Together against Globalization: Poland and Europe between sovereignty and integration
Perhaps one of the clearest assessments of the position of nation-states in the contemporary globalized world is encapsulated in the words of Alain de Benoist: "the nation-state is now too big to manage little problems and too small to address big ones.”
"Free trade" and "free migration": Europe under the Atlanticist thumb
In the contemporary European Union, the nation-state is undergoing a profound crisis which threatens not only the stability and well-being of the peoples of these countries, but also the viability of any project of European integration. What are some of the signs that European states have lost or are losing their last vestiges of sovereignty, and is the process irreversible on national grounds?
The refugee crisis and the US-initiated TTIP are two of the more controversial issues which can be considered symptoms of the crisis of nominally sovereign European nation-states which in turn are united in a supposedly sovereign EU. The TTIP economic agreement continues to loom over and threaten Europe. As Andres Barrera Gonzales summarizes in his study of American imperialism in Europe, the TTIP is:
…from its very foundations designed to serve the interests of corporate America, to benefit the larger multinational corporations and big financial Capital; rather than for the benefit of the people, or to attend to true national or multinational interests. The deplorable subordination of the EU to the USA’s strategic interests, therefore the lack of autonomy in defining their own path in key issues like defence, foreign affairs, or economic policy for that matter, may have very damaging and tragic consequences for the EU in the (not so) long run.
The TTIP indeed threatens to guarantee that European states and the EU as a whole remain economically beholden to the United States’ “free trade”. The actual result is the exclusion of the European public from the decision-making processes on economic agreements, and the prevention of beneficial economic relations between Europe and other global players such as Russia and China.
As such, the TTIP presents itself as a barometer of the quelling of Europe’s sovereignty by the US. It not only exposes the subjugation of the EU at large, but also the repression of individual EU nation-states by supranational Atlanticist structures inside the EU, as demonstrated by the top-down level and secrecy of TTIP negotiations as well as the crude reality that, if the TTIP is implemented, EU national governments will no longer be capable of holding transnational corporations accountable, while the latter can freely sue states over unprofitable policies.
The refugee/migrant crisis is another signal of the weakness of the remnants of European nation-states’ sovereignty. European border security systems are collapsing and massive waves of frustrated, desperate, war-torn people from foreign cultures and with unknown backgrounds are overwhelming European states. This threatens to disrupt an already problematic social and demographic stability and impose new burdens on already crisis-ridden budgets. Even Germany, whose leaders are the main proponents of “compassion” towards the influx of refugees, can hardly be called sovereign representatives of Germany insofar as they have allowed their own citizens to become the targets of mass scale sexual harassment and even assault (while the opposition of the majority of Germans to more migration is ignored). The same has happened in Sweden, where police and politicians have also been accused of covering up similar incidents. It is indeed extremely difficult to imagine how a truly sovereign state can passively allow such a potential catastrophe to cross and accumulate within its borders.
Indeed, many of Europe's nations have been deprived of political and geopolitical sovereignty and have been alternately enticed and coerced into economic submission to the US. They are denied the right to maintain their respective national and European cultural heritage and instead are being forcibly served the dishes of neoliberalism, austerity, "human rights" (which apparently do not include the right of women not to be raped) and "multiculturalism", which in recent months have led to social and demographic tensions that now border on explosions within the context of the refugee/migrant crisis.
The pragmatic realism of one of the leaders of the Slovak social-democratic SMER party shows just how much the handling of the refugee crisis exposes the anti-sovereign nature of the Atlanticist EU, and can help one gauge the extent to which many such “European problems” are in fact problems placed upon Europe as a consequence of the anti-European nature of Atlanticism. It is important to keep in mind that the migrant crisis itself is a result of the EU’s trailing of American foreign policy’s endless wars and destabilization campaigns, for which, at the end of the day, Europe has paid a high price.
The refugee controversy and the TTIP are just the tip of the iceberg of the deep-rooted dependence of EU structures on the United States, and are the most recent confirmations of the deteriorating sovereignty of Europe. For the past two decades, the unipolar, Atlanticist rule of the United States with its enforcement of "liberal values" and its parasitic late capitalism has had unquestionably negative and erosive consequences for European nation-states. The contemporary European Union itself, despite certain myths surrounding its origins, was indeed a product of the American conquest of post-war Europe. This was part of the overarching Atlanticist project, and is itself in arranged to suppress national sovereignty, which instead must be the elementary building block of any genuine European integration project. The case of Greece is a glaringly evident example, and just as many of its individual states internally, the EU as a whole bears signs of being an Atlanticist colony.
