It is sometimes good to be reminded of how stark ideological differences are between us. Many had mixed feelings about President Donald Trump’s pro-Western civilisation speech in Warsaw, but my friend Niall Gooch wrote for many of us when he said two things are true at the same time: Trump is a bad advocate for Western values but those values are real, good and worth defending.
Others disagree. Often in strong terms. Franco Berardi, an Italian member of the pan-European leftist movement Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, offers this description of the continent and its civilisation:
Democratic Europe is an oxymoron, as Europe is the heart of financial dictatorship in the world. Peaceful Europe is an oxymoron, as Europe is the core of war, racism and aggressiveness. We have trusted that Europe could overcome its history of violence, but now it’s time to acknowledge the truth: Europe is nothing but nationalism, colonialism, capitalism and fascism.
Nothing. Philosophical heritage? No, nothing. Scientific progress? No, nothing. Great literature? No, nothing. Great architecture? No, nothing. A home of such unprecedented liberal order that Berardi can insult his homeland and its people in peace? Nothing.
What is with this Eurocentrism, by the way, that sees us as “the core of war, racism and aggressiveness”? From Genghis Khan to the Lords Resistance Army, non-Europeans have been perfectly good at waging war, hating each other’s ethnicities and generally being aggressive. It is purblind to suggest otherwise.
What has inspired Berardi’s anger? In this case, the migrant crisis. He offers, it must be said, no words of criticism for those Gulf States which have refused to take in migrants. He does not mention that East Asian countries also reject them (Japan accepted 27 refugees last year). It is all the fault of Europe. It is all our fault.
Berardi does not merely think that Europeans are mean and callous. He asserts that Europe is comparable to Germany under Adolf Hitler.
Europeans are building concentration camps on their own territory, and they pay their Gauleiter of Turkey, Libya, Egypt and Israeli to do the dirty job on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, where salt water has replaced ZyklonB.
We can have reasonable arguments about our policies towards Arabic and African immigration. Berardi does not want a reasonable argument. He wants to condemn us. There are not so much as hints of doubt flickering in his mind. Who cares that hundreds of thousands line the North African coast? Who cares that open borders would inspire millions more? Who cares that there are criminal and terroristic elements among them? It is heinous, says Berardi, not to let them in.
Even if he was right his ranting would be absurd. People dying in part because you would not let them into your country is not the same as going to their country and killing them. Otherwise there would have been no difference between Britain and the US (who denied residence to some of the Jews that were fleeing Hitler) and Hitler himself (who had them rounded up and killed). Does Berardi think it made no difference who won World War Two?
It would be foolish to attempt to reason with him. He ends his hateful screed with a demented tirade:
Five centuries of colonialism, capitalism and nationalism have turned Europeans into the enemy of human kind. May they be cursed forever! May Europeans be swept away by the storm they have generated, by the weapons they are building, by the fire they have ignited, by the hatred they have cultivated!
You are welcome to leave, Mr Berardi. You seem to be hostile to our continent and would doubtless be happier in such humanitarian idylls as Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe or North Korea.
I had never heard of this ideologue and would not have thought him worth replying to had it not been for his respondent. Berardi was resigning from DiEM25 and its founder, Yanis Varoufkis, the charismatic and intelligence former Greek Minister of Finance and renowned leftist author and economist, replied. There is not a word of defence of European civilisation in his obsequious response to Berardi. It implicitly accepts that our continent is nothing but a fascist hellscape.
“Hannah Arendt,” it begins, having been addressed to a “dear friend” and “dear comrade”:
…once said that as long as one German died at Auschwitz because of her or his opposition to Nazism, the Germans are not responsible collectively for Nazism.
Your letter to us, renouncing the horrors perpetrated in Europe’s name and resigning from our Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25) in protest, offers Europeans the same kind of possibility of redemption that Arendt’s ‘single-German-dying-in-Auschwitz’ offered the people of Germany.
There you have it. Europe is equivalent to Nazi Germany and leftists like Berdardi and Varoufkis are equivalent to the White Rose.
It is good to see such frank, open assertions contempt for anything, and anyone, more traditionally European. It helps us appreciate the gulfs between different elements of European society as they do their best to influence our future. Sometimes there is common ground that we can build upon. Sometimes there is only bitter ideological competition.