In the chapters that follow the footnotes are, for the most part, of the traditional sort: that is, they comment on the text rather than identify a source. To avoid adding to what is already a very long book addressed to a general readership, a full apparatus of references is not provided here. Instead, the sources for Postwar, together with a full bibliography, will in due course be available for consultation on the Remarque Institute website [http://www.nyu.edu/pages/remarque/].
Or by Stalin, who ordered the shooting of 23,000 Polish officers in Katyn forest in 1940 and then blamed it on the Germans.
By way of comparison—the average daily calorie consumption in France in 1990 was 3,618.
They had good grounds for fear. The British army in Austria would later hand them over to the Yugoslav authorities (under an Allied agreement to return such prisoners to the government against whom they had fought) and at least 40,000 of them were killed.
Yet they, too, had little real choice—during the Depression years anyone who refused a proffered work contract from Germany risked losing his Dutch unemployment benefits.
In a speech in Bratislava on May 9th 1945, Benes declared that Czechs and Slovaks no longer wished to live in the same state as Hungarians and Germans. This sentiment, and the actions that followed, has haunted Czech-German and Slovak-Hungarian relations ever since.
With the significant exception of Greeks and Turks, following the Lausanne Treaty of 1923.
At the end of May 1945 the British Army turned over to Yugoslav authorities 10,000 Slovenian soldiers and civilians who had fled to Austria. Most of them were trucked south to the Kocevje forests and summarily shot.
The Halychnya or Galician Division of the Waffen SS was made up of Ukrainians who had been citizens of inter-war Poland and whose region of origin was incorporated into the USSR after the war. They were thus not repatriated to the Soviet Union, despite having fought against it alongside the Wehrmacht, and were treated by Western authorities as stateless persons.
The wartime ‘Chetnik’ partisans were named after upland guerilla bands who had fought against Serbia’s Ottoman rulers in the eighteenth century.
But not all—the Greek Communists’ opportunistic post-war support for the annexation to Communist Bulgaria of ethnically Slav regions of northern Greece did little to advance their cause.
Note though that the Protectorate of Bohemia was run in 1942 by just 1,900 German bureaucrats. In these as other respects, Czechoslovakia was at least partly western.
As late as 1960, 62 out of the 64 prefects responsible for Italy’s provincial administration had held office under Fascism, as had all 135 police chiefs.
The Domobran was the wartime Croatian Home Guard. Of course Tito’s Communist partisans had frequently behaved no better: but they won.
In 1946 the West German Länderrat (Council of regions) recommended to the Allied authorities that in view of current shortages in Germany, food rations for displaced persons be reduced. General Lucius Clay confined his reply to a reminder that the food in question was provided by other European nations, victims of Germany’s own war of aggression.
Stephan Hermlin, Bestimmungsorte (Berlin, 1985), p. 46, quoted in Frank Stern, The Whitewashing of the Yellow Badge (1992), p. xvi
The last armed Italian partisans were rounded up in a series of military operations around Bologna in the autumn of 1948.
Jean Monnet was born in Cognac in 1888, the son of a brandy merchant. Upon leaving school he spent many years living and working abroad, notably in London; after the First World War he was named Secretary General of the new League of Nations. He passed much of the Second World War in the US, negotiating arms supplies on behalf of the British government and the Free French. His devotion to economic planning and his later contribution to the Schuman Plan for European economic cooperation thus drew upon a familiarity with large-scale organization and inter-state collaboration that was strikingly unusual for a Frenchman of his class and time.
Quoted in Maureen Waller, London 1945 (2004), page 150.
Note, though, that 4 out of 10 Communist voters in France were in favour of accepting Marshall Aid, despite the Party’s opposition. French suspicion of the Marshall Plan was not so much political as cultural; many people seem to have been especially offended by what were described as ‘des questionnaires insipides et nombreux’ emanating from American bureaucracies—a particularly irritating reminder of their subordination to an inferior civilisation.
The frontier between Poland and Soviet Russia as proposed by the British Foreign Secretary after the First World War.
Stalin had broken off relations with the Polish government-in-exile in London in 1943 following the latter’s demand for an international examination of the Katyn massacre. The Germans, who uncovered the site, correctly claimed that it was the location of a mass execution by the Soviets of captured Polish officers. The Soviet authorities and their Western supporters, then and for the next half century, angrily denied it.
India and some of the British overseas Dominions had substantial holdings in sterling, built up as credit during the war years especially. Had the pound been freely convertible into dollars in the immediate post-war era many of these holdings might have been run down, thus further weakening Britain’s already fragile stock of foreign exchange. That is why, after an initial, disastrous experiment with convertibility imposed from Washington as a condition for the US loan, Britain re-imposed sterling controls in 1947.
According to Kennan, ‘[O]ur national leaders in Washington had no idea at all, and would probably have been incapable of imagining, what a Soviet occupation, supported by the Russian secret police of Beria’s time, meant for the people who were subjected to it.’
In February 1945, when asked who would do most to help France recover, 25 percent of those polled said the USSR, 24 percent the USA.
Marshall was probably not much reassured to learn from Bidault that this public emphasis upon the German threat was strictly for domestic consumption.
Under the terms of a secret Czech-Soviet agreement of March 1945, the USSR had the right to mine and extract uranium from the Jachymov deposits in Western Bohemia.
In Poland, of course, it was anything but reassuring—just because it was so familiar.