While the symptoms of the refugee crisis, the TTIP, and the US's general hegemony over a crucial portion of EU structures and policy are indeed salient features, a further dimension of the issue of sovereignty lies at the heart of the crisis of globalization. The collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union signaled the end of the Cold War and the global triumph of the United States and its liberal capitalist model. This in turn ignited the next phase of globalization, and put the nation-state in a weakened position. The historic ascent of the global ideology of Liberalism after the Cold War, when the “End of History” was declared, shows that the nation-state and "nationality" itself were slated for dismantlement under the pressure of Liberalism’s progressive atomization. The nation-state was and is to be replaced by the full course of the "New World Order" and "universal human rights and democracy" of the American variety. Needless to say, “human rights” does not mean “social rights” nor anything substantial but merely the justification for regime change and for the imposition of extreme neoliberal policies, declining public healthcare, and also, in growing cases, Monsanto food (in other words, “human rights” does not mean the right to health and to a long life). The crisis of Europe today and its offshoot problems can be traced back to the ideological, economic, and geopolitical dimensions of this End of History.
The nation-state vs. Atlanticism and the search for alternatives: the Polish case
Nevertheless, and towards understanding the particular case of Poland, the dilemma facing us today is whether the nation-state is still inevitably a relevant actor that still retains some power, or whether global politics continue to be determined by transnational elites that use the structure and legal authority of nation-states to conduct policy. Can the very structures of the nation state be used by a weak state that wishes resist the globalization process? This is the question and the dilemma that faces Poland, which we will discuss below.
Through this question, we encounter what seems at first glance to be a paradox: nation-state nationalism has indeed re-emerged as one of the bases of resistance or reaction to unipolar Atlanticism. The resurgence of nationalist parties and movements across Europe demonstrate that the nation-state and national identities still present a great potential for challenging an American ideological, economic, and geopolitical domination. On the other side of the coin, nationalist movements also pose the danger of being not only artificial and completely deconstructive, but also thoroughly Atlanticist, and ultimately liberal, globalizing forces, as the devastating catastrophe of "Ukrainian nationalism" in the past two years has proven.
There is, however, a widening way out. Over the past several years, large, multinational blocs and cooperative organizations have emerged in resistance to Atlanticist hegemony. Despite their varying conditions, structures, origins, and the unique challenges they face, such entities as the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS, and other proposed union initiatives, including ALBA in Latin America, have the potential to offer developmental alternatives on the basis of not only mutually respecting states' sovereignty, but also realizing that such sovereignty cannot be guaranteed by a lonely struggle of this or that nation-state against the massive American behemoth and the pressures of its "globalization." Proposals to this end are gaining more traction, such as when BRICS offered a viable exit strategy for Greece from the Atlanticist-imposed debt crisis or when the EEU invited Europe to engage it and avoid the TTIP. In short, they seek to overcome the "divide and conquer" strategy of the US and offer increasingly attractive and needed alternatives with a high degree of flexibility and mediation. Moreover, the states joining such initiatives are presented with the fact that the compromises or concessions demanded by membership in these political-military and economic alliances pale in comparison to the loss of sovereignty that is threatened when they remain alone and sucked into the intense vortex of Atlanticist hegemony. Such steadily emerging blocs, although not without problems, are offering states the opportunity to defend their identities and sovereignty from Atlanticism and, with reinforced cooperative economic development, avoid falling into the trap of the increasingly cornered nation-state. Although it remains a subterranean development confined to the fertile milieus of various nationalist and pan-nationalist movements, such as the National Front in France or Zmiana in Poland, and is not likely to be realized in the near future, the idea of a transformed, anti-Atlanticist, continental European Union "from Dublin to Vladivostok" represents an analogous potential.
Poland is a primary example of a nation-state which is faced with this dilemma. The Polish state remains a relevant actor given the continued, objective existence of its nation-state government. As a result of unipolar globalization, however, this state remains tied to the larger framework of the EU. But, the Atlanticist nature of the existing EU inherently oppresses and harms Poland’s sovereignty. Any sort of liberation for Poland, however, is unlikely without the transformation of the existing “large space" or harnessing the opportunities presented by an alternative integration or cooperative project. This is the context of Alain de Benoist’s statement with which analysts have to deal. The Polish situation is indeed an illuminating case study in the context of the rise of new and old nationalist oppositions in Europe, which have re-emerged as a response to the crisis of the European Union resulting from its Atlanticization by the United States. Poland's case is also important in that it demonstrates the pitfalls of "petty" nationalist projects when larger anti-Atlanticist projects are ignored.
The latest wave of Polish nationalism, for example, is entirely deconstructive in this vein. Poland's colonization by the US-NATO bloc has blocked too many opportunities for Poland as a relatively new nation-state to pursue constructive domestic and foreign policies and has put a number of unnecessary problems at Poland's doorstep, such as the TTIP, the refugee crisis, endless Liberal "human rights" crusades against Polish cultural norms, and the manipulation of Poland to support its own existential enemies, such as Banderism in Ukraine. Likewise, Poland has been forced to refuse beneficial economic relationships with its Eastern neighbors, such as Belarus and Russia.
But the new wave of Polish nationalism, which PiS rode and co-opted into power, has lashed out against Poland's junior partnership in the European Union and NATO, and has instead called for a "Poland for Poles" and a Poland free to act as it wants within or outside of the context of the European Union. This, more or less, is the populist sentiment which swung many Polish voters and catapulted the Law and Justice party into power under, among others, the slogan "nothing about us without us." However misdirected, the new wave of Polish nationalist sentiment is a force to be reckoned with and, accordingly, poses important questions regarding the nation-state in the 21st century, between unipolar Atlanticism and "large space" integration.
