In this ‘interview’ conducted by fellow traveler Thomas Assheuer, Habermas proves himself to be a Neo-Liberal, not a democrat, mitigated by Mr. Habermas’ penchant for self-congratulatory intellectual garnish e.g….– in what Hegel would have called a valet’s perspective –… Hegel was, after all, an Egalitarian and a Democrat. The EU was and is a cartel with the trappings of democracy i.e. Neo-Liberalism avant la lettre. What is utterly absent from this ‘interview’, for obvious political/strategic reasons, is the starkest object lesson, of how the 4 time defaulter Germany, led by Merkel and her economic truncheon the European Central Bank, treated the Greeks, this glaringly obvious point was not lost on British voters in the Referendum. Read Gillian Tett’s ‘A Debt to History’ published in, of all places, The Financial Times on Benjamin Friedman’s after dinner address :
For a couple of minutes Friedman then offered a brief review of western financial history, highlighting the unprecedented nature of Europe’s single currency experiment, and offering a description of sovereign and local government defaults in the 20th century. Then, with an edge to his voice, Friedman pointed out that one of the great beneficiaries of debt forgiveness throughout the last century was Germany: on multiple occasions (1924, 1929, 1932 and 1953), the western allies had restructured German debt.
So why couldn’t Germany do the same for others? “There is ample precedent within Europe for both debt relief and debt restructuring . . . There is no economic ground for Germany to be the only European country in modern times to be granted official debt relief on a massive scale and certainly no moral ground either.
“The supposed ability of today’s most heavily indebted European countries to reduce their obligations over time, even in relation to the scale of their economies, is likely yet another fiction,” he continued, warning of political unrest if this situation continued.
The Myth of The Virtuous Northern Tier and Germany as it’s leader shattered by an inconvenient bit of history? Mr. Habermas was a vocal defender of the ‘German Position’ against the profligate Southern Tier, recall the propaganda of the moment before the arch enemy of Populism became the specter haunting the West?
Mr. Habermas can’t resist the temptation to scold the British for their half-hardheartedness in regards to the EU, not to speak of their crime of self-interest:
The British had a decidedly liberal view of the EU as a free trade area and this was expressed in a policy of enlarging the EU without any simultaneous deepening of co-operation. No Schengen, no euro. The exclusively instrumental attitude of the political elite towards the EU was reflected in the campaign of the Remain camp. The half-hearted defenders of staying in the EU kept strictly to a project fear campaign armed with economic arguments. How could a pro-European attitude win over the broader population if political leaders behaved for decades as if a ruthlessly strategic pursuit of national interests was enough to keep you inside a supranational community of states. Seen from afar, this failure of the elites is embodied, very different and full of nuances as they are, in the two self-absorbed types of player known as Cameron and Johnson.
Here is Mr. Habermas in a mode of humility, that appears as intellectual self-deprecation in a nearly comic vein:
But my perspective is that of an engaged newspaper reader and I wonder if Merkel’s blanket policy of dulling everyone to sleep could have swept the country without a certain complicity on the part of the Press.
The pose of ‘an engaged newspaper reader’ is politically self-serving and comic in the truest sense of the word.
In regards to European/German Journalism and it’s relation to the American Hegemon, Dr. Uno Ulfkotte offer some insights on this question, although Habermas might just view this as outside the province of respectable bourgeois opinion:
The reader has to sift through the chatter about the failed Referendum, to find key pieces of the evidence of the why of the defeat, and it’s demographic components, when in fact that is all there is in Habermas’ analysis: demographics. His ideological myopia.
To ‘solve’ the current crisis of the EU Mr. Habermas presents an undemocratic plan that gives priority to ‘Core Europe’ defined as what? Germany as one of that ‘core’ is unquestionable! Instead of a European Constitutional Convention that involves ‘cacophonous circle of the 27 members of the European Council.’ Democracy is difficult and unmanageable and the natural antagonist of ‘Core Europe’. One might address Habermas with the imperative of ‘reform or die’!
The summoning of a convention that would lead to big treaty changes and referenda would only come to pass if the EU had made perceptible and convincing attempts to tackle its most urgent problems. The still-unresolved euro crisis, the long-term refugee problem and current security issues are now called urgent problems. But the mere descriptions of those facts are not even a consensus in the cacophonous circle of the 27 members of the European Council. Compromises can only be reached if the partners are ready to compromise and that means their interests shouldn’t be too divergent. This modicum of convergence of interests is what one can at best expect from members of the Eurozone. The crisis story of the common currency, whose origins have been thoroughly analysed by experts, closely ties these countries together for several years – albeit in an asymmetrical manner. Therefore, the Eurozone would delimit the natural size of a future core Europe. If these countries had the political will, then the basic principle of “closer cooperation” foreseen in the treaties would allow the first steps towards separating out such a core – and, with it, the long-overdue formation of a counterpart to the ministerial eurogroup inside the European Parliament.
There is almost a momentary breakthrough where the ideologue almost makes way for the philosopher, but we only catch a faint glimpse of his shadow, how refreshing is that glimpse and how utterly disappointing.
How must a Spaniard, Portuguese or Greek feel if he has lost his job as a result of the policy of spending cuts decided by the European Council? He cannot arraign the German cabinet ministers who got their way with this policy in Brussels: he cannot vote them in or out of office. Instead of which, he could read during the Greek crisis that these very politicians angrily denied any responsibility for the socially disastrous consequences that they had casually taken on board with such programmes of cuts. As long as this undemocratic and faulty structure is not got rid of you can hardly be surprised at anti-European smear campaigns. The only way to get democracy in Europe is through a deepening of European co-operation.
If I read Mr. Habermas correctly, his anti-democratic vision of the EU : ‘Core Europe’ is the benighted future he imagines:
Therefore, the opposite side recommends the alternative of a deepened and binding co-operation within a smaller circle of states willing to cooperate. Such a Euro-Union has no need to seek out problems just to prove its own capacity to act. And, on the way thereto, the citizens will realize that such a core Europe will deal with those social and economic problems that lie behind the insecurity, the fear of societal decline and the feeling of losing control. Welfare state and democracy together form an inner nexus that in a currency union can no longer be secured by the individual nation state alone.
Compare Mr. Habermas’s comments on the Brexit from his German/European perspective, with that of J.G.A. Pocock’s published in The London Review of Books: