This article was published online by Valeurs Actuelles on 9 February 2022.
The most important conservative parties in Europe have just reached an agreement which may soon lead to a political alliance within the European Parliament. But can this principled opposition go as far as the fundamental reform that the European institutions so need? This is the question asked by David Engels, professor at the Free University of Brussels and at the Instytut Zachodni in Poznań, and Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski, an analyst in a Polish government agency dealing with industrial policy.
Europe’s most important conservative parties have finally reached a principle agreement about their values and future collaboration – an agreement which may soon manifest itself in the form of a political alliance in the European Parliament. Certainly, this alliance could become one of the strongest formations of this assembly; nevertheless, given the current political configuration, there is little hope of breaking the “cordon sanitaire” and moving from a principled opposition to the fundamental reform that European institutions on the loose so desperately need.
Undoubtedly, Poland and Hungary show day by day the successes that a patriotic and conservative government can achieve, but the pressure to which they are subjected is such that their influence on the evolution of Europe remains limited. On the other hand, an electoral victory of the RN (or of Éric Zemmour’s movement in France) or of the two conservative parties in Italy could have an effect comparable to an avalanche. Of course, just as it once did in the United States after Donald Trump’s election, the deep state and self-righteous elites will do all they can to sabotage such a government Especially in France, where it will be difficult to bring about change without parliamentary majority. Nevertheless, the disruption caused to the globalist order would be considerable, especially if it were part of the logic of close collaboration with other conservative parties and governments in Europe.
In France, this would above all mean turning to Poland – at long last, one would be tempted to say, because the relative disinterest of the conservative elites towards the current Polish government is a major tactical error. What could be the issues and prospects of such a potential cooperation between the Polish PiS and the French patriotic right, especially in view of the current duplication of the latter’s presidential candidates and the ideological uncertainty that is taking hold there?
European conservatives have been so divided in the past that it seems relevant to ask whether the very term “conservative” still has any meaning. Sovereignism against Westernism, Russophilia against Atlanticism, Christianity against secularism, liberalism against Christian-socialism – conservatism is a distinct universe with often deeper internal divisions than better known and largely feigned ones, between the “left” and the well-meaning “right”. Will it be possible to overcome these historical divisions, often exacerbated by old historical grudges between factions, parties and states? Yes, but there is a price to pay: burying a series of resentments (and hopes) in order to focus all the energy on the crucial points leading to political victory.
Poland is an excellent example of this approach, and the ideological choices of the current government seem to constitute a realistic and pragmatic inspiration for other conservative parties in Europe.
Thus, Poland has opted for Euro-realism: instead of aiming for dissolution of the European Union (which would only lead to the emergence of old European political asymmetries and would moreover be highly unpopular among citizens), Poland prefers to bet on a fundamental reform of institutions, and considers cooperation in such areas as defence, migration policy, infrastructure, the fight against crime, research or economic and legal harmonisation as essential.
On the topic of identity, Poland insists on the importance of its Christian heritage, and considers secularism as it is practised in France, that is to say with a clearly anti-Christian and Islamophile bias, as a dead end: only the defence of a strong national culture anchored in a positive attitude towards the spiritual values of the past will avoid the atomization resulting from the multiculturalist doctrine. Finally, in the economic field, Poland insists on the obligation of the State to protect citizens against the excesses of ultra-liberalism and has launched a large-scale social program in order to protect the lower and middle classes.
Adding to this an extremely clear position on migration, the LGBTQ ideology, abortion, natalism and euthanasia; it quickly becomes clear that the Polish government has for many years already implemented a policy corresponding in many respects to the demands of French conservatives. A deeper alliance between the strongest party of the French right and the Polish government party could therefore be highly interesting for both sides in order to constitute a powerful engine of the new European conservative alliance.
Political balance in Europe
Therefore, at first glance the French right should have everything in common with the Polish conservatives. We agree on the failures of the European Union. We agree on the issue of immigration. We agree that liberalism is, as John Milbank puts it, an anthropological error, because the community must take precedence over the desires of the individual, elevated today to the rank of absolute. We agree that individuals grow fully through community and not outside of it, that happiness depends on being grounded, while uprooting and denying the past undermines it. Yet despite these commonalities, there is not just one bone of contention but two: Russia and Germany.
The Russian issue is obvious: many French intellectuals maintain a romantic vision of Russia, dating back to the 19th century and fuelled by the patriotic conservatism of Vladimir Putin. If it is true that ideologically the latter may seem a priori more in phase with a traditionalist vision of the world than the policy pursued by the current American government, the French would do well not to close their eyes to the dark side of the government of Putin whose corruption is unparalleled, where dissidents are not only deprived of their twitter and Facebook accounts, but also of their freedom, and who pursues an expansionist and hegemonic agenda, clearly opposed to the inviolability of borders so fundamental to the European balance – and so vital for the survival of states like Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic countries. Therefore, a compromise between Polish and French conservatism will only be possible on the basis of an equidistance between East and West.
This equidistance comes up against the second bone of contention: Germany. It is indisputable that Germany has (once again) become the hegemonic power in Europe. Russia’s greatest ally in Europe is not France but Germany. Here is themost recent example of this : it was not France that built Nord Stream II. It is true that the French have a romantic viiew of Russia, but the French elite is most of all delusional about Germany. The Franco-German couple is an expression that is only used in France; the Germans never use it.
