You are here:   Text > Europe and the Nation State: Thoughts on Ortega y Gasset
All that Mr Juncker could bring himself to say was: “The British vote has cut off one of our wings, as it were, but we are still flying.” I don’t know about you, but if the pilot announces that one of the wings has gone, it is time to say your prayers — or at least put on a lifejacket. It was King Charles I of England who declared: “Never make defence or an apology before you be accused.” He lost his head. His son James II lost his throne for the same reason. So did the French Bourbons, not once but twice. Of them, Talleyrand is supposed to have said: “They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” The Five Presidents, the 28 Commissioners and the rest of the Brussels bureaucracy are as stubborn and stupid as the Stuarts and as foolish and benighted as the French Bourbons. They would be wise to learn from the Spanish branch of the Bourbon family, which made plenty of mistakes in its history but has learned from them and even presided over Spain’s belated return to democracy 40 years ago.

This brings us back to Ortega. Though he did not live to see the end of the Franco dictatorship, he knew that one day his beloved Spain would return to the European mainstream. Yet I believe he would have been saddened by what has become of the European project: the stifling talk of “European unity” (which is really centralisation), of “harmonisation” (which is really homogenisation), the loss of the originality and vitality that always characterised European thought and culture even in its darkest days. A national community, he wrote in 1931, must obey one rule above all others: “not to imitate”. In Spain, the word “nationalism” has acquired too much historical baggage to be respectable, but the Spanish nation is still a fact and so is your pride in it. Nationalism has been a dirty word in Europe since 1945, but the truth is that we need it. The British, because of our different history, have never been ashamed of our nationalism, even if we have always preferred to call it patriotism. It was under Winston Churchill’s wartime government, which he was not ashamed to call nationalist, that the British saved Europe from Hitler. The Europe of nations, what De Gaulle called l’Europe des patries, is the only real Europe — unlike the phantasm of a federal union that still mesmerises and draws the European elites to their doom. Ortega understood that nationalism and republicanism are not incompatible, but are two sides of the same democratic coin. When they diverge too far, you risk something like the Spanish Civil War. Both Nazis and Communists suppressed the nation state in the name of supranational ideologies. Today, radical Islam similarly subordinates nations to the single Ummah under a global Caliphate. As against such ideologies, the democratic nation state stands firm. The renaissance of the European nation state began in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall; Brexit has opened a new chapter in that history. We in the Anglosphere have never abandoned our nationhood. Europe, if it follows the British example, may now rediscover it.
View Full Article
Hanno Achenbach
April 29th, 2018
12:04 PM
Belief in sovereignty is about as intelligent as belief in race. And the Swiss or Norwegian model means being subjected to the rules of the European union with no say in establishing them. Is that what Daniel Johnson wants?

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.