergusD, you’re right, I did indeed mean to say nationalism is embedded within nations and the left, not that it wasn’t!


3. Paul Culloty - September 18, 2019

Spain offers further examples of a nationalist left – yes, there may be an emphasis on regional languages and culture, but generally Esquerra, regional affiliates of Podemos and Bildu encourage immigrants to share that heritage, rather than viewing culture through a racial perspective.

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