Thursday, June 16, 2005

Supranationalist 1

Supranationalist Manifesto

To the Peoples of Europe:

After witnessing the inefficiency of the present EU system of government, you were called upon to approve the new Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe. The majority of the citizens of France and the Netherlands voted “no” to this Constitution. This has led to political stalemate and a period of reflection on the Constitution and on the future of the Union generally.

The importance of this subject cannot be overstated; it has implications for nothing less than the existence of the Union, the safety and welfare of its constituent parts, and the fate of a territory which is in many respects the most interesting in the world.

It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the peoples of this continent, by their conduct and example, to answer the important question of whether societies really are capable of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.

If there is any truth in this assertion, the crisis at which we have arrived may therefore be regarded as the era in which the crucial decision is to be made; and imprudent choice on our part may, under this view, deserve to be considered as to the general misfortune of humankind.

The aim of the Supranationalist papers is to construct a fresh dream of Europe in this moment of stalemate in the EU integration process. The authors of these papers do not have a united opinion about how the Union should look; whether it will become a federal state, a confederation or an economic free trade zone. They do, however, share a common goal - to construct a better Europe that could serve as a model for the whole World.

We propose, in a series of papers, to discuss the following topics of particular interest:

What are the fundamental values that Europe should be based on?

What is the desirable organisation for Europe: a supranational order, confederation, federation or some other form of government?

What are the feasible political and institutional structures for the European Union?

What role is Europe to play in the World arena?

Scott Sulivan, Raphael Paour, Lorenzo Zucca, Euan MacDonald, Neil McDonald and Srdjan Cvijic

11 comments:

Akbar said...

The Manifesto says ...

"[We] share a common goal - to construct a better Europe that could serve as a model for the whole World."


[Ah those Freudian slips ...]

Now, what is it with you/Europeans, really? Why do you/they think that theirs is the job/privilege to construct "models" for the rest of the world? I mean, what do you think, the rest of the world can't figure out what to do with their lives themselves? That they're so lost, they need a blueprint faxed from Brussels (London, Paris, Geneva - pick your favourite)?

I mean - come on, people - a whole century of decolonisation struggle and we're back at square one again: Europe come to the world, delivers it from its misfortunes, the natives clap, the titles roll.

The only thing that has changed, it seems, is what happens on the surface of the discourse. Words have become fluffier. Tropes have become smoother. But scratch the surface for a moment only and it's all back there: the civlising missions, the sacred trusts, the white man's burdens ...

Can anyone tell me why so often so many Europeans so easily assume that the world should (nay, should want to) Europeanise? Why not Africanise? Or Asianise? Why not follow the "model" constructed in Beijing?

P.S. And please don't tell me that what you shared in the sentence above is not a dubious culturalist agenda but a benign desire to make the world a better place. Kipling too had benign desires. It was because of them that he developed the notion of the "white man's burden" and dedicated half of his life to building an intricate web of ethical justifications for the colonialist enterprise.

Lorenzo Zucca said...

Thanks Akbar, your comment comes as a stimulus to articulate better few ideas.

My first point concerns the necessary pluralism of models. I think we can talk of an American model, a Chinese model, etc.. Not all of them have been fully developed, but they try to do so.

Within this global context, the european model would only be a possible model amongst many. It does not need to be superior to any other model, and it does not claim superiority. In my view, it should only be there to constitute an alternative.

In a sense, thus, Europe aims not only to constitute a counter-power to the States, but also a counter-model. This way each individual could choose the model they prefer. In one word, I favour pluralism of models over "monism" of models.

As far as the civilising mission is concerned, I do not believe that European should civilise anyone else. They should merely do their best, and if this is good enough, then some other people would feel like coming to Europe, or espouse to a certain extent the values Europe stands for.

For example, people from Singapour may decide one day that competition with China is becoming to tough to bear in solitude. Thus, they will have to choose whether to have a stronger integration with the chinese market first, and with chinese identity then. Or they may choose to form a Union with other countries (Malaisia etc..) taking as a model the European Union. It is not a civilising mission, it simply means that the experience we had, could be used to improve on it in other parts of the world.

