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BRITISH MANAGEMENT DATA FOUNDATION



'THE NATION AND THE NATION STATE'

Speech by Alexander von Stahl

Berlin - 3 October 1996



BMDF SYNOPSIS


Further to the speech by the President of the German Federal Republic, Professor Herzog, in Munich on 17 September 1996 on 'The End of the 'Nation State'.

Members may like to see a powerful rebuttle of the theory that the 'Nation State' no longer has validity.

Alexander von Stahl, formerly Advocate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in a speech at an FDP Meeting in Berlin on 3 October explicitly contradicted Federal President Herzog and argued that :

* The nation state will not cease to exist but will keep its significance as the guarantor of internal and external security in the 21st Century too.

* Does anyone seriously believe that one day there will be a European people with, limited just to western Europe, 12 nations, 10 different languages, 12 different cultures and 340 million inhabitants and, if the reforming countries of eastern Europe join, 18 languages and almost 500 million inhabitants?

* Such a parliament ... would have to understand the interests of numerous different nations. The split in the vote would, as in the old Austrian parliament, almost always run according to national interests. The result would at best be the absolute stagnation of this state structure.

* How should such an enormous structure protect the basic rights of the individual efficiently?

* A federal state of Europe is not a vision but an illusion.

* One must put up with the accusation that it [the Nation State] threatens peace because only a federal state could guarantee peace in Europe - due to the bellicose and unpredictable Germans.

* Of course, that is nonsense - mankind clearly learns nothing from history - otherwise it would think, for example, of the American Civil War, the Spanish Civil War and the wars in Yugoslavia and the Chechen Republic.

* Liberalism is based on competition, market forces and ownership : institutions which were not invented but which have developed in the evolution called spontaneous order by Gehlen and Hayek. This spontaneous order, which is handed down, determines every person according to their sense and instinct and makes human social existence possible.

* An essential constituent of this spontaneous order is the nation which marks individuals by language, culture and common history. The nation embodies the principle of proximity, of protection, of commitment and responsibility just like the family.



* * *




'THE NATION AND THE NATION STATE'

Speech by Alexander von Stahl

Formerly Advocate General of the Federal Republic of Germany
at an FDP Meeting Berlin - 3 October 1996



Every idea bears in it the seeds of its perversion if it is purveyed as absolute truth.

Repeatedly over the centuries millions of people have been killed in the name of Christendom and of the principle of brotherly love propagated by it. The crusades, the subjugation of South America, the Thirty Years War and the enslavement of Africa should be mentioned merely as outstanding examples of this.

Similar crimes have been committed in the name of Islam.

Socialism, the idea of earthly happiness of mankind through absolute equality, has cost 35 million people their lives just in the Soviet Union, which has come to an end. And also nationalism, particularly German nationalism but not only German, has brought untold misery to the human race.

The fact, however, that every idea, every belief can be abused by fanatics as an instrument of control for their own purposes does not mean that the opposite conclusion can be drawn, that this idea is bad and that it must be stamped out or forbidden.

This applies in the same measure to Christendom, Islam, the idea of social justice and also to the nation and the nation state.

In this I am already explicitly contradicting Federal President Herzog whom 1 hold in great esteem. The nation state will not cease to exist but will keep its significance as the guarantor of internal and external security in the 21st Century too. Only it will be able to guarantee the welfare state, only it is the bearer of democracy. And only it, as being subject to international law, is in a position to maintain peace and liberty for its population.

In fact, we Germans ought to be the first to understand that there can be no escape from the history of ones own nation and thus from the national relationship with individuals. This thesis is instantly proved by the sensation that Daniel Goldhagen has caused by his book 'Hitler's Willing Executives' not only in Germany but across the whole world.

Germany, bound by common fate and responsibility, cannot absolve itself either by the self-hatred propagated by the left which equates Germany with the years 1933 to 1945 - for this self-hatred is merely negative nationalism of a most pernicious kind - nor by escape and abandonment into a united European state, because that must not and will not happen. Europe is good. A Europe of nation states is better.

For the sake of completeness I would like briefly to point out in this context that anyone who uses the word Germany in this Republic without first donning a hair shirt is in danger of being branded as a right wing radical and thus excluded, both by the left and also in the FDP itself a cheap way to hang on to power.