Thus, it was Angela Merkel’s Germany which shattered the Dublin regulations on immigrants, when the Chancellor brought in, without asking anyone’s opinion – and above all without taking the peoples of Europe into account – the wave of immigrants that flooded Europe; it was Merkel’s Germany that rejected the European tax project on digital giants, proposed by Bruno Le Maire, to avoid an increase in customs duties on German cars; it was Germany that imposed an austerity policy that permanently ruined the south of the continent in order to be able to benefit from an undervalued (German) euro and impose its industrial hegemony; it is Germany that is in the process of imposing its Eco-leftist ideological agenda on Europe through Ursula von der Leyen’s Green Deal, etc.
Of course, we must not fall into the trap of nationalism, because German hegemony over Europe has this particularity that a large part of the Germans are well and truly convinced of being exploited by this very same Europe, even going so far as wanting to leave the EU.
They are not wrong: all this political and economic power accumulated by the German elite in no way benefits the German citizen whose median fortune is far lower than that of most of his neighbours, but feeds a political-economic machinery well distant from ordinary mortals. Thus, the German taxpayer is requisitioned to finance the European subsidies paid in large part to Eastern States of the EU – but the surpluses generated there do not only return in large part to Germany, they enrich mainly banks, multinationals and holding companies that secure these gains outside of Europe.
Therefore, it is high time for European conservatives to recognise this asymmetry and try to resolve it. Since, the current political situation seems to exclude a voluntary restructuring of Germany’s economy. France would do well to remember its eternal tradition of, from the Ancien Régime to de Gaulle, ensuring that the Europe never falls under the hegemony of a single power. France exerted its greatest influence on events on the continent when it gathered around itself states which wanted to remain free and did not want the hegemony of another. Today, this policy must be recreated. France alone is too weak to decide the fate of the continent, as is the Central European coalition. An alliance between Paris and small and medium-sized nations will restore a Europe of fatherlands, in which Germany will occupy a place more in agreement with the balance of powers and fairer to the taxpayer.
Regaining economic, digital and energy sovereignty
The idea of European sovereignty does not belong to Macron. It is a Gaullist idea, because we must see in de Gaulle the truefather of a united Europe, even more than in those whom we hailed, in an American style, as founding fathers. Today, all intelligent European populists and conservatives should be Gaullists.
Europe will not become an independent geopolitical power until it regains its energy, industrial and digital sovereignty. However, this sovereignty comes up against ideological barriers. Nuclear energy, which is the fastest way to achieve decarbonization – as the experiences of France or South Korea have shown – still inspires fears, fueled by a, fifty year old, outdated green radicalism. Progress in nuclear energy is held back by an ideological hysteria sanctioned by statements from Merkel ‘s government. The New Green Deal must be oriented towards development and modernisation, not towards the dismantling of European industry and the lowering of living standards.
We must oppose a punitive ecology which not only wants to deprive us of the European way of life, but also to stifle all the forces of development. At the same time, it is necessary to realize that the post-industrial economy is a myth, and that anyone who believes in it dooms himself to weakness. Germany has never believed in it, it has retained its industrial base and it is from this that its economic power derives, although it is increasingly challenged by the suicidal ideology of the Greens and the left that would spell the end of not only for Germany itself, but of Europe as a whole. A considered reindustrialization policy on a continental scale, linked to broad cooperation on major projects, is a condition of European sovereignty. To restore it, European manufacturers must be brought back to Europe through incentive and binding measures. It is not only about economic growth but also about security. During the Chinese virus crisis, we experienced what moving supply chains to Asia lead to: no masks, no essential medicines. It turned out that there was not even a single paracetamol factory in Europe.
The recapture of digital sovereignty will not only pass through increased funding for R&D and the creation of a European network of cooperation in these areas. Reasonable protectionism must be proposed, without which the European equivalents of GAFAM will not see the light of day.
Along with protectionism aimed at creating European digital giants, the situation of European workers must be reconsidered. The downward pressure on wages will not end unless we stop immigration. European workers are our priority, which is why European preference should be introduced. Those born in Europe, whose fathers built our civilisation, have the right to work for its future.
The advantages of a European conservative alliance centered on the Paris-Warsaw axis therefore seem obvious, and one would hope that not only politicians, but also conservative intellectuals and academics, will deepen their contacts and launch bilateral exchanges leading into concrete strategic projects. The Polish model, we are convinced, could serve as an inspiration to clarify the internal dissensions within the French patriotic right.
One of the most urgent points of such cooperation would be to deepen collaboration in the media and academic fields, because on both sides, opinions on neighbouring conservative partners remain strongly dominated by the prejudices and defamation conveyed by the clearly left-leaning mainstream media and the equally biased university “experts”: the citizen will only be able to assess the truth about the stakes and actors of contemporary challenges if he has quality information free of ideological distortion.
We, the other European conservatives, have waited too long, missed too many opportunities. We all know that only united can we meet the challenges of the multipolar world. We cannot come together either on the basis of ideological illusions or on the basis of false calculations. It would be naive to think that nothing divides us. However, it would be a big mistake not to grasp the potential of what unites us.
Translated from French by the Visegrád Post.