Yet the problem facing this Polish nationalism is the same issue which confronts the nation-state in Europe in general. What good is such an independent Poland in today's world? Can Poland exist on its own outside of integration projects? Is there sovereignty in a narrow nationalist project?
From an economic standpoint, Poland finds itself within the greater economic zone of Germany. Much of what’s left of Poland's functioning industries are dependent on economic ties with the German economy. On the other side of the border, Poland's hugely profitable agricultural exports depend on good relations with its eastern neighbors, first and foremost Russia. Tearing up the roots of Poland's horizontal economic relations with its eastern (as the consequences of anti-Russian sanctions have shown) and western flanks under the banner of "national-liberation", would be more devastating than emancipatory and would undermine any sort of national rebirth from the onset.
Peddling shallow anti-EU slogans along with the habitual crusade of Russophobia, the new government has not only continued the anti-Russia line which has brought massive economic losses to Poland over the past year and a half, but has also made notable maneuvers in, for example, the sphere of media ownership, which represent clear swipes at Germany. In "moving away" from the "EU dictatorship" of Germany and Brussels, however, the new government has brought Poland only deeper into the clutches of the US directly, as the majority sale of TVN, one of the largest television news channels in Poland, to an American corporation confirms. So far, PiS's post-electoral policy formulations have retained a purely Atlanticist character, with small crumbs from the table such as increased welfare payments and banal lip service to "soft patriotic" jingoisms supposedly substituting for any legitimate "Poland for Poles.” The continued occupation and colonization of Poland is not only obscured by the Atlanticist nationalists in power, but has dragged ordinary Poles who genuinely hoped to "bring Polish shops back," i.e., alleviate the Polish economy from the most visible indications of foreign capital's domination, in the wrong direction. The “non-politics” of the much-hyped “showdown” between the Polish PM and European officials is just as much a testament to the sorry state of internal EU dynamics as it is to the parody of this false Polish patriotism.
Geopolitically, conditions are different from previous centuries and, in tandem with the rise of the Eurasian integration project and subterranean yet growing anti-Atlanticist, continental surges within the EU, there is the potential opportunity for Poland to play the role which might just turn out to be its destined one: the role of a geopolitical, cultural, economic and, on a more surface level, diplomatic bridge between Russia and Europe. However, Poland’s new “nationalists” have decided to lash out in all directions and continued the institutionalized Atlanticist historiographical paradigm and Russophobia which prevent Poland from seeking realistic, alternative partners.
Poland's continued Atlanticist colonization, its occupation by NATO, and the castration of its national political discourse by the Liberal paradigm remain a stranglehold on any sort of Polish nationalism which PiS and its duped victims claim to have championed against the "anti-Polish elements" and "worst sort of Poles" (PiS leader Kaczynski's words) that make up the fallacious new "democratic" opposition. The real problem is that while some of Poland’s new nationalists have understood that Poland is not sovereign and that sovereignty is desirable, they believe, wrongly, that this can be achieved alone and even against both Europe as a whole and other alternative blocs, such as the Russian-led one.
Just as is the situation facing many of today's nation-states, such an escape from the abyss of Atlanticism might begin on the national level, but it can only cease there at its own peril of being strangled under the rule of "divide and conquer." States like Poland can find their alternative, or at least breathing space, in the vision and model of a Greater European-Eurasian bloc from Dublin to Vladivostok, part and parcel of a multipolar world, in which the nation-states of Europe (whose sovereignties are guaranteed as the very raison d'etat of such a union) could have the opportunity to constructively elaborate their own national and interconnected European identities and policies as opposed to the Atlanticist ones imposed by dint of the bayonets of American troops, the pressure surrounding treacherous economic agreements such as the TTIP, the careless dumping of millions of non-Europeans on Europe's soil under the banner of "human rights," diplomatic blackmailing, etc. This means that Poland can find common struggle with alternative projects to the Atlanticist EU or continental paths for the EU rather than isolating itself for the umpteenth time in history. Rather than being a mere struggle for a "Poland for Poles," Poland's fight is inevitably a fight for a sovereign Europe too. As some analysts have noted, Zmiana offers the most constructive proposals in this regard, whose campaign slogan for the European Parliament - "for a social and sovereign EU" - connects Poland's struggle with other European nations'.
No single Poland will otherwise be able to resist the massive disasters piling up at Europe's doors courtesy of the dying yet struggling American Empire. To a certain extent, "globalization" might be turned on its head, reversed against its unipolar orchestrators themselves, and real sovereignty achieved by way of cooperative blocs of sovereign states opposing the hegemony of the US, not hiding under its umbrella from the imaginary rain of "Russian aggression, “the "war on terror" or isolating themselves in outdated nationalist squabbles. This is the path to a truly sovereign Europe built on truly sovereign European nations. Poland and Poland’s nationalists have this choice before them: join a common struggle or be crushed alone, partitioned for the umpteenth time in history.