us be clear on one thing, Haider may be Austrian and have a similar
sounding name, but he is not
a reincarnation of Hitler. For what it is worth Haider has
condemned the Nazi period as the worst in the twentieth century,
which is not the sort of thing one would hear from a convinced
neo-Nazi. The Freedom Party was not set up as a gathering
ground for ex-Nazis in the aftermath of World War II, as so many
reporters seem to believe. The PFÖ was always a free
market Liberal party (Liberal on continental Europe retains its
Latin root meaning). The most prominent Austrian ex-Nazi was Kurt
Waldheim, a scion of the Christian Democratic Peopleís
Party; also a former secretary general of the United Nations.
The nest of Nazi sympathisers is more likely to be the UN rather
than the Freedom Party. If one wants nothing to do with ex-Nazis,
isnít that an argument for leaving the UN?
ARE THE REAL NAZIS?
Hitlerís "orderly employment policies" was wrong,
and in the heat of debate, but not evil. If you read almost any
history book then the praise for Hitlerís Keynesian economic policies
is there. The belief that more government spending, regulation
and borrowing will kick-start the economy is stupid, but it is
a stupidity that is repeated by both Samuelson and Galbraith Ė
and these guys wrote high school text books! Surely if you want
to de-nazify you should start there. Haider even claims that heís
not a Keynesian, that was last yearís fashion. One might as well
condemn Eisenhower as an anti-Semitic Nazi because his construction
of interstate highways followed Hitlerís construction of the autobahn.
No one says that a belief in Keynesian demand management
is akin to a belief in genocide (although the left often claim
Ė with their customary sense of proportion Ė that monetarism is).
No one that is except the Haider haters.
AND ORIGINAL SIN
peroration of the Waffen SS veterans as "decent people"
is not a commendation of what the SS did. Personally I wonder
what made so many otherwise decent people cooperate with the Nazis
in their genocidal policies. If the answer was that the collaborators
were merely evil then the answer would be simple, watch out for
evil people and be smugly aware that you yourself are not evil.
If the answer is that these people were "decent" but
fallible, like I am and like you are, then the question leads
to less complacency. To recognise that many of the people who
cooperated were not evil, disturbed or abnormal but ordinary and
"decent"; this may be sobering but it is not a commendation
of what they did. The previous occupation authorities
obviously thought that these individuals were decent they
released them from prisoner of war camps and the de-Nazification
programmes. To say that one is decent is not to say one is innocent.
The idea that ordinary people are capable of great evil is an
old one, it is called Original Sin. I donít think that Haider
thinks on that sort of level but I donít think that he is a Nazi
either and it is dangerous to justify the occupation of
a country on an out of context mistranslated remark.
A STUDY IN UNPRINCIPLE
am no fan of the Freedom Party nor its leader, Jörg Haider.
This is not because of his far right views; they do not exist,
man has no views except his own advancement. The fact is that
Herr Haider is on the whole an unprincipled populist who flip-flops
on just about any important issue. Haider was an early and consistent
advocate of the European Union. He then campaigned vigorously
against it in the referendum to join. When Austria became a member
of the EU he claimed that Austria had no realistic future outside
it. There is no compass to this man, and like Blair or Mussolini
this lack of a moral compass may make for barbarous decisions.
But if you want to take out unprincipled populists with a Napoleon
complex, we have one right here in London.
EU needs to ask itself why the Freedom Party is so popular. Austria
has been run since the war by a permanent two party coalition.
Now I know what my American readers will think here, but this
is worse than the Republicrats, these guys donít even pretend
to oppose one another. There is a two party coalition of Social
Democrats and the Peopleís Party. Thatís it. There is no need
for elections when the government has been decided before the
vote. Any election has the relevance of voting for the Moscow
Central district in the Peopleís Duma election of 1980. Senior
jobs in the government and most large private companies are on
the basis of party quota. Not only are the parties primarily glorified
personnel agencies, but the voters donít have a choice of agencies.
