Saturday, 31 October 2009

Do The Schüssel?

Wolfgang Schüssel for President of the European Council? Ken Clarke certainly thought so on Any Questions, and while it is Michael Heseltine who is the European Commission's place man in Britain (the key to understanding the hysterical hostility that has been whipped up towards the only person to become Prime Minister since 1990 without first having been anointed by Heseltine), Clarke is nevertheless the figure whom it requires in the Shadow Cabinet of Heseltine's mini-me, David Cameron. So Schüssel may very well be the man to watch.

He is, after all, a native speaker of the language with the largest such both in the EU and in Europe as a whole. However, he is not from Germany. Yes, he went into coalition, not with Haider himself, but nevertheless with Haider's party. But pots and kettles, motes and beams; here, there and everywhere. Schüssel himself stands in the Dollfuss-Schuschnigg tradition that held the Social Catholic line against both Nazism and Communism until Hitler overthrew it by force. Its holding of that line was not without aspects of authoritarianism. But was there none of following incorporation into the Third Reich? Would there have been none as a Soviet satellite (which at the start of the War would have entailed entering it as a de facto member of the Axis, just as the Soviet Union was at that point)? I am given to understand that there was quite a bit in the former, and that there would have been quite a bit in the latter. Whisper it not, but possibly even rather more than under Dollfuss and Schuschnigg.

There was a very similar situation in Portugal, where the Social Catholic line had to be held with some force both against the National Syndicalists and against, first the Stalinists, and then the Maoists, who ended up staging a coup one of the leaders of which has gone on, via a period of rabid "free"-marketeering and Bush-loving as Prime Minister, to become the President of the European Commission. Isn't neoconservatism wonderful? Anyone who still doubts, even after that, that the EU has been since the Forties a pet project of the US in general, and in particular of sectarian Leftist American foreign policy hawks such as surrounded Bush, perhaps you will finally get the message if Blair becomes President? Then again, probably not.

But whether you see it or not, that is yet another reason to ensure a serious alternative candidate. Schüssel, heir to Dollfuss and Schuschnigg rather than to Trotsky and Shachtman, may be that man. So may John Bruton, heir to Eoin O'Duffy's resistance both to Soviet influence in Ireland and to a full-scale takeover in Spain (which, again, would have involved Axis membership in all but name in 1939). Christian Democrats have been, and remain, wrong about the EU as some sort of Christendom reborn. But they have been, and are, right about an awful lot more. If the EU must have a President, then it could do a lot worse than have a President like that. For example, Tony Blair.


  1. Oh in fairness to Bruton (aka John Unionist) he has disavowed the O'Duffy connexion to the Fine Gael Party. Indeed it is a cause of some embarrassment to them.
    The Blueshirt Movement was much over-rated but yes my instinctive anti Free State/Fine Gael bias does induce me to shout "Blueshirt!!!" at my TV screen.
    All good harmless fun!

  2. "Oh in fairness to Bruton (aka John Unionist) he has disavowed the O'Duffy connexion to the Fine Gael Party"

    He can't. It's a matter of historical fact.

    "Indeed it is a cause of some embarrassment to them"

    I don't know why. Yes, there were the uniforms and the Roman salute. But that was nothing to do with Hitler. They had been subsumed into Fine Gael by the time that he came to power.

    They were concerned at rising Communism among the anti-Treaty lot, they wanted to stop a Soviet puppet state in Spain, and they went on to be prominent among the higher number of people from the Free State than from Northern Ireland who volunteered to fight against Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Italy.

    So, the early fringes of Fascism, at most. And you could say that about an awful lot of people.

  3. "So, the early fringes of Fascism, at most. And you could say that about an awful lot of people".

    Are you being ironic?

  4. Not at all. There were a lot of early admirers of Mussolini and even of Hitler, especially among those confronted with a Communist threat. But most people grew or snapped out of it long before the War. And Fine Gael had been set up by the time that Hitler came to power. O'Duffy himself had a brief flirtation with him, but, again, so did a lot of people.

    There was no serious question of any sort of pro-Axis rising in the Free State during the War. On the contrary, more people from there than from Northern Ireland joined up. And who were they? Fianna Fail? At a push, perhaps. But certainly not predominantly. Sinn Fein? Hardly! Then who? It couldn't be more obvious. No Fascists they.

