My thanks to Donal Kennedy for alerting me to this interesting piece – Jude
How little they know of England, who are only Anglophiles!
John Bruton was morally shocked by Brexit. He had observed, at close quarters, British handling of the EU—exerting relentless pressure in order to gain exceptions for itself because it was exceptional, and using each concession it achieved as leverage for gaining further concessions.
It remade the EU, which was developing strongly and coherently without it, into an EU that was adapted to its own requirements. Its basic requirement of the EU was that it should cease to be a distinct political and economic body.
It kept Europe free over the centuries by keeping it divided. See the Man Of The Millennium, Winston Churchill, about this. Europe divided is Europe free.
Churchill gave his condescending approval in 1945 to the idea of political unity of the Europe which he had just reduced to ruins, when there seemed little prospect that it would ever happen, or that it would be of much consequence if it did happen. But he made it clear that England would not be part of any united Europe. England had its own separate destiny, to which it would always be true.
The England in which Churchill cut his political teeth was the England of “Greater Britain”. Greater Britain was the world colonised by England. It was the world of the English colonial offspring which, developing into states under English guidance, would collaborate with it in assuring English mastery of the world by “teaching the nations how to live”, as Cromwell’s Secretary of State, Milton the poet, put it. Greater Britain was the Dominions plus the colonial stratum that was shaping a new destiny for India, and, hopefully, plus a reunion with the rebel colony in America.
Greater Britain was the vision of The Lost Prime Minister, Sir Charles Dilke, who would have been Gladstone’s successor if he had not the misfortune, like Parnell, of falling prey to the Nonconformist Conscience of the Liberal Party by being cited in a divorce action. Dilke revealed his vision in a book called Greater Britain in 1869 which was a runaway best seller, and was followed by more than a thousand books on the same theme during the next forty years.
Dilke described frankly how England became Greater Britain and established its primacy in the world:
“The Anglo-Saxon is the only extirpating race on earth. Up to the commencement of the now inevitable destruction of the Red Indians of Central North America, of the Maoris, and of the Australians by the English colonists, no numerous race had ever been blotted out by an invader. Hitherto it has been nature’s rule that a race that peopled a country in the earliest historic days should people it to the end of time…” (Greater Britain, 1869).
Liberal England at the height of its glory was not the least bit upset by this description of it as the greatest genocidal force the world had ever seen. But, when the Redmondite Imperialist Stephen Gwynn wrote a biography of Dilke, he chose not to dwell on that little detail.
The gloss was knocked off Greater Britain by the effective stubbornness of the German resistance from August 1914 to November 1918, which traumatised the English middle class. The term fell out of use in the drabness of the 1920s. But in 1945, when England emerged on the winning side in the War it had declared in 1939 (but did not fight) against the Nazi Germany with which it had collaborated from 1933 to 1939, the sense of a glorious and singular destiny was restored by Churchill’s prose.
The active British collaboration with Hitler, which enabled him to break the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty by building an Army and Navy, militarising the Rhineland, and merging with Austria, and then by expanding territorially to include a piece of Czechoslovakia—all of that was conjured away by being described as “appeasement”. (Nobody asked what was there to appease in the unarmed Germany of 1933.)
Churchill’s war had extended the power of Communist Russia into Central Europe, had littered France, Germany and Italy with wreckage, and had made Britain a financial dependency of the USA, which was intent on taking the British Empire into its world market. But England felt good. It took the carnage in its stride. The British had not become an Imperial people for nothing. And Churchill’s oratory, and his oratorical prose, restored the sense of destiny.
So they let the remnants of Europe get on with their little affairs while England tended to its Empire with restored energy.
But there was a Joker in the European pack: Christian Democracy.
Germany did not set about tearing itself apart as it did under the guilt-ridden Social Democratic Republic of 1918-19. There were no false public confessions of guilt in the hope of appeasing the victors, and no whingeing about the requirement of false confessions. In 1919 Karl Kautsky, the upholder of classical Social Democratic Marxism against the reckless opportunism of Lenin, became a Government Minister and published The War Guilt Of Wilhelm Hohenzollern.
