Friday, April 01, 2005

Back in the USSR

Following up on earlier reflections about Europe, I wonder if Europe's about to implode. Why? Simple--the proposed EU Constitution, like Communism, is the modern heir of the decidedly un-democratic French Revolution. By contrast, the freer sort of nations -- which includes several EU members -- are a product of an Anglo/American tradition more hospitable to freedom and individual rights. Those countries are about to be occupied: by France.

But first some history. Despite the clamor for Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité, the French Revolution was neither motivated by, nor fostered, liberty. Instead, the central tenent was the elevation of reason above other human traits. And the majority of philosophes and revolutionaries believed reason was confined to the elite and necessarily refuted religion:
  • The radicals embraced Rousseau's "General Will." Oft misunderstood as majoritarian, the General Will wasn't determined by vote, but rather, pace Plato (and later influential among totalitarians), by the sovereign seemingly through osmosis:
    [T]he Sovereign, being formed wholly of the individuals who compose it, neither has nor can have any interest contrary to theirs; and consequently the sovereign power need give no guarantee to its subjects, because it is impossible for the body to wish to hurt all its members. [Social Contract, Book I, Ch. 7]
    [T]he general will is always right and tends to the public advantage; but it does not follow that the deliberations of the people are always equally correct. [Id., Book II, Ch. 3]
    Gertude Himmelfarb concludes that Liberté bears little relation to Anglo/American liberty: "The moral sense and common sense that the British attributed to all individuals gave to all people, including the common people, a common humanity and a common fund of moral and social obligations. The French idea of reason was not available to the common people and had no such moral or social component." [The Roads to Modernity, at 170]
  • Believing that faith was un-provable by logic, most revolutionary leaders despised religion with "studious ferocity." So they terminated religious freedom:
    A decree dated 18 March, 1793, punished with death all compromised priests. It no longer aimed at refractory priests only, but any ecclesiastic accused of disloyalty (incivisme) by any six citizens became liable to transportation. In the eyes of the revolution, there were no longer good priests and bad priests; for the sans-culottes every priest was suspect.
So much for religious liberty and "one man, one vote." Many thinkers -- beginning with Edmund Burke and eventually including former France enthusiast Thomas Jefferson ("I consider France as in a more volcanic state than at any preceding time, there must be an explosion and one of the most destructive character") -- recognized that French revolution had little connection to democracy. Few of its precepts survive today; last to die was the French-influenced Constitution of the Soviet Union--containing 69 Articles, each a lie.

But suddenly the false freedom of France has a sequel, the proposed EU Constitution. It's 191 pages long (excluding 3 dozen protocols and a couple of annexes). I haven't bothered to count provisions--suffice it to say that the last one is numbered "Article IV-448." In contrast, the U.S. Constitution is 34 pages when displayed in about 20 point type. The Euro proposal is an uninspiring joke. The most optimistic view I've heard is Richard Bartholomew's, who proclaimed it "a managerial and bureaucratic document." Recent opinion polls suggest French voters might reject the draft EU Constitution (despite it having been drafted by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing).

The concern is warranted. Particularly alarming is the fact that no more than half of the EU member states will put the Constitution to a vote. Vladimir Bukovsky and Pavel Stroilov's focus on the death of democracy in a recently published, scathing critique, tellingly titled EUSSR. NRO's Jay Nordlinger quoted the book's preface:
For anyone even remotely familiar with the Soviet system, its similarity with the developing structures of the European Union, with its governing philosophy and "democracy deficit," its endemic corruption and bureaucratic ineptitude, is striking. For anyone who lived under the Soviet tyranny or its equivalents across the world, it is frightening. Once again we observe with growing horror the emergence of a Leviathan that we had hoped was dead and buried, a monster that destroyed scores of nations, impoverished millions, and devastated several generations before finally collapsing. Is it inevitable? Is the human race bent on self-destruction and doomed to repeat the same mistake time and again until it dies in misery? Or is the EU, indeed, simply a clone of the USSR imposed upon reluctant nations of Europe by the same political forces that created the first one?
Other opponents include Christopher Booker and Richard North, authors of The Great Deception, a recent history of the EU. David Pryce-Jones summarizes the book in the current National Review (on dead tree, subscriber only):
They show how decade after decade a small self-selected clique of politicians has worked single-mindedly to create a supranational Europe. In their own eyes, these politicians are visionaries, but they have always known that they could never carry voters with them, and therefore they had to conceal their goal: Deception was implicit, even structural to the project, according to Booker and North. The intention was to confront people with a fait accompli about which they could do nothing — and that is what today’s constitution is designed to finalize irrevocably.

