“Nation Europa”: A German far-right journal and the history of Europeanism
From Alexander Hobe, Hamburg Institute for Social Research
“We do not believe that anti-European forces can build and secure Europe.”1 Who wrote this? Was it Emmanuel Macron, warning of an electoral victory of Marine Le Pen? Was it a representative of the EU Commission, commenting on a statement of the right-wing “Identity and Democracy” group in the European Parliament? Was it a devout European federalist, discussing the European ambitions of the Visegrád states?
The authorship of these words subverts contemporary expectations: It was Maurice Bardèche, one of the few in post-war Europe to consciously embrace the label of a “fascist writer”2. He was commenting, among other issues, on plans for a European Defense Community, one of the steps currently regarded as a crucial expression of the general trend of integration.
His words were printed in 1951 in the German monthly “Nation Europa”, a far-right journal edited by Arthur Ehrhard, formerly of the SA and the SS. Another one of its founders was Helmut Sündermann, whose contributions to the journal appeared under the pen name “Heinrich Sanden” because his activities as a high-ranking member of the National Socialist propaganda apparatus had earned him a publication ban.3
Today, it might seem surprising that a journal with a clearly radical-right political background would print words like Bardèche’s. It might also surprise the reader that such a journal would claim to be working towards “European Renewal,”5 or that the journal would include indictments of the “national egoism” which prevented “the creation of a supranational authority.”6 Yet, in “Nation Europa,” Barchèche’s words were far from an exception.
Nor was “Nation Europa” a German exception, for that matter. While the inclusion of the Frenchman Bardèche in their authorship already hints at the fact that the journal was Europeanizing in its own right, the journal itself was part of a transnational trend. It took its inspiration from the work of the British fascist Oswald Mosley, who had developed the idea “Europe a Nation” in his book “The Alternative”7 after the war –a fact which would later cause him to claim that he, and not Konrad Adenauer, Winston Churchill, or anybody else, had first had the idea of a European union.8
Mosley’s “Union Movement” would later go on to be part of the so-called “Malmö international”, the attempts by European far-right politicians to form a European party, which included, among others, delegates from Sweden, Italy, Germany, and, from France, Bardèche.9 Associated with this trend were a host of publications, including i. a. Bardèche’s “Défense de l’Occident”, Mosely’s “The European,” or “Jeune Europe” from Belgium.
Far from being confined to a particular subsection of the far right, as is sometimes implied,10 support for European integration was widespread in this group: Take, for example, an advertisement for subscriptions by the French journal “Rivarol,” probably the most influential far-right publication at the time, which aimed to appeal to readers in 1957 by claiming that the fact there was now a “majority […] favorable to Europe” in the National Assembly was evidence of the influence of its ideas.11
The contemporary surprise at these expressions of far-right European enthusiasm has two roots: One is the almost natural association which Europeanism has assumed in our minds with democracy and liberalism. The other is a similarly intuitive association of the far right with attitudes opposed to any form of European cooperation, particularly the supranationalism of the European Union and its predecessors. Both associations have their justification, but a historical investigation reveals a more complicated picture.
When charged with a historical investigation of “Euroscepticism,” “Nation Europa” is a caution call for researchers. Its Europeanism was decidedly distinct from the politics pursued by the “European saints”12 of integration, but is “Eurosceptic” an apt description of this attitude? No matter how one comes down on this question, this source forbids the easy interpretation that fundamental opposition to integration was always a mainstay of the far right. Furthermore, the support “Nation Europa” expressed for supranational politics complicates present-day attributions, as when the “common denominator” of left-wing and right-wing Euroscpeticism is seen in “nationalism.”13 And finally, these sources pose some important questions: Is it possible to posit a long tradition of “principled opposition,” to use Paul Taggart’s and Aleks Szczerbiak’s formulation14, to integration politics on the radical right? Or might the story of contemporary radical-right misgivings better be told as one of initial support, followed by disillusionment?