There was none of that kind of thing in 1945. There was no messy ‘Armistice’ through which England might influence internal developments in Germany. Hitler had seen to it that there would be a conclusive and indisputable defeat. And, on the secure ground of that defeat, the political force called Christian Democracy—which lay beyond English understanding—began the construction of a European politics from which British influence was excluded.
It was a prime object of Konrad Adenauer, with his close knowledge of English conduct post-1918, to negate English influence post-1945. This required establishing Christian Democratic ascendancy over the Anglophile Social Democracy. In this he was supported by the Christian Democracy of Italy (De Gasperi) and by influential Christian Democratic forces in the Benelux countries and within the Gaullist MR) (Popular Republican Movement) in France, and he gained the support of the primary Occupation Force in the West, the USA.
Christian Democracy provided for a transition from Fascism, Nazism and Vichyism to the formal democracy of party conflict—a development rather than a rupture. And, being Catholic in substance, and therefore trans-national, it could foster a European political development which had foundations in every west-European state. No other element of European life could do that. Protestantism (like Fascism), is essentially nationalist in tendency, as was amply demonstrated by England in its dealings with Ireland, where its occasional ‘international’ gestures were never more than an assertion of nationalist dominance. (Whether Communism might have functioned in European terms as Christian Democracy did was never put to the test because, due to the working out of Lenin”s seizure of power, European Communist Parties were essentially defensive organisations of the Soviet state, within states committed to its destruction.)
The unexpected development of Europe brought about by Christian Democracy, and by Gaullist elements in France, was a matter of major concern to Britain by the 1960s. It decided to join it in order to subvert it. Its first application was refused—De Gaulle explaining that the English interest, being “insular and maritime” was incompatible with European development. (That was a kindly way of putting it.)
In 1972 the application of a genuinely Europhile Prime Minister, Edward Heath, was accepted.
In 1974 Heath was ousted by the Tory Leadership. The Labour Party came to power. There was strong Labour feeling against the EU as a capitalist obstacle to socialist development—along with a strong tinge of “England’s destiny” feeling. (It was a Labour leader who lamented the possible end of England’s glorious thousand years.) But the Wilson Government managed to get a majority in the Referendum for remaining.
Margaret Thatcher came to Office in 1979 and in the early 1980s she began the process of remaking the EU to English requirements which has now culminated in Brexit.
John Bruton has described the relentless pressure exerted by English Exceptionalism within the EU without understanding what he describes—or without being able to believe that what he describes can really be the case.
The England that Irish Anglophiles see is a mirage. And it is caused by self-deception rather than deception. England really makes very little attempt to conceal what it is.
In 1970 the middle=class of the Republic was comprehensively anti-Partitionist in sentiment. Conor Cruise O’Brien was no less anti-Partitionist than Fianna Fail Taoiseach Jack Lynch, or the guru of the Official IRA, Eoghan Harris. The view of the founders of this journal, that Partition had a social foundation in the national division in the North, and had been unavoidable, was generally rejected. But, when a War developed in the North, and it became nasty—as wars, big or small, always are—anti-Partition sentiment diminished, and sometimes gave way to its sentimental opposite in an extreme form, as with the aforesaid O’Brien and Harris.
The War was blamed on anti-Partitionism, and anti-Partitionism was Nationalism. The way to escape from Nationalism was to become Partitionist. And Partitionism was British.
And then Britain was admitted to the EU, carrying Ireland with it, so that one could become cosmopolitan by becoming European by way of Britain.
No account was taken in either phase of the way the North was governed under Partition. Partition itself was all that could be seen. There was a blind spot about the fact that an extreme form of undemocratic government was imposed on the Six Counties simultaneously with the enactment of Partition, and that this was an effective cause of the War.
There was no need to exclude the Six counties from the British political system when retaining them within the United Kingdom, and there was no sense in it. And there was no sense in setting up a subordinate Government, with no actual power of State except policing: a Government which could only function as communal suppression of the Catholic community by the Protestant.
It was the intense provocation of that senseless system—for which Whitehall had some other purpose than good government—that led to the defensive insurrection of 1969, and that sustained the War in 1970=98.
But the trained middle class minds in Dublin and Cork could not probe beyond the Border to discover what it was that brought about the War from which they recoiled. Partition was to them the only conceivable cause of the War, and if that was the case, then it was an insufficient cause.