P.S: I don't have any benign motive for thinking that Europe should be better and, if so, could serve as a model. The first, real, motive is that I want to live in a better polity than the one we are living in now. If anything, at this moment, I can only see the tragic dark sides of European Nations (see Italy, France, Holland, with their economical, social, and political endemic crisis).

Srdjan Cvijic said...

Thanks for your comment Akbar. I must say you got me wrong, EU serving as a model for the whole world is not a Freudian slip, I really mean it. I felt it was important to emphasize that, and I think i is unfair to compare such a position with colonialism, EU model, or at least the one that I hold dear, is the one that proposes and does not impose. It is the one that does not pour bombs on Iraq but offers membership to the countries that are outside of the borders of the geographical Europe. It is the EU that might indeed one day not be 'white' as you say, it might be more 'yellow' or 'brown'...this is the dream of Europe I hold dear, it is possibly a Utopia, but I think that at least your critique, as far as the normative side of my argument, is completely unfair. If you prefer the Chinese model (I think nevertheless that this was just a provocative example that you give) then go on espouse the values of the ruthless capitalist market economically and a communist dictatorship politically, indeed a role model for the whole world.

Akbar said...

Thanks, Srdjan. With all respect, your comment only further proves everything I said earlier.

(1) "Propose not impose" - like I said, the words have become fluffier, the tropes have become smoother. But scratch the surface and it's all there again.

"Offers membership ..." For the record, I would dispute the employment of such an "innocent" verb, but let's leave secondary points aside. First things first: how do you think this statement above is any different from what the 19th century ideologists of colonialism said about the colonialist project?

"Let's help those poor barbarians join the [read: "our; as defined by us"] family of nations" is how every 'mission civilisatrice' since the advent of the French Revolution started. See E. Said, Culture and Imperialism (1993).

(2) Do you actually think the 19th century colonialist project was accompanied by statements like "let's invade all those non-Western countries that we can reach, subjugate all the locals there, and deprive them of their sovereignty over their natural resources so that our capitalist monopolies can thrive"? Please. A vast majority of the public discourses through which the colonialist enterprise was legitimated were framed in humanistic/humanitarian/altruist terms. See Said again.

And, yes, Utopia did play an important role in the 19th century colonialist project. Every imperialism relies on a careful cultivation of Utopia. Without it you can't coopt the lay masses of the imperialising countries [who always end up sharing most of the burdens - economic, military and otherwise - associated with the colonial conquests without getting any of the spoils] and make them feel good about the oppression their governments bring (in their name) to the colonies.

(3) "It is the one that does not pour bombs on Iraq." I fail to see how this makes the civilising mission we're talking about any less colonialist.

When somebody comes into your house and tells you they refuse to recognise your political dignity by implying your political choices are inferior to their opinion about the eternal verities of [good governance, human dignity, democracy - stick your favourite buzzword here], the fact that they don't beat you on the head while they're saying this does not, I submit, make their intrusion any more acceptable.

[And please be careful next time you use an argument like that. One of the most obvious ways of (mis-)reading it is that you're effectively suggesting that the Third World countries should now say thank you every time some of the First World countries decide not to join other First World countries in bombing them.]

(4) Colonialism has many faces. Just because the West doesn't use the gunboat diplomacy, it doesn't necessarily mean that colonialism as such is over.

Colonialism is not an entity but a relation. It is a relation of culturalist hegemony.* It starts with an exclusion of the Other and it ends with the incorporation of Other's domain (but most importantly wealth and resources) into the polity of the Self. The stage of exclusion always happens on the metaphysical-ethical plane: the Self studies the Other and decides to deny it any equality with itSelf. It states that the Other's values are inferior, or its life patterns are barbaric, or its social structures are deficient, etc. Once this argument is completed, the Other becomes excluded from the circle of those to whom the Self is ready to accord respect. The loss of the right to respect is the first step towards conquest: as soon as the Other ceases to be seen as the Self's equal, the Self acquires in its own eyes the license to correct the Other's wrongs, to teach it how to live, and to redeem it from its vices (however contrary to the Other's wishes this teaching and this redemption may be). And that's when the conquest begins.

