On reading Lerner’s review of The Virtue of Nationalism, one could not possibly fail to notice the barely disguised truth: it’s the first time he has ever seen a nationalist! He cannot believe that Hazony finds untenable any romanticised notion associated with supranationalism. To be fair to Lerner, the fault is not entirely his: the “global governance” crowd enjoys such prominent cultural hegemony in this poor and hapless little country, that nobody even knows what self-government means anymore; every week one hears prominent sovereigntists -please, notice: not establishment Europhiles, but populist sovereigntists- call for “more Europe”: for a single European defence and foreign policy; for a single European health policy against the coronavirus outbreak; for a single European industrial commissar in charge of negotiations with foreign investors; for the emission of European union-wide safe assets, and a European policy of fiscal stimulus. At this point my astonished reader might legitimately wonder what “sovereigntism” and “euroscepticism”, which one knows from the press to be widespread in Italy, even mean. The answer is that they mean making a lot of noise about immigration and larger fiscal deficits, while running policies hardly dissimilar from those of pragmatic establishment Europhiles.
In the bleak and depressing environment I have just outlined, Yoram Hazony’s learned and principled nationalist voice has brought a breath of fresh air. For years, since I first heard of his name in British eurosceptic circles about a decade ago, I had been circulating personal translations of his essays and articles in Italy, but now the metaphorical cavalry has finally arrived, in the form of his Le Virtù del Nazionalismo published by Guerini.
What is the virtue of Nationalism? It is the foundation of the Westphalian political order, of the Protestant construction, of national states like the British and the Dutch that since the middle of the seventeenth century have been teaching the West what it means for peoples to live in freedom and decency, while on much of the rest of the continent universalism was spawning a succession of tyrannies. Under this Protestant construction, the biblical tradition of Nationalism, which is not to be confused with any German malignant nonsense about “blood and soil” or the World-Historical State, is an attitude that sees the world as governed best when nations are given their independence and freedom to order their affairs according to their own unique national, religious, and constitutional traditions. The point of the national state is to maintain at least some aspects of separateness from other countries while creating a national community that minimizes the risk of tribal conflict within the nation. That is, a national state is defined by the willingness of its citizens to say “We, and only we, will make the laws that govern us, and only us”. It is not based on biology and race, least of all on biological Darwinism: it does allow for the integration of racially diverse individuals loyal to the existing people, and willing to embrace their history, language, and religion, which represent their national identity.
As it must now be obvious to all but the most wilfully blind (of whom there are however a great many), and contrary to what Lerner implies, it isn’t Yoram Hazony who’s empowering antisemites, but it is supporters of global governance or the EU project who, by seeking to dismantle the national state, are leading both to the imposition of authoritarian global/European rule and to an order based on anarchy, the gangsterdom of tribal self-interest, in which one’s loyalties are rooted in gratitude to familiar individuals from whom assistance has been received, and there’s no political sense of national identity.
That I have used derivatives of “loyal” so often here does not indicate that I have no access to a thesaurus; the repetition is quite deliberate. Loyalty was again the topic last month in Rome: when at the National Conservatism Conference Yoram Hazony mentioned the Euro, he didn’t do it to merely recommend an easier fiscal or monetary policy, as most Italian eurosceptics including this writer often do; no, he was disgusted that the actual banknotes show virtual windows and doorways and bridges symbolising “the European spirit of openness and cooperation” or “communication”:
“You are not laughing because you live with this, but what kind of people are these? Every single time you use the Euro, what you’re asked to do is to express a tiny bit of disloyalty to your own people, your own traditions and your own past. I know, these are just symbols, but they are symbols chosen by the people who run the European Union, and they choose these symbols because this is their ideology.”
What is even worse is that one of those men, the Italian Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, given the chance to select a national symbol for the €1 coin, was so doctrinaire to pick the universalist Vitruvian Man, leaving his country another unfortunate distinction.
By mentioning loyalty, Hazony was perhaps knowingly echoing Margaret Thatcher’s criticism of the Maastricht Treaty:
“This Treaty marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union” . There it is — straight out: a new stage! It is a very important big step, because it seeks a new political entity, something we have never had before. It creates a European Union. Later, Article 8 creates a citizenship of the Union, something totally new. It establishes it. It applies to every person holding the nationality of a member state. The article refers to rights and duties and spells out the new rights which can be extended. Moreover, if there is a citizenship, you would all owe a duty of allegiance to the new Union. What else is citizenship about? There will be a duty to uphold its laws. What will happen if the allegiance to the Union comes into conflict with allegiance to our own country? How would the European Court find then? The Maastricht Treaty gives this new European Union all the attributes of a sovereign state!
A criticism, let me once again emphasise, which is far more radical than any complaint about economic and financial parameters we might be used to in Italy.
Does the Italian right understand Nationalism and its virtues, and does she have the will and character to embrace it?