I can’t recall who it was who first observed that fascism is always descending on America, but always landing on Europe. Certainly that’s been the case up until now. Our most recent assurances that fascism was on its way was during the Bush administration, when the hand-wringers at the NYT and those like them were just convinced that the administration’s monitoring international cross-border communications among known terrorist affiliates was somehow the foundation stone of a new chain of concentration camps — one coming soon to a neighborhood near you — and bearing the smiling face of Bushitler over the gates. These hand-wringers would be the same crew who haven’t weighed in much about Dear Leader’s assertion that he has the right — unilaterally and secretly — to promulgate a
kill list disposition matrix under which anyone in the world outside the U.S., including U.S. citizens, may be blasted to shreds of meat by a missile fired from a lazily-circling drone.
But what do I know?
The ominous quotation from this article about Golden Dawn, Greece’s nascent and increasingly fashionable fascist party, comes from the fellow — an MP for Golden Dawn — who allows, “Most nations, well, not the US or Australia, have a single nationality that defines its culture and Greece must return to this ideal. The Golden Dawn is a very well organised party that is intervening to support and help people. Without us in a country where two million of ten million people are illegal, there would be chaos.”
Some years ago I read a book by Ludwig von Mises (can’t recall the title any more, alas) in which he identifies as the point where Europe began the course change which pointed it towards the rocks of the 20th Century that point at which became common currency the idea that each linguistic group needed to be gathered into one polity purged of other linguistic groups. At that time, of course, we had two — actually, three — enormous polyglot empires in Europe, the Habsburg, the Ottoman, and the Russian. Each of their dozens of native languages, in many cases fragmented across the map, had sullenly chafed under distant monarchs for centuries. But then pretty much everyone chafed under monarchies for centuries, when you get right down to it. The German-speaking serf in 18th Century Austria was neither in better nor worse shape than his Polish- or Hungarian-speaking counterpart in the 19th Century . . . or the 14th. The wheels began to loosen on their hubs when someone whispered in his great-grandchild’s ear that it was an outrage not so much that he was a peasant but that he had all these Czechs cluttering up the place. To say nothing of all those filthy Joooooosssss. And so forth.
How deeply that idea took root we got to see when the restraining forces of the monarchies crumbled with the end of the Great War. The fistful of nation-states that sprang into existence in Central Europe were not creations of the peace-making process; they were called into being by whichever dominant ethnic group happened to live there and by the time of the Paris Conference in 1919 they were facts on the ground that could not be ignored. What didn’t change, however, was the geographic distribution of the groups within those new states. Every single successor state had within its borders large numbers of language groups which had — from their perspective, at least — only traded dominance by some lantern-jawed Habsburg or nitwit Romanov or strutting and puffing Hohenzollern for dominance by the People’s Party of Whatever-the-Hell majority ethnic group happened to have seized the levers of power in the neighborhood.
In short, they all had the Minorities Problem, only this time the groups’ jealousies and resentments had the blessing of America’s first quasi-fascist national politician, Woodrow Wilson, and his pernicious doctrine of “self-determination.” For all his posturing as a Deep Thinker and Mr. Cosmos himself in the flesh, Wilson like any other human could not see the world from any frame of reference other than his own. Of course everyone ought to have the right of “self-determination,” because it had worked so well in the U.S. Everyone pretty much rubbed along (well, except for that lynching thing across the South and up into Indiana, which Wilson really doesn’t seem to have had much problem accepting) and whether it was the Tammany Democrats or the Boston Brahmins in charge at any particular moment, we all more or less agreed on the rules of the game and we’d self-determined to throw in together. Hell’s bells; we’d even fought a civil war that decided once and for all that we really had thrown in together and for keeps.
So what could go wrong with transplanting that notion of “self-determination” onto an ethnic mosaic the forms of which had begun to coalesce with the latter days of the Western Roman Empire (there’s a reason “Romania” is nowhere near Italy, guys) and the massive migrations of the next few hundred years? The Sudeten Germans who had migrated to Bohemia beginning in the 1300s and by the 1900s comprised around a quarter of the total population of ancient Bohemia were simply among the more prominent groups — and more pregnant with mischief. The Sorbians, a Germanic people who spoke a Slavic language, and who gave names to such places as Drežhdany — “forest swamp dwellers” — which we now know as Dresden, were among the lesser. Toss in several million Roma and Sinti, Ruthenians, Slovenians, Rumelians, Bulgars, Croats, Ukrainians, and millions upon millions of Jews (Wilson’s high-falutin’ principles don’t seem to have applied to them), mix them in with several centuries’ worth of genuine grievance and several generations of demagoguery, and you’d think anyone with more than just walking-around sense would expect something along the lines of what actually happened.
But not Wilson. To understand how disastrous Wilson’s influence on history was, you have to understand how nearly universally admired the United States was back then, even among people who couldn’t stand Americans because we were . . . well, we acted like Americans. [One of my favorite Twain passages is from The Innocents Abroad, in which he describes some American in a Paris restaurant loudly proclaiming himself a “free-born sovereign, sir,” an American, who never dined without wine, sir, and so forth; Twain observed that he failed to mention that he was also a “lineal descendant of Balaam’s ass, but we all knew that without his saying so.”] When Wilson spoke he did so not as some momentarily-successful politician. When Wilson spoke he gave words, specific words, to an abstract and idealized Promised Land, a secular Zion for the Gentiles, which millions of people all over Europe looked up to. Many of them had family members, fellow villagers, friends, or fellow parishioners who had crossed the oceans and sung the praises of the Land of Unlimited Opportunity in writing. When Wilson began to bloviate it was the same as if in ancient Rome the massive statue of Capitoline Jove had in fact opened its mouth and said, “So let it be done.”
Had Lloyd George or Clemençeau blathered about a bunch of “self-determination,” it would have swirled about the floor a few times then gone right down the drain. Wilson gave the idea the sanction of Idealized America.
After World War II, that is, after the next round in the fight which Versailles made if not inevitable then something which only phenomenal luck could have avoided, Central Europe solved a large measure of its Minorities Problem. The minorities got their country asses kicked out, is what happened, frequently on twelve hours’ or less notice. Ox carts full of possessions (and frequently pulled by their owners, the animals in the span long since having dropped dead or vanished into a cooking pot somewhere along the line), parents slogging along loaded down with pathetic bundles, filthy, emaciated children in tow, their faces bearing the pole-axed look that only violated innocence can show, the corpses of those who could no longer keep up lining the road sides: all those were part of the landscape in 1945-46. Who has counted the loss? Who has measured the suffering? Who today traces the psychic scars of those savage adjustments on the survivors and their descendants?
The EU is no more exempt from the Law of Unintended Consequences than is any other human undertaking. Its intentional obliteration of barriers to human movement has encouraged exactly that. And with it is returning the Minorities Problem. Whether it’s “illegals” in Greece or cheap Polish labor flooding Germany (won’t someone please explain to Germany that fixing their demographic issues is fun? I mean, guys, c’mon, you’ve got a statistically irrefutable mandate to hop in the sack as frequently as you can and with as little precaution as possible; so shuck them clothes and Get it On), or the Islamization of wide areas of ancient European cities, the tide is setting towards the rocks, once again.
Pray God we may not see Europe visited with Wilson’s legacy once more.