* By hegemony I understand here the decision of a particularity to present itself as the voice of the universal, i.e. to conflate itself - its discourse, values, and opinions - with such phenomena as "humanity," "truth," and "good."

(5) I really liked the hidden argument behind your comment on Iraq and China. Here's how I read it: "The liberal imperialism of 'Europe' is far nicer than the aggressive imperialism of the 'coalition of the willing' or the oppressive imperialism of Bejing; this means it's also legitimate." Need I to say, it's a bit of a non sequitur?

Srdjan Cvijic said...

you say, "Colonialism has many faces", but in my mind you fail to give credit to the difference between the EU approach, Bush's (and Blair's by the way)gun-boat diplomacy, and the old colonialism. You are right, old colonialism, lets call it this way, was masked by a certain utopia convnced in the universal applicability of the European cultural, social, economic and political model. One can say that today's EU also proposes a milder, more sophisitcated version of such a euro-centric utopia. However, there is an important difference, in the past, colonial powers went and militarily possesed their colonies, the EU does not do such a thing. EU is a club that offers its future members certain benefits, membership entails obligations, if a particular government, society, people, does not want to join the EU, there is no problem in that, they do not need to join, they will win something and lose something else. I must say, that you do no tgive enough credit to the difference between abstract imperialism of ideas and practical military imperialism of the gun-boat diplomacy or of old colonialism. I know you will say, that there are different ways to impose a colonial rule over a particular territory, today one does not need to invade countries, it is enough to control them economically to politically subjugate them. this is true, and it is exactly for this reason that membership in the EU seems appealing, in this way, if the EU present member states decided (and I believe they should) to promote a policy of 'infinite' enlargement, the countries of the 'thir word' how you call them could exert control over the decision making in the metropolis itself, was this a possibilty in the old colonial period? Final point. Sometimes its easy to criticize, but its much harder to offer a proposal of your own, who proposes is inevitably in a disadvantageous position of seeming naive, imperialistm, you name it...I invite you to offer your vision of the EU...what is principally wrong with the idea of 'infinite' enlargement? apart from it being totally unrealistic at this point in history.

Akbar said...

Oh, man, this conversation isn't going anywhere ... You obviously take pride in waving all those banners I openly consider brazenly colonialist. This will be my last response to your arguments.

(1) Srdjan said

"However, there is an important difference, in the past, colonial powers went and militarily possesed their colonies, the EU does not do such a thing."

It doesn't take a history degree to know that under the conditions of the late-modern capitalism, the patterns of power exercise drastically change their layout. The new colonialist projects no longer need to rely on the awkwardly visible use of gunboats anymore (which is not to suggest they don't use gun boats; only that they don't really need to use them). Power under such conditions becomes far less about the exercise of direct military coercion than the capacity of the governers to mold the governed into whatever shape they want them. [See Foucault, Althusser, Said, Fanon, Schmitt.] Now, what have the association agreements done to the buffer countries if not mold them into whatever shape the eurocrats and the various behind-the-scenes power groups associated with them wanted?

(2) Srdjan said

"I must say, that you do no tgive enough credit to the difference between the abstract imperialism of ideas and practical military imperialism of the gun-boat diplomacy."

And I am rather happy I don't and quite concerned you do so much.

As I said earlier, colonialism is not an essence but a relation. As with every other relation, what you think of it depends mostly on how and from which angle you're looking at it.

If you look at it from the perspective of the colonizer, then, yes, the difference as you describe it can seem rather great.