  5. Well again youve read my previous comments that most northern loyalists spent the War fire watching......non existent fires as deValera had already impressed on the Germans that an attack on Belfast was an attack on Ireland.
    So it only happened once.
    I dont kid myself that Hitler lived in fear of the Irish Army but he was more anxious to keep Ireland out of the War (the ports thankfully had been denied to the British in the late 1930s) than the Allies were at getting Ireland into the War.

  6. Oh, I knew about the fire watching anyway.

    The Irish at the grass roots got themselves into the War. Didn't wait for Dev. There is, as you will know, a school of contemporary historiography in the Republic which emphasises the shame of the State's failure to fight. It has a point.

    But there is another side to the story, the side in which large numbers of Southern Irishmen did defend these islands against what had by then become the threat to all of them (as any threat to any of them is bound to be) expressed as the nightly aerial bombardment of what were, inter alia, the centres of Irish Catholic population in the rest of these islands, with family ties back to Ireland considerably closer than is generally the case today.

  7. As a History Graduate I am not aware of any such "School of Thought". I suspect you just thought of it.
    Oh I dont think anybody likes to see a friendly and neighbouring nation (Britain) or a friendly nation (Germany) get bombed and have civilian casualties. Indeed my grandfathers neice married a German in the 1930s and was never heard of after war broke out. I believe my great uncle (who I never met) visited Germany after WW2 to trace her.
    Sadly I will never know the exact truth of that story as all the info died with my father.
    But rather like there is a lot of ties between Ireland and USA, Ireland did not rush into war on USAs behalf.
    and did not support the Iraq war.

  8. A sign of just how disconnected from mainstream Irish culture Northern Nationalism is. Don't worry, almost no one over here marches behind a Union Flag while wearing a bowler hat. There are now plenty of books and articles called things like "Not Our Finest Hour" about the Free State during "The Emergency". And they are right. But only up to a point.

    It was not a question of a mere "friendly neighbour". There were huge numbers of people born in the 26 counties, or one or both of whose parents had been, living at that time in the very places that were being bombed; most of those sons, having been born over here, were called up. There were also, of course, huge numbers of such people in the other Commonwealth and Empire countries (Australia most obviously, but also elsewhere) that were in the War. I don't know if you can think of an example of huge numbers of people from a neutral state in a war joining the forces of a mere friendly neighbour that was fighting it. I can't.

    And no one seriously imagines, or ever did, that Hitler would have stopped at the Irish Sea or at the Border. Whoever wants to control this island has to control yours, too. As the Normans understood. As the Tudors understood. As the Stuarts understood. As British intelligence has always understood. And as Hitler would have understood.

    In whatever political difficulties their leaders may have been, the Southern Irish very obviously also understood. So they just got on with it.

  9. Oh there are many who think deValera was wrong to visit the German Embassy to express his condolences with the German people. Could have done what a lot of South American leaders did and declare war on Germany.
    Or indeed do what our neighbours did in 1938, fly to Munich and come back with a piece of paper.
    Or did what Churchill did and sell out the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Romanians, Hungarians......well you get my point.
    Ireland was neutral. So was Norway, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Luxemburg etc.
    The first duty of any nation is to protect its own people.
    Ireland succeeded.
    Britain failed.

  10. The present literature goes well beyond the old gripes about Dev and the Book of Condolence, and that sort of thing. But (and he gets an undeservedly bad press on this one), he was practically at war with Germany anyway. German airmen interned, British ones merely sent home. That sort of thing. No doubt what the Wehrmacht or the Waffen SS would have made of all of that if it had ever arrived.

    And no doubt that it would have arrived, given the chance in the form of the fall of Britain. You can't defend Britain if you don't control Ireland, however light your touch, as in the Free State/Republic throughout its history. So you can't occupy Britain if you don't occupy Ireland. However heavy your touch.

    What about protecting the huge numbers of Irish over here at the time? When you include those only one generation removed from Ireland, were they that much less numerous than the population of the Free State? The Free State's own people were in no doubt, and joined up accordingly.

    "Norway, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Luxemburg": several of those felt exactly what Hitler thought of their neutrality. And who in Sweden or Switzerland signed up for the Free Army of a friendly neighbouring state, such as Norway in the Swedish case, or France in the Swiss? You might find some Swedes or Swiss-Germans who fought as Nazis. But not very many even of them. And none at all of anyone else.

    The people of the Irish Free State, on the other hand...

  11. Well a lot of Germans did not want o go home from Internment. After all they had "crashed" on purpose. Likewise a lot of "Biggles" types crashed without much damage.

  12. And got themselves sent home. Whereas Germans were interned. No doubting where sympathies lay. As all concerned would have noted for future reference.