There is no real difference between conservative and liberal imperialism in terms of the pride which animates it and the presumption which expects primitive cultures “to submit without protest” to those who are their “enlightened” betters. It’s not about right and left but about right and wrong—and imperialism, in whatever political guise, is wrong.
There was a time when imperialism was seen as something peculiarly conservative. We think perhaps of those nineteenth-century English conservatives who idolized the British Empire, claiming that British imperialism had blessed the world politically, culturally, and economically with what was termed the Pax Britannica. We might also think perhaps of those twentieth-century American neo-conservatives who advocated U.S. intervention around the world as a means of spreading “American values” and what might be termed the Pax Americana. Such a view of imperialism is inadequate because it is too simplistic.
It should be remembered that imperialism has also been advocated and practiced by liberals and socialists. Napoleonic imperialism was the militaristic fruit of the French Revolution, and the imperialistic super-state, known as the Soviet Union, was the fruit of the Bolshevik Revolution. It is this secular liberal and socialist imperialism which is presently plaguing Europe in the form of the European Union.
Berthold Löffler, a political science professor at the University of Ravensburg-Weingarten in Germany, in an interview for the SuedKurier website, spoke of a mindset prevalent among EU politicians from Western Europe towards the people and politicians of central and eastern Europe: “Most Western European politicians feel morally superior to Eastern Europeans and consider Eastern European culture to be backward. They therefore feel entitled to unilaterally define the common values. And they expect Eastern Europe to submit without protest. However, this expectation has met with rejection in Eastern Europe.”
Dr. Löffler, who studied political science and Eastern European history in Tübingen, southwestern Germany, and in the Polish capital Warsaw, said that “from an Eastern European point of view, the EU is a community of values, but the question is who’s supposed to define these values.” Considered an expert on the politics of central and eastern Europe, Dr. Löffler asserted that Eastern Europeans “want to live in their nation states in the future” and argued that Eastern European nations “did not join the EU to swap Moscow’s dominance for lecturing from Brussels.” Having experienced Soviet socialist imperialism, they were not willing to surrender their sovereignty to the new imperialists in Brussels. “This is understandable given their history,” Dr. Löffler added. “These countries have won their independence with great effort and are proud of it.”
Dr. Löffler argued that “the Eastern European approach is fully justified by the ideas of the founding fathers of a united Europe… who referred to the common European roots of Christianity and to the idea of a Europe of homelands, with which the current concept of the EU stands in contradiction.” He then added that “Eastern Europeans see themselves as heirs to the over thousand-year-old common European history.” The problem was that a “sense of moral superiority” prevents “know-it-all” Western Europeans “from seeing that the Eastern European ideas of what Europe is supposed to be are no less legitimate than the Western ideas.” On the contrary, “it may well be that it is Slovakia and Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Croatia that represent the true spirit of Europe.”
“The problem is that values cannot be negotiated,” Dr. Löffler said. “They are absolute, which means that a compromise between these two ideas of Europe is not possible in principle.” If Dr. Löffler is correct, we can see that the European Union has now arrived at an impasse in which the deep and deepening divisions between east and west threaten to sunder one half of the EU from the other.
Nowhere is this division more evident than that surrounding the issue of Islamic immigration. Asked if he understood why Eastern European countries have refused to accept the quota of immigrants that the European Union had sought to impose on them, Dr. Löffler replied: “Absolutely, because politics should first and foremost be about the interests of one’s own country. That is exactly what the governments in Warsaw or Budapest are doing.”
It is evident that the peoples of Eastern Europe are unwilling to kowtow before the “progressive” imperialism which feels itself to be “morally superior” and which considers those in the east to be “backward.” In truth, there is no real difference between conservative and liberal imperialism in terms of the pride which animates it and the presumption which expects primitive cultures “to submit without protest” to those who are their “enlightened” betters. When all is said and done, there is little difference between the liberal imperialist who crushes nations with the left boot or the conservative imperialist which crushes them with the right. It’s not about right and left but about right and wrong—and imperialism, in whatever political guise, is wrong.
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