If you look at it from the receiving end, however, it's quite a different story. Think about it in this way: the homeless in London don't really care if the law prohibits them from sleeping in the London Underground or gives the Underground authorities the right to throw all the homeless out every evening. The end result for them in both cases would be the same: so long as the Undeground authorities want to force the homeless out, they can do that and the homeless will have no protection against them. Now, apply the same logic to your great difference. Or read Hale.

And, yes, before we even get there, I do think that there is no such thing as the "view from nowhere." Whoever thinks otherwise is either overdosing on something illegal or locked in the Ivory Tower.

(3) Srdjan says

"EU is a club that offers its future members certain benefits, membership entails obligations, if a particular government, society, people, does not want to join the EU, there is no problem in that, they do not need to join"

Sure. And then end up being called authoritarian, backward, undemocratic, etc.

Try not joining the Empire when it calls itself "the free world," "social justice," "common home for Europe," and so on. See if you can afford the consequences. Especially if you're a small state barely back in the international arena after several decades of Moscow's "benevolent" rule.

You're from Eastern Europe, right? Ask your government or for that matter any other government in Eastern Europe about the "no need to join" bit. Ask them to be honest. And then ask them if Hobson's choice is a meaningful choice too.

(4) Srdjan said

"could exert control over the decision making in the metropolis itself, was this a possibilty in the old colonial period? "

Oh yes. Sink their tea ships. Draw them into a civil war. Drain them of their military and financial resources. Looks like a pretty sure way to get them acting (in a way in which you dictate the agenda) to me.

Oh, sorry. Did I get a bit carried away here? You were probably talking of democracy, the "no taxation without representation" kind of control exerting, and other such like. Silly me. Of course. And of course they didn't have THAT in the old colonial period (some say that's why it's called old now - the new colonialisms figured out that that wasn't quite the recipe for survival).

So, fine, I guess I'll gladly concede you this point, no problem: the neo-colonial adventure has quite a thing to be proud of, I agree. In the techniques-of-oppression department it's scored far better than the slavery-promoting, overtly racist, apartheid-practising, murderous, genocidal classical colonialist project did.

There. Great achievement. Quite something to put on a CV. Just like "I'm a better neihgbour than Charles Manson and I sing live better than Milly Vanilly."

(5) Srdjan said

"Sometimes its easy to criticize, but its much harder to offer a proposal of your own"

Classical stereotypical right-wing. I hope you'll excuse me if I give you a classical-stereotypical answer: "Hi guys. Good try. Lousy logic though. See the thing is: it was you [not you personally obviously] who created this problem, not me. Which is to say you shouldn't have got us into this position - in which something has to be proposed so urgently now - in the first place, really. So now when things are so deep down the drain, why's it that I now have to help you find a way back into the normal before I can say anything critical of you? What if there is no way back into the normal anymore? What do you want me to do - shut up and stay quiet? Kinda funny, isn't it? You mess things up, we all bite the bullet every single one of us, and I meanwhile stay quiet. 'Cos before I can tell you anything I'm supposed to clean everything up after you first. (Whatever happened to taking responsibility for your actions, man?) Methinks, this way no one'll ever get to criticising you so long as you screw things up so reliably well."

(6) Srdjan said

"I invite you to offer your vision of the EU..."

Here's a good one: learn to stop growing and take responsibility for the mess you [not you personally obviously] have already brought. See where it takes you.

And cut all that spin about "Europe is our common home" too. That's just laughable. This continent has gone to more wars with itself in the last three hundred years than its school kids can afford to learn in their history classes (trust me, I get to see some of the best of them every day). Its western part thinks its eastern part is uncivilised. Its northern part thinks its southern part is cheeky. Everyone tries to learn English and everyone hates the English for that. That's a pretty big mess, don't you think, to pretend it away behind the facade of wishful theses?

(7) "what is principally wrong with the idea of 'infinite' enlargement?"

That's a Darth Sidious question, right? Or are you testing my ability to cut and paste my earlier arguments?

Lorenzo Zucca said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lorenzo Zucca said...

