My young German friend Karl-Peter Schwarz, a political correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, sent me an essay last month that was earmarked for his newspaper, about an Italian Christian Democrat and nominee for the post of E.U. commissioner of justice, Rocco Buttiglione. In early October 2004, the Berlusconi government nominated Buttiglione as part of an executive list that was supposed to float through the assembly without incident. In a publicized appearance before the European Parliament, however, the 65-year-old nominee expressed moral reservations about homosexuality. As a believing Catholic and descendant of the Romans, Buttiglione could not quite rid himself of the notion that matrimony is about mothers and the maternal protection of offspring. The nominee let it be known that he had no intention to impose his belief on others and protested that, once confirmed as an E.U. official, he would enforce the laws of his ultramodern institution. As a Christian, he explained, he felt that, in a “multicultural society” properly understood, “one could believe that one is right and someone else is wrong but at the same time revere an erring human being as sacred.” (Let us grant this counterfactual premise for the time being.)
Buttiglione’s protestations did not suffice to keep critics off his back; and the European Union, guided by a plurality of Socialists and Greens, held back the list on which his name appeared in order to defeat his nomination. The dilatory tactic followed by E.U. President José Barroso, of delaying the confirmation vote by a few weeks until the storm had passed, did not work. Those parties situated left of right-center in the European Parliament gathered their forces, and, by mid-November, Buttiglione had agreed to withdraw his name from the list, which was then passed with a Hungarian former secret-police chief as the new commissar of energy.
Also driving this process were the bitter relations between the head of the Socialist caucus in the European Union, Martin Schulz, and Buttiglione’s sponsor, Silvio Berlusconi. A typical German antifascist zealot, Schulz accused Berlusconi last summer of being a Mussolinian for trying to restrict Islamic immigration into Italy. Berlusconi shot back that Schulz would have done fine as a “concentration camp Kapo.” Berlusconi’s Teutonophobic outbursts were fully deserved. Indeed, it may be helpful to distinguish between traditional Europeans, who are necessarily outraged by the antifascist hysteria coming from a country that already produced one unfortunate example of ideological imperialism, and those antinationalist Germans who are hypocritically complaining about Berlusconi. What Schulz and other members of the German left are doing to liberty and community in their own country is monstrous.
Would Schulz and his leftist friends treat the Turks, whose membership in the European Union they have been advocating for months, as viciously as they have Christians? I doubt it, in view of the glaring fact that E.U. delegates are wooing into their antiseptically non-Christian superstate the present Islamicist-majority Turkish regime. Presumably, the Turkish delegation, once it arrives, would be permitted to talk about religious morality with more brutal honesty than their lapsed Christian counterparts. Non-Christian theocrats do not elicit horrified accusations of “fascism” from the usual suspects, who are always fitfully reaching out to the enemies of the West. After all, the f-word only applies to European and American Christians.
Do Buttiglione’s statements, which caused the firestorm, reveal the embattled traditionalist defended in, among other conservative publications, the Spectator and Junge Freiheit? Are his the expressions of courageous conviction? Perhaps they may be more worthy of John Kerry and Geraldine Ferraro, who insist that, as Catholics, they find abortion “tragic” but would not inflict their politically incorrect faith on anyone else. In the face of the prevalent antifascist totalitarian climate, Buttiglione should have criticized unnatural sexual practices while underlining that his hands would be tied as an E.U. commissar. In all likelihood, the reaction of the anti-Nazi Nazis would have been equally hysterical whether or not the insensitive offender had been entirely forthcoming.
In an otherwise penetrating commentary, Karl-Peter Schwarz makes two questionable assumptions. First, he concludes “auf die Verschulzung folgt die Verhaiderung Europas.” By giving Schulz free rein, the powers that be ensure a widespread reaction on the other side that will favor right-wing populists like Jörg Haider (assuming that Haider is as dangerously extreme as Schulz). Such a reaction is only possible, however, if the institutional, social, and cultural environment sustains it. Otherwise, there will be no Verhaiderung but the application of an aphorism I learned from my late friend Murray Rothbard. “Contrary to what French communists believe, a politics of the worst does not lead to the triumph of the better but to the establishment of the worst.” I can easily imagine the Kapos gaining ground in Western Europe before the harmful consequences of their jackboot indoctrination become apparent.
Second, Schwarz seems to believe that the European Union can only succeed by observing the “principle of ideological neutrality.” Otherwise, it will run into conflict with the interests and values of the national communities that it claims to represent. But there is nothing the European Union is advocating ideologically that the English, French, Germans, Dutch, and Belgians have not already imposed on themselves. Secularism and antinationalism already prevail in the countries that are leading the European Union and clamoring for its “human rights” agenda. It is also hard to understand how such a union can be value-neutral, given its post-Christian moralistic rhetoric. Should we assume that the European Union has been or could be neutral in conflicts between feminists and antifeminists or between advocates of and skeptics about human rights?