I would like to emphasise that for us Germans the obligation has developed from the historical responsibility for the crimes of national socialism always to ensure that democracy and the rule of law are never endangered again. The human dignity of the individual must remain inviolable. However, today this danger is extremely small. In a population of 80 million at the most 2,000 to 3,000 organised right wing extremists are discernible and they are essentially under the control of the authorities responsible for the protection of the constitution. Moreover the right wing extremists do not sit in the Bundestag as do the PDS (Part of Democratic Socialism) who under their old name SED (Socialist Party of German Unity) were responsible for the Wall, orders to shoot, the spy system and economic decline.

Yet no-one warns against the danger of a left-wing dictatorship which at present however I also consider to be small.

Let us look in more detail at the idea of a unified Europe. There must not be a Europe of nation states. A federal state is required. The protagonists are silent about what form it should take just as formerly the communists were silent about the final state of their substitute for religion. It is sufficient for its supporters to elevate the dissolution of the German nation into 'reasons of state'. The Federal Chancellor is among these supporters as he affirmed in his government statement on 4 October 1990 :

'We hold fast to our commitment to the building of a united states of Europe and the Atlantic Alliance.'

The leader of the opposition, Oskar Lafontaine was even able to cap the Chancellor in his reply :

'When the declaration of belief in the united states of Europe is continually repeated, for the thinking person that can only mean that this new state (by which is meant the reunited Germany) is only a transitional state because we want to preserve it in the united states of Europe.'

Does anyone in this room seriously believe that one day there will be a European people with, limited just to western Europe, 12 nations, 10 different languages, 12 different cultures and 340 million inhabitants and, if the reforming countries of eastern Europe join, 18 languages and almost 500 million inhabitants? Against such a parliament which would have to understand the interests of numerous different nations the old parliament of the pre-1918 imperial monarchy would have been the epitome of efficiency. The split in the vote would, as in the old Austrian parliament, almost always run according to national interests. The result would at best be the absolute stagnation of this state structure.

How should the political leadership of 12, 16 or even more states unite in one government, in a collegiate body or under a president? The integration of 12 or 16 completely differently structured economies and social systems with the associated gigantic financial transfers from the rich (that is us) to the poorer regions (that is the others) seems to me an insoluble problem.

How should such an enormous structure protect the basic rights of the individual efficiently?

Does anyone in this room seriously believe that those East European reforming states which are willing to enter are prepared to sacrifice on the altar of pan-Europeanism the recently gained personal liberty of their citizens which is directly tied to their national sovereignty? Has anyone heard well-known voices from France (possibly Delors), Britain or Spain pleading for a federal state? Italian voices have become weaker.

I have certainly not.

The German political class stands by these concepts alone, or almost alone; that class which has not even managed to make the German language an official European language alongside French and English has lost sight of reality over the matter of Europe.

A federal state of Europe is not a vision but an illusion.

Europe, as the constitutional teacher Isensee foresaw and the Federal Constitutional Court has confirmed, will remain an association with a common purpose and not an incomplete state on the way to completion (Hallstein).

In its Maastricht judgement of 12 October 1993 the Federal Constitutional Court established that the European Union is an 'association of states', determined 'primarily by inter-governmental means' and with the exercise of jurisdiction based on the 'authorisation of states which remain sovereign'.

Regardless of entry to the European Union Germany would continue to have the quality of a sovereign state. The inalienable content of the democratic principle includes the fact 'that the exercise of state authority is derived from the people of the nation and is fundamentally answerable to them'.

If one makes this opinion of the highest German court into a maxim of ones political action out of complete conviction one must put up with the accusation that it threatens peace because only a federal state could guarantee peace in Europe - due to the bellicose and unpredictable Germans.

Of course, that is nonsense - mankind clearly learns nothing from history - otherwise it would think for example of the American Civil War, the Spanish Civil War and the wars in Yugoslavia and the Chechen Republic.

Yet something else is true : according to Article 21 paragraph 2 of the Basic Law, parties are not in conformity with the Constitution if they seek to threaten the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany either by their aims or by the behaviour of their supporters. According to Section 92 paragraph 1 of the Penal Code, anyone who wishes to end its freedom from foreign domination threatens the existence of the Federal Republic. The Federal Republic is only entitled to transfer individual rights of sovereignty for a set time - that is redeemably to a community of states under Article 24 of the Basic Law. Self - dissolution or the transfer of sovereign rights irreversibly is forbidden - indeed it does away precisely with Germany's freedom from foreign domination. This aim does not conform to the Constitution. The leaders of the great democratic parties should perhaps take this to heart.

We national liberals, we who stand on the side of the Basic Law, are however bad Europeans on that account. We, too, want European integration on the basis of co-operation and international law, we, too, want a Europe without borders, we, too, want the single economic zone, we as economic liberals particularly want deregulation for the free exchange of goods, we, too, are in favour of intensive co-operation in the fields of internal and external security and comprehensive, international, efficient environmental protection. We call quite especially for common, binding regulations concerning asylum and immigration.