Thanks Akbar, you have a very appealing vision of Europe. I really think that everyone should think as you do. It is very good to hear balanced arguments. I especially like your tone, I'd say it is the best thing.

Let's examine a few arguments together:

1- akbar said:

This continent [Europe] has gone to more wars with itself in the last three hundred years than its school kids can afford to learn in their history classes

Be it, dear Akbar. This only proves how huge is the European success: no more wars in the last 50 years. Is this so deplorable?

Akbar said:

Its western part thinks its eastern part is uncivilised. Its northern part thinks its southern part is cheeky. Everyone tries to learn English and everyone hates the English for that. That's a pretty big mess, don't you think, to pretend it away behind the facade of wishful theses?

I say:

Oh my lord, this is a huge mess indeed! Everyone hates each other, and they have big old stereotypes. You're right, Europe is just that. You grasped the quintessential bits! Chapeau!

Akbar said:

(6) Srdjan said
"I invite you to offer your vision of the EU..."

Akbar said:

Here's a good one: learn to stop growing and take responsibility for the mess you [not you personally obviously] have already brought. See where it takes you.

Eureka, this sounds really great. Nobody has ever thought before about dealing with its own past! And the big mess is really disgraceful as you suggested before. If only we were all wise as you are, you could fight all stereotypes and sort out the big big mess.

Akbar said:

Which is to say you shouldn't have got us into this position - in which something has to be proposed so urgently now - in the first place, really

I say:

Correct! We should not deal with the European Union all together. It's out there, it's working well, there are no problems. Why bother? I apologize for that sincerely; now you have convinced me, I will stay in my corner and think about my responsibilities and the big big mess of national stereotypes. More importantly, we will always await your criticisms, which are always so constructive.

Akbar said:

(3) Srdjan says
"EU is a club that offers its future members certain benefits, membership entails obligations, if a particular government, society, people, does not want to join the EU, there is no problem in that, they do not need to join"
Sure. And then end up being called authoritarian, backward, undemocratic, etc.

I say:

Illuminatig point. It is not because of the benefits that countries join, it is because of fear of being called all the names by the international community. That is what happened to Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece. They were very healthy polities before joining the EU, but they compromised all that just for the sake of keeping their good names.
If only you could have said these things before, maybe they could have thought twice before joining.
Oh well, I have already learned too much for today thanks to your comment. I will come back another time to be illuminated a bit more, if this is possible. Thanks again Akbar!

Akbar said...

A friend advised that Lorenzo had left a comment and that I should response. So here it is:

(1) Many thanks for the warm words, Lorenzo. I'm interested to know what the other comment which preceded your last one (but, unfortunately, was removed before I could read it) said. I bet it was as warm if not warmer.

(2) "Everyone hates each other, and they have big old stereotypes. You're right, Europe is just that."

Well, my friend, I guess this is the time where I say: sorry, man, but this is only what YOU think I said, this is not what I actually said or stated in fact. As every reasonable interpretation of my statement as it stands above will confirm, it did not aim or seek to define in any shape, way, or manner "just what" Europe is or may be. Its aim was to point out the fact that you continously cover up a whole lot of facts which don't fit into your rosey story.

I was asked to offer my vision. I did. I said get rid of your "infinite expansion" ethos and become more honest about what you've done and are still doing. I said see where it takes you from there. I did not say I - or anyone else - have anything bigger and more ambitious than that. Nor did I say, suggest, or imply in any way that you, or for that matter anyone else you care to identify with, should stop "deal[ing] with the European Union all together" or that the EU "[is] working well [and] there are no problems." Clearly, no reasonable interpretation of any of my postings above justifies ascribing to me this ridiculous view.

What it does justify, however, is the view that the first sign of what you may call a mature attitude in situations like this is to be able to demonstrate to those you're talking to that you not only know where you want to go with your political project, be it federalist, supranationalist, or internationalist, but also know how to do that without making up a bunch of redemptive, soothing fairy tales about what you're doing or where you're coming from.