The Cold War years divided Europe into one half under Soviet rule, and the other under the protection of the United States. The consistent ambition of the Soviets, and the many Communist parties subservient to them, and fellow-traveling Socialists as well, was to weaken the American presence, and if possible, remove it altogether from the continent. One way or another, the EU has taken up where the Soviets left off, and is proving more successful.
Bukovsky’s says it's hopeless:
it remains to be seen what kind of Gulag the EU will create. [But all utopias end the same and] the EU will collapse very much like its prototype; . . . in doing so it will bury us all under the rubble.
For the record, I'm not troubled by competition between America and a larger EU. I'm concerned about Europe itself. My question: Why? Why the hell do Europeans tolerate a return to aristocracy? Why would anyone favor rule by, for, and composed of, faceless and unelected bureaucrats? Why backtrack to the French Revolution? Where are the protests?

Maybe the whole continent's out of coffee and Viagra. Would a renewed Lend-Lease help?


MaxedOutMama reacts in a link-filled post.

Still More: looks at the country most likely to reject the Constitution--France.

More and More:

Bloggledygook has further thoughts, including a link to a TechCentralStation article called Little USSR containing a one sentence summary of the problem: "France has no interest in promoting free trade."


Gindy said...

Great post. Found you through NIF.

Carl said...

Thanks! And your comment allowed me to discover and add your great blog.

Anonymous said...

Since I majored in European History,and getting a advanced degree on the French Revolution, let me respond to this Blog. First and most importantly, to understand the French Revolution you do not read Edmond Burke, you read articles and pamphlets from those who created the revolution. During the course of this post I will use 4 sources Loyseau's "Treatise of Orders" Sieyes' "What is the Third Estate" Robespierre's "Report on the Principles of Political Morality" and finally the most important reflection of the Revolution and the man who got it right Thomas Paine. Oh and one more the declerations of the rights of man and women. If the French Revolution was neither motivated by, nor fostered liberty. Then their has to be some sort of comparison between Loyseau and Sieyes, lets examine this point closely. Loyseau states that " As love is necessary to the world, so are honor and rank; otherwise there would only be confusion among us. But it is necessary to earn both merit, and maintain them by gentleness(Baker pg 17)." Loyseau clearly believes in a society of unfairness, a society where ordained orders are more important than anything else. Basically a society of control a society without liberty. Now Sieyes good old Sieyes. Let me give you some background on Sieyes. Abbe Sieyes also known as Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes was a poor priest who wrote a pamphlet in 1788 and then published in 1789 titled " What is the Third Estate." His very first claim in this entire pamphlet is the most important he states: "What is the Third Estate? Everything. What has it been until now in the political order? Nothing. What does it want to be? Something(Baker 154)." You see Sieyes's beliefs were radically different than Loyseau's infact Sieyes is often blamed for the French Revolution. But why? What is in this pamphlet that is so revolutionary. Does Sieyes make the case that Equality=Liberty. Lets examine this:"If the privilaged orders were removed, the nation would not be something less, but something more. What then is the Third Estate? All; but an "all that is fettered and oppressed. What would it be without the privilaged order? It would be all; but free and flourishing. Nothing will go well without the third estate; everything woild go considerably better without the two other(Baker 156)." This last quote is the liberty of the French Revolution, its the social liberty that every man in society is equal. They very Social Structure that the United States and the World use today. As Napoleon put it A society of "Individual Talent" not a Society of the ordained. A society where everyone can succeed, not where people are subject to unfairness and inequality just because God ordained you in this order. I can go on like this for every but i really do not wish to write something of great length, just a guide to prove you assertion that "communism was created by the French Revolution." And now the Declerations of the rights of men and women. These are by far the most important documents which came out of the French Revolution. Now tell me where in these documents does it make a reference or an ideology tied to Communism? The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen a great document possibly the best document written in all of Modern History, before I discuss the actual Document let me again give you some back ground. The Rights of Man was adopted on August 26 1789. It is a very liberal document in contrast with the Declaration of Independence, but in reality it is a better document then the declaration of independence. Why? Lets just say its a very general document. Because of this documents general nature it has been adopted by most if not all Modern Democracies. Now lets read a few articles from the actual rights of man. Article 1."Men are bornand remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions can be based only on public unility. How is this communist? please tell me which part of the Rights of Man gives way to Karl Marx? And finally the notorious Maximilien Robespierre. Robespierre was the leader of the revolution and France during the latter stages of the revolution. The time period called the Terror. Robespierre clearly states: "What is the goal toward which we are heading? The peaceful enjoyment of liberty and equality; the reigh of that eternal justice whose laws have been inscribed, not in marble and stone, but in the hearts of all men,even in that of a slave who forgets them and in that of the tyrant who denies them(Baker 370)." Please enlighten me on how this leads to communism? In conclusion I will leave you the reflections of Thomas Paine on the revolution. First let me tell you some background on Burke, the only reason Burke talks about the revolution in the manner in which he does is because like Napoleon he is afraid of the MOB. He is fearful that what just took place in France will lead to a similar revolution in England. This would have effected Burke gravely, infact he would have had his head cut off. but back to Paine and his critisms of Burke's reflection. Paine insisted that good government depended on establishing a constitution that guaranteed the natural rights of all men. In his view, Great Britain did not have a constitution; it had only a long history of fraudulent monarchical and aristocratic claims guaranteed by force. Also Burke never got the whole start of the Revolution right. He was virtually clueless on why the French Revolution started. Finally If you are going to make a claim you should try to research the topic read the documents before, during, and after the revolution. Their are vitually no ties between Karl Marx and the French Revolution. Ill repeat again all modern democracies take the French Style of Democracy not the American Style. And if you dont believe me please tell me how many National Assemblies exist!