Returning to Bardèche’s article, the answer is certainly ambiguous. A precondition for “fruitful collaboration” in Europe was that “national forces” take government, because “only they were consistent and decisive enemies of communism.” They were also the only ones fit for taking this responsibility, he held: “Only the national forces are capable of going beyond nationalism. […] Only they have the power in them to give Europe a new belief and a vital mysticism, without which no state can survive.”15 It becomes clear from these words that his attitude towards integration was not primarily framed by an opposition to international cooperation or supranationalism. Still, he was a fascist, which shows that the label “supranational nationalist” might be less paradoxical than the first glance suggests.
- Bardèche, Maurice: Frankreich und Deutschland. In: Nation Europa 1 / Nr. 4 (1951), pp. 10–15, here p. 14. All translations are mine.
- C.f.: Desbuissons, Ghislaine: Maurice Bardèche, écrivain et théoricien fasciste ? In: Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine 37 / Nr. 1 (1990), pp. 148–159, here p.148.
- Botsch, Gideon: Zur Kontinuität nationalisozialistischer Europa-Konzeptionen nach 1945. Studien zum Europabild des frühen Rechtsextremismus in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Diplomarbeit zur Erlangung des Grades Diplompolitologe. Freie Universität Berlin. Berlin. 1997, pp. 43-49. For more information on “Nation Europa,” compare e.g.: Botsch, Gideon: Nation Europa (seit 1951). In: Wolfgang Benz (ed.): Handbuch Antisemitismus. Judenfeindschaft in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Band 6 Publikationen. Berlin, Boston 2013, pp.
- Nation Europa: Vorwort. In: Nation Europa 1 / 1 (1951), S. 3–7, hier S. 7
- As did its subheading in every issue since the first in 1951: “Monthly in the service of European renewal.”
- Berger, Paul C: Die Krise des Europa-Rates. In: Nation Europa 1 / Nr. 1 (1951), pp. 20–24, here: pp. 20f.
- Compare: LeCras, Luke: “Europe A Nation” or “Common Market Suicide”? Fascism, European Entanglement and the Ideology of Britain’s Extreme Right, 1945-75. In: Australian Journal of Politics & History 64 / Nr. 3 (2018), pp. 436–449, here pp. 442-446.
- Mosley, Oswald: Europa – Eine klärende Aussprache. In: Nation Europa 4 / Nr. 9 (1954), pp. 11–16, here 14f.
- A German delegate who was invited but could not attend because he was refused entry into Sweden, was Karl Heinz Priester. He was also among the “Nation Europa” editorial staff. Here, he wrote that the main goal of the “European Social Movement” founded in Malmö was “European union and the preservation of our German and European culture.” Priester, Karl Heinz: Malmö oder Straßburg. Hoffnung in Malmö. In: Nation Europa 1 / Nr. 6 (1951), pp. 58–59, here p. 58.
- Duranton-Crabol, Anne-Marie: L’Europe de l’extrême droite. De 1945 à nos jours. Bruxelles. 1991, pp. 167- 171.
- N.N.: II faut doubler l’audience de “Rivarol”. In: Rivarol 317 (07.02.1957), p. 3.
- To borrow Alan Milward’s expression for the group of Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, and others, who are commonly associated with making of European integration. Milward, Alan S.: The European Rescue of the Nation-State. 2nd edition. London, New York. 2000, p. 281.
- Vasilopoulou, Sofia, Halikiopoulou, Daphne and Nanou, Kyriaki.: The paradox of nationalism. The common denominator of radical right and radical left euroscepticism. In: European Journal of Political Research 51 / Nr. 4 (2012), pp. 504–539.
- Taggart, Paul and Szczerbiak, Aleks: Theorising Party-Based Euroscepticism. Problems of Definition, Measurement and Causality. EPERN Working Paper Nr. 12. 2003.
- All quotes: Bardèche: Frankreich, p. 15.