Can you acknowledge and denounce the dark legacy of colonialism and still go ahead with your enterprise? Can you go on doing what you're doing while acknowledging that what you do may in the end bring more harm than it brings good but there's no way you'll ever know for sure until after the event and there's no magic solution that'll allow you to escape this course of affairs? Can you accept all this and start being honest, at least to yourself, if not to your readers, about the ineradicability of that utter ambivalence which so pervasively characterises your position, its complexity, and comprehensive overdeterminated nature? Can you? Because if you can, why do you keep writing all that self-righteous pomp in your manifestos?

(3)"Illuminatig point. It is not because of the benefits that countries join, it is because of fear of being called all the names by the international community."

No, my friend, this is not an illuminating point at all. This is just a really silly reading (on your part, of my earlier statement). It is silly because it is based on a complete non sequitur. I pointed out some of the factors that in my view clearly prevent the option not to join from becoming a realistic option in the case of the ECE states. In no way can a good-faith interpreter read this statement as a suggestion that I believe these factors were also (i) the same factors which promoted the decision to join; and indeed (ii) the only factors that were at play.

(4) "If only you could have said these things before, maybe they could have thought twice before joining."

[Only twice? Hm. That'd be pretty worrying if it were true.]

The trope of your argument is rather amusing, Lorenzo. You clearly seem to imply, in a rather obvious, albeit indirect, way, that I was not the first person to have fielded the arguments that I have fielded.

Well, my response to this is: great, man, that makes me feel much better now. Except I still don't see how what you said makes my arguments any less valid.

Because if it doesn't, why then have you not addressed their substance? [So much for someone complaining about the lack of constructive engagement ...]

Because in a way, this is almost like the smaller version of the orthodoxy's response to the CLS. The crits pointed out to the orthodoxy the pervasive unworkability of its mythology about law and its institutions. The orthodoxy replied that this had already been pointed out to it before and ... happily went on to propagate its mythology further. The greatest thing, of course, was that neither on that "before" occasion nor when the crits made their argument did the orthodoxy actually engage with the substance of the critique presented to them.

(5) "More importantly, we will always await your criticisms, which are always so constructive."

Thank you. It warms my heart to think that someone who writes supranationalist manifestos is so eager to deal with my amateurish criticisms.

More seriously, try to learn that your critics don't have to have a ready made save-the-world plan of their own to be in the position to start criticising yours. [One doesn't have to believe that snarks exist to be able to tell somebody who says that a snark is both dark red and invisible that they are wrong.]

You're not a little kid, after all. What did you expect: that you'd bring something so blatantly full of itself that it goes under the name of a manfesto into the public domain and people won't start criticising it without seeking to offer anything as ambitious in the way of a comparable alternative?

[And try not to lose your cool over this. At least I'm giving you a rhetorical workout. Which, frankly speaking, I see less and less reason to continue doing.]

Akbar said...

PS: feel free to remove my comments too, by the way.

Lorenzo Zucca said...

Akbar, my friend, thank you for sharing with me your 'rethorical workout' (as you call it). And indeed, much of what you said is all about rethorics, at times funny, other times less.

My last post was simply a parody of your rethorical flourishing, I did not have the pretense of stimulating your wise criticisms. I am sorry if this has created bitter feelings. But as an 'imperialist friend', I can tell you it is not very pleasant to discuss with someone who uses phrases of the type: "You're not a little kid..., try to learn that; This is just a really silly reading.. etc etc."

These sentences sound to me merely aggressive, without contributing to the discussion; if anything they create a rethorical wall between two interlocutors. [Here, I assume that you're willing to discuss as I like being charitable]

What you are saying about the European Union does not strike me as new, at best it strikes as a repetition of crits orthodoxy. You should articulate better your ideas on imperial Europe, maybe you could do so in an independent piece, which we could post as a proper counterargument to our 'blatantly full of ourselves manifesto'.