Carl said...

A brief response:

1) You begin with an appeal to authority. Logical arguments aren't necessarily invalidated by failure to read absolutely everything. I have researched but, more importantly, reasoned. Your rambling retort identifies you as one with much learning but almost no thinking.

2) Recall that my first assertion was that the French Revolution left almost no trace, in contrast with the British Glorious Revolution and the American Revolution. You never address the issue. The best proof of the point is, of course, that America's government is far older than France's government, which dates only from 1958. However good the French Revolution was -- and I don't think much of it -- only symbols, not substance, survived. After the Revolution, of course, France had two Emperors, Bourbon Kings, and several republics. Not to mention Daladier, Reynaud and Gamelin. By contrast, America's government has been unbroken -- and an international inspiration -- since the Constitution became effective in 1789.

3) You deny any link between French Revolutionary ideas and the Soviet Union. But for this proposition, you rely the French Declaration of the Rights of Man. This proves my point--both the Declaration and the Soviet Constitution proclaimed a plethora of high-minded rights, none of which were honored by the respective governments. Or do you somehow think Robespierre imposed "such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense" or guaranteed that "No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions?"

4) I do not claim deep expertise. But surely it is significant that others draw the same link to Communism:

a) Robert Conquest, from The Dragons of Experience: "It is often forgotten that its heritage [the French Revolution] produced. . . the Marxist disruption of liberty."

b) Otto Scott: "Such reasoning put everyone's life at the mercy of dictators - though that aspect of the French Revolution is seldom mentioned by its admirers; neither is its anti-religious nature. For the French were not content to move only against the established church of France. They moved against all religions - Judaic as well as Christian. The Americans had denied political power to the churches. The French went further, and denied churches the right to exist. That crossing of the profane into the sacred did not mean that no religion remained in France, however. For if their forbears had agreed that God gave, and could take, life, the revolutionaries agreed that the State gave, and could take, life. The State, therefore, was their God. [I note, exactly as did the Soviets]

Afterward, Napoleon could restore only a crippled sort of normality to the nation. The Revolution had been too huge a cataclysm to repair. Its influence, . . . paved the way for more literal heirs of the French Revolution, like Marx, Engels and their Internationale."

c) Francois Furet, review by Mark Falcoff: "A stimulating and challenging work, The Passing of an Illusion is nonetheless difficult to summarize. On one level it is a history of the Communist idea as that idea made its way from the French to the Russian revolutions, and from there into the heart of European culture and thought, before finally spreading to the most ragged edges of Western civilization and to those unfortunate areas that used to be called the third world."

In sum, I fully understand your opinion of the influence of the French Revolution. Your refusal to acknowledge contrary scholarship suggests you're still mired in the lessons of that Revolution.