We national liberals want the reforming nations of East Europe to join the European Union - but in order to achieve this objective the European agricultural system must first be changed if not abolished, otherwise the entry of the states will not be affordable.

We will welcome the Poles with open arms to the circle of EU countries but we should first say that our agreement to their entry is dependent among other things on their previously returning to Germany the stock of the Prussian State Library which is at present in Cracow.

Since we are now in eastern Europe the Russians should also return the art treasures they plundered in Germany during and after the Second World War. I totally support Foreign Minister Dr Kinkel over this. However we could lend more emphasis to this demand if we made future allocation of credit, moratoriums etc dependent upon their return.

But we should categorically refuse any expansion of NATO eastwards against the wishes of Russia.

The people of Russia would perceive such an expansion to be a deliberate threat after the collapse of the Soviet empire which the Russians suffered as a humiliation, and in their present economic misery. I have sympathy for the fears of the Poles and of the Baltic States. But Germany's interests in the first place lie in a balanced relationship with Russia. This view has nothing to do with Tauroggen or Rapallo nor with a loosening of our association with the West, but the simple observation of German interests which may not be the same as the interests of the Americans, the French or the British.

And Chechen? I do not believe in reciprocal confessions of guilt, especially when given under duress. I do not believe in reckoning up the atrocities the two peoples have inflected upon each other. I am prepared to sacrifice the domiciliary right of the Sudeten Germans for reasons of state.

But what I do not understand is why Germany, fifty years after the war should still pay reparation in the form of reimbursement. The illegally confiscated Sudeten German property amounted to several milliard Reichsmarks. Enough to pay compensation to all Czech victims of German oppression. And that was the purpose of the dispossession of the Sudeten Germans by Benesch in 1946.

Back to the European Union :

One country paying and the others profiting from it - to somewhat overstate the case - cannot be the meaning of European solidarity. Germany pays a third more into the coffers of the EU in contributions than it would with a just distribution.

With a contribution of 28.4 milliard Ecu Germany is by far the largest net payer, followed by Britain with only 4 milliard Ecu. Almost all other European countries receive more from the European kitty than they pay in.

Of course, the EU has brought great economic advantages to Germany, but the other European countries - and this is not usually pointed out in this context - have profited at least as much in their export trade through the EU.

George Urban, one of Maggie Thatcher's foreign policy advisers, describes in this latest book among the things the Iron Lady's strong anti-German sentiments and her efforts to prevent German reunification. To this objection that Germany was after all not pursuing a policy of supremacy in Europe but was engaged financially in European unity to a great degree, she replied according to Urban, 'they are only paying reparation for all they did during the war'.

Now I like the British - and the Iron Lady particularly - and we should not be over-sensitive to this remark, but yet it displays an attitude which we Germans should not just accept 50 years after the end of the war.

Germany has so far borne the largest burden of any nation in sorting out the consequences of the Balkan Civil War, having already paid out 17 milliard DM.

Anyone who believes that the majority of the 320,000 refugees from the Civil War will have left Germany in the next five years is under as great an illusion as someone who believes that there will be no European and thus no German soldiers in the Balkans in five years time.

The curse of the good deed is that it must continue to deliver the goods.

The new federal states will need the support of the whole state for years to come, pensions are no longer secure, the communities are bankrupt, the demands on social assistance and other welfare benefits will have to be reduced further - but Germany is transferring its tax receipts abroad in the hope of being able to be everybody's darling. We will not ever be that even if we double our financial efforts.

The subject of monetary union fits into this context : the good thing about monetary union is that a savings competition has begun among the European nations, which has even seized Italy and Greece.

It will also be good that industry - above all major industry - will minimise calculation risks and not need to understate currency security deals any more. It will also be good for tourists who will no longer have to exchange money on holiday.

But : have for instance the psychological effects on the European labour market been considered? The highest-wage countries will draw labour from the low-wage countries to a much greater extent than at present. The free floating of the labour force will follow the global free floating of capital to an increased degree.

Who has so far thought in this connection of the citizens of the new federal states and their psychological state in that they are still suffering the consequences of their last monetary union with the DM? A large proportion of the jobs in the new federal states fell victim to that monetary union.

The danger of monetary union is that it will not unite Europe but divide it into a 'two-class society' - in the two-class society of the participants and the non-participants, the haves and have-nots. What a blow for the self-esteem of the Italians if they do not belong in the first category. These two parts of Europe will be estranged from each other because opposing interests will open up.