This has the predictable effect on the size of the state (designed
to broaden the parties bases) and the general competence of much
of Austrian government. Austria has become a two party-one party
state. Until the Social Democrats became so arrogant that even
the corrupt Peopleís Party went to the PFÖ in search of a
coalition partner, this was the way it was going to stay. But
the fresh wind of the Freedom Party has caught the imagination
of the Austrians, and political competition was going to enter
Austria, until the Federasts thought otherwise.
permanent role of the left in the Government of Austria is an
important motive in the present moves to isolate Haider. The Party
of European Socialists (PES) the organisation that started
this phony scare is the European coordinating group of Socialist
and Social Democratic parties in the EU. In a press release they
urged the Christian Democrats to keep the corrupt Socialists in
power. When the Christian Democrats worked in the national rather
than the Socialistsí interests, the PES contacted its satellite
parties around the European Union, including the British Labour
party, the French Socialists and the Portuguese Social Democrats
(who have coordinated the international aggression through their
Presidency of the EU.) They urged the parties to put pressure
on the left-of-center governments, which the parties controlled
anyway. Many Americans may be wondering why their government cares
about this turf war between the Viennese ward healers, but perhaps
you should ask your congressman. Ominously in a new
press release, the PES are calling for measures to be taken
against Austria under the dictatorial Clause 7, the soon to be
infamous Anschluss Clause.
THE REAL APPEASER
we are getting into a lather about the Austrianís role in World
War II, perhaps we should look at another collaborating nation
Ė France. To be more precise we should look at a former Vichy
minister, prewar member of the far right Croix de Feu and constant
post-war opponent of De Gaulle, François Mitterrand. Two
things should be clear, this Nazi collaborator was the French
President when Jacques Chirac, the current President, was Prime
Minister; and the Far Right veteran was the architect of the PES.
A far more worrying precedent will also be set in the unlikely
event of the French anti-European leader, Charles Pasqua, becoming
President. Let us remember that the French were as untrustworthy
when we were in the Cold War as they were against the Nazis. The
same can be said of the Socialists' attitudes towards the "National
Socialists" as well as the International Socialists in Moscow.
When hearing Jacque Chirac pontificating or the PES calling for
even less democracy in Austria, one must remember the shameful
record of French cattle trucks.
is the European community showing its hand at such an early time?
The timing is not at all appropriate. For the moment the EU has
no force at its disposal. Austria may for a short while become
a diplomatic pariah, but outside Europe this situation will not
last. Trade sanctions will hurt, but will be nowhere near fatal
since Austria has Switzerland as a neighbour, Switzerland being
free territory. Austria in short can defy the EU, if it wanted
to, which is why many
of the bureaucrats are opposing this mad move. The reason
for the EUís gamble is that the Freedom Party has dared to challenge
the shibboleth of the EU, the sanctity of future expansion. As
part of the populist rag bag of measures put forward by Herr Haider
was a pledge to oppose future expansion of the EU, so that East
European immigrants do not come into Austria. As the EU knows
that this will kill the
momentum of growth, the EU has to oppose it. The short tenure
British foreign secretary and garden gnome double, Robin Cook,
has said as much. Like the Soviet Union before it the EU is not
a stable entity; with no growth or no common enemy it will fall
over. Haider has, accidentally, stumbled on the EUís point of
no return. Now he must pay the price.
happens in Vienna today may well happen in London tomorrow. There
is one other serious party that pledges opposition to future expansion
of the European Union, the British Conservative
Party. It is true that this is not a principled opposition,
but merely a willingness to play hard ball with the EU unless
Britain gets its own Ďflexibility clauseí which will, supposedly,
give it carte blanche to run its own affairs (I have my own views
on this). The EU will not allow a flexibility clause. As we have
seen with Austria, it will not contemplate expansion being blocked.
So what happens if Britain insists on holding its ground, as it
probably would under the present Conservative leader, William
Hague? This is usually discounted on the idea that the Tories
could never win an election in the next couple of years. However
under the highly intelligent, if untelligenic, Hague, the Tories
have already surprised the country at the ballot box. In the last
national election, the Euro elections in June 1999, the Labour
Party had its worst result for fifteen years. The other hopeful
sign for the Conservatives is that the Labour Party is now behaving
as if it has the next election in the bag, that confidence breeds
arrogance and corruption, which can itself bring a startlingly
swift fall. Hubris is the Labour Partyís most prominent characteristic.
WITH THE BIG BOYS
the European Union were to try to use the same bullying that it
has with Austria, it could be in for a shock. The British are
larger, more self confident and more prepared to look out of Europe.
Another factor is that the Conservatives are self evidently (at
least to those who do not belong to the British far left) not
racist. Unlike Haider, Hague has made no stupid remarks, and Hague
also has the advantage that he speaks in English and so his remarks
are harder to misrepresent than Haiderís. You also have to remember
that Hague has more depth and intelligence, if less charisma,
than Haider. If Haider is a Blair; shallow, vain but harmless;
then Hague (like Buchanan) is a potential De Gaulle, intelligent
but cussed as hell. When even Austria
evinces international sympathy, England is going to attract
a groundswell. Will America cooperate in an occupation of Britain,
like it has so shamefully done in the case of Austria? Internationalism
only goes so far.