The reasoning up to that point was fair enough. Partition was not a sufficient cause of the War that happened. But, instead of pressing on to find the sufficient cause, O’Brien etc. attributed the War to what they increasingly came to see as the irrationality of Nationalism which led people to act without cause.
That vision of irrationalism was of course itself irrational. And it worked its way back from the Border to the stimulus given to an effective independence movement by the 1916 Insurrection.
The moralistic position, free from the constraints of causative reasoning, came to be that Ireland should have lived by whatever Britain conceded to it, and that for its own good it should not have been conceded much by Britain.
England became their world. Living in exile from it, England became the world for them. And, as Anglophiles, they became cosmopolitan citizens of the world through the English presence in Europe.
And now England has thrown them back to the awful thing that they had fled to it from: nationalism!
According to the native picked up and cosmopolitanised by England’s Irish paper, The Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole, England has just launched itself into a “nationalist revolution”. And where does that leave post-nationalist Anglophile Ireland?
O’Toole looks for a strong man to rise up in England and save his mirage. He looks for an English Michael Collins to appear and crush this English nationalism as the Irish Michael Collins took the Irish nationalist deviation of the 1916 Rising in hand and crushed in in 1922:
“But who, then, will be England’s Michael Collins? The grand gesture of national self-assertion must be followed, eventually, by a painful reconciliation with reality… Guiding that descent is the greatest test of political skill, of moral courage, and of genuine patriotism. England’s tragedy is that there is no sign of anyone in power with those qualities…” (IT, March 28).
But didn’t our Mick have a powerful backer who gave him money, and an Army and stimulated his moral courage to make war on the nationalists by prodding him along, and undertaking o do the job for him if he didn’t feel he was up to it?
When the English Collins comes along, aspiring to do to Britain what Mick did to the Republic, who will service him as Britain serviced Mick?
O’Toole’s misunderstanding of England—that it has recently gone nationalist—is very strange. English nationalism is the pioneering nationalism of the world.
It began 500 years ago and it has never let up.
There is no reality for it to reconcile itself with because it has never been content to live in anybody else’s world—as it has so often required others to live in its world.
It will only live in a world that it makes for itself. And, in making its own world to live in, there is no catastrophe that it will not happily bring on others if it sees advantage in it.
It founded itself in political and religious nationalism half a millennium ago. And it has fostered or suppressed nationalisms in others according as they served or obstructed its interests. And, when it was the greatest Empire the world has ever seen, it was nothing like the Roman Empire,which created world citizenship. It was only a nationalism with foreign possessions which it exploited.
English nationalism has been one of the fundamental entities in the make-up of the world.
The Chinese civilisation has survived British Opium Wars and invasions by Britain’s ally, Japan, to be another.
The Orthodox development of Roman Christianity in the East—in other words, Russia—is a third.
It seems likely, whatever happens to ISIS in the next few months, that the force of Islam, deprived of a harnessing political structure by the British War on the Ottoman Empire and freed from the flimsy ‘nation-states’ set up by Britain in the Middle East by the destruction of those states by Britain itself and the USA, will persist until it makes some functional arrangement for itself.
What else is there?
The United States, England’s rebel colony, is certainly the most powerful destructive force the world has ever seen. It is based on multiple genocide enacted over three centuries. Its dynamic is one of continuous expansion. Its new President may aspire to give it a more stable, self-sufficient mode of existence, but the dynamic of its origins is probably too deeply ingrained in it for that.
And what is Europe now? Britain, during its period of membership, effectively subverted the Christian Democracy that founded it and gave it orientation. Britain then became central to its existence, marginalising everything else. For thirty years it was organised by the problem of British Exceptionalism. Again and again it conceded to British exceptionalist demands at the expense of its own coherence, even though it was obvious that the purpose of Britain’s demands was not to settle itself more comfortably into the EU, and that the only result of concessions would be more demands.
And now Britain has left to follow its own destiny—which in fact it never forgot for a moment.
What will Europe be when Brexit is completed? A miscellaneous grouping of provinces which wonder how they came to be tied together?
And what of Ireland? When it joined, its middle class was in flight from itself in the recoil from the War in the North. Can it now find within itself some remnant of the sense of purpose it had when, with so much effort, it separated itself from Britain, that will enable it to contribute something to a fresh European development?