Since the convergence criteria for the introduction of the monetary union are only taken from financial policy whereas the economies, welfare benefits and taxation policy are not co-ordinated, the consequences of monetary union are unpredictable. Inflation or unemployment threaten the European structure or additional financial transfers from the richer to the poorer countries in order to prevent both. These financial transfers will to a great extent have to be carried by Germany.

We should distance ourselves from this experiment of monetary union, whose consequences are unforeseeable, but whose effects could endanger the basis of our prosperity. But because a refusal is indeed no longer possible out of fidelity to the Treaty we should at least try to postpone this experiment until all the countries of Western Europe - perhaps with the exception of Greece - fulfil the criteria, so as not to split Europe.

The 21st Century will not need gigantic state structures in which the eternal European myth of the Holy Roman Empire, the Imperium Sacrum Romanum, is resurrected. This myth, which derives from Virgil, who reinterpreted Rome's bloody history into a history of salvation and raised the greatness of a state into a moral obligation, this myth can be left to the Americans with their Capitol. We need smaller, more flexible, mobile and homogeneous units which, supported by team spirit and mutual awareness of responsibility, on the foundation of common history, culture and language have the determination to achieve something in this world and to be among the best.

Only a country which is at the forefront in science and applied technology and which is two or three years in advance of the other countries will in the long run obtain, through careful management, the profit which makes the welfare state possible.

The generation of reconstruction of the 1950s had this awareness. By great sacrifices it made Germany a prosperous and respected country again. Its grandchildren live on this dividend and the awareness that they are good people. At the end of the 20th Century the national economy is no longer a relevant factor. It has developed into a global economy which can scarcely be influenced by individual countries any longer. But the welfare state - the responsibility for the old, the poor and the sick - continues to be tied to the nation. I am quite astonished that the trades unions, which brand every nationalistic feeling as fascistic, have not grasped this fact.

In order to maintain our prosperity and thus also the internal peace of Germany we must have a self-confident and globally open attitude to competition with other nations over markets, ideas, technical know-how and organisational capability.

But Germany cannot be responsible for the whole world. The world should no longer recuperate on the German nature either financially or morally. If one bears the responsibility for everybody one is in the end responsible for no-one. We must not overtax our strength. We cannot therefore grant refuge to all the persecuted and poor from all the corners of the earth. The welfare state cannot cope with that and it will damage internal security in the short term and internal peace in the long term.

Germany is a hospitable country and should remain so. But one is always a guest for a set time and not for ever. The good guest goes before he becomes a nuisance. Guests who do not want to take these rules to heart should not even be let in.

Every guest should be allowed to become German when he has been integrated into the German society and can guarantee to conduct himself uprightly and can support his family. The granting of German citizenship should thus form the crowning conclusion of a foreigner's efforts at integration.

I, therefore, fear that the granting of a second citizenship to young foreigners will contribute hardly anything to their integration. If they do not wish nor have to make a clear decision they will remain nomads between the two worlds. That is not an exclusion of foreigners, and certainly not animosity towards foreigners but a simple description of the reality.

Liberalism is not a political philosophy of action of the world as it should be but of the world as it is. Liberalism forces no absolute truth on anybody, because it knows there is no such thing. Therefore the best thing about liberalism is the freedom to form and express ones own opinion, the mother of all freedoms, without which there is no human progress.

As a protection against the arbitrary use of power liberalism invented the state founded on the rule of law.

Liberalism is based on competition, market forces and ownership institutions which were not invented but which have developed in the evolution called spontaneous order by GehIen and Hayek. This spontaneous order, which is handed down, determines every person according to their sense and instinct and makes human social existence possible.

An essential constituent of this spontaneous order is the nation which marks individuals by language, culture and common history. The nation embodies the principle of proximity, of protection, of commitment and responsibility just like the family.

There will always be conflicts to be resolved by compromise between this principle of proximity, the nation, and the principle of universal humanism - all people everywhere are equal and everywhere have equal rights.

We national liberals put more emphasis on the principle of proximity, without wishing to disparage others, because we are convinced that every freedom needs its commitment and because we are of the opinion that the welfare of the community, our social responsibility and also peace between the nations can best be served by it.

In this spirit we wish to produce policies for Germany, for Europe and for the other peoples of the world.

* * *


Translated from the original German by the British Management Data Foundation; 22 November 1996



Last update: 25 March 1999

© Copyright Anthony Cowgill and Andrew Cowgill, 1999

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