In 1990 Edvard Shevardnadze, the Soviet Foreign Secretary, reportedly observed that despite a forty-year-long Cold War with the United States, when his grandchildren played war games, Germany was still the enemy.
Italy lost all of its colonies, paid $360 million in reparations to the USSR, Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania and Ethiopia, and ceded the Istrian peninsula to Yugoslavia. The disposition of the border city of Trieste remained in dispute for eight more years.
This proved an easy accommodation. In the words of one American GI, pleasantly surprised at his reception in Germany following the rather frosty French response to their liberators, ‘Hell, these people are cleaner and a damned sight friendlier than the French. They’re our kind of people.’ Quoted in Earl Ziemke, The U.S.Army in the Occupation of Germany, 1944-46 (Washington DC, 1985), p. 142.
In September 1947 Andrej Zdanov, speaking as always for his master, would inform delegates at the founding Congress of the Cominform that the Truman Doctrine was directed at least as much against Britain as against the USSR, ‘because it signifies Britain’s expulsion from its sphere of influence in the Mediterranean and the Near East’.
The Bulgarians had actually oscillated quite markedly over the years from enthusiastic pro-Germanism to ultra-Slavophilism. Neither served them well. As a local commentator remarked at the time, Bulgaria always chooses the wrong card . . . and slams it on the table!
This was not the first time armed Russians had personally supervised crucial Polish elections: during the local parliamentary elections of 1772 at which Poles were asked to chose representatives who would confirm the partition of their country, foreign troops stood menacingly by to ensure the desired outcome.
The Agrarian Party in the Czech lands and its partner, the People’s Party in Slovakia, were banned after the war for connivance with Nazi policies.
Western public opinion was also influenced by Masaryk’s death on March 10th 1948—he was reported to have ‘fallen’ from his window into the courtyard of the Foreign Ministry. The exact circumstances of his death have never been elucidated.
When Tito closed the Greek land border with Yugoslavia in July 1949, following his break with Stalin, the Greek Communist resistance collapsed almost immediately.
The PCI actually increased its vote somewhat at the 1948 elections, but only at the expense of the Socialists, who lost heavily. The victorious Christian Democrats outscored the combined Left by over four million votes.
It was no coincidence that Soviet advisers were withdrawn from Yugoslavia on March 18th 1948, just forty-eight hours before General Sokolovski walked out of the Allied Control Council meeting in Germany.
Had he wished to do so, there was little practical impediment. In the spring of 1948 the Soviet Union had three hundred divisions within reach of Berlin. The US had only 60,000 soldiers in all of Europe, fewer than 7,000 of them in Berlin.
The Basic Law was deliberately provisional—‘to give a new order to political life for a transitional period’: i.e. until the country was reunited.
The French Finance Minister Henri Queuille complained to the US Ambassador to France of Britain’s ‘complete lack of loyalty.’
A point of view nicely captured in lines anonymously penned during the negotiations on Britain’s postwar loan:
‘In Washington Lord Halifax
Once whispered to Lord Keynes:
“It’s true they have the moneybags
But we have all the brains.”’
Germans understandably did not remember the war in this light and would be mystified in decades to come when subjected to English football supporters’ chants and British tabloid newspaper headlines referring to ‘Huns’, ‘Krauts’ and the like.
Professor Kenneth Jowett of UC Berkeley.
The institutions of the German Democratic Republic were somewhat distinct, reflecting its interim standing in Soviet eyes. But the spirit of its laws and practices was impeccably orthodox.
The Baltic states, fully incorporated into the Soviet Union itself, were even worse off than the rest of eastern Europe. In 1949 kolkhozes in northern Estonia were required to begin grain deliveries even before the harvest had begun, in order to keep in line with Latvia, four hundred kilometers to the south. By 1953 rural conditions in hitherto prosperous Estonia had deteriorated to the point where cows blown over by the wind were too weak to get back on their feet unaided.
The initial Comecon participants were Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the USSR, joined shortly thereafter by Albania and the GDR. In later years Yugoslavia, Mongolia, China, North Korea and North Vietnam also became members. In 1963 Comecon countries’ share of international trade was 12 percent; by 1979 it was 9 percent and falling.
Under the 1946 Constitution the constituent republics—Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro—were free to secede from the Federation, a right of which they were deprived seven years later.
It is significant that Stalin left his nuclear physicists alone and never presumed to second guess their calculations. Stalin may well have been mad, but he was not stupid.
They were executed nonetheless. Three weeks after his death, the regime published Petkov’s posthumous ‘confession’. But this was so obviously faked that it rapidly became an embarrassment, even in Communist Bulgaria. The authorities ceased to speak of it and the Bulgarian secret police chief who had injudiciously arranged for its publication was duly shot.
As late as 1966, four-fifths of Polish state employees had only a primary school education. The country was run by a strikingly under-educated administrative caste.
In 1924 the 27-year-old Kostov was arrested and tortured by the Bulgarian police. Afraid that he might betray the (underground) Communists he leaped from a fourth-floor window at police headquarters in Sofia and broke both his legs.
The Bund was a Jewish labor movement whose roots lay in pre-war czarist Russia and whose interwar activities were confined to Poland.
See Heda Margolius Kovaly, Under a Cruel Star (1986). In the eighteen months following the end of World War Two more Jews were killed in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia than in the ten years preceding the war.
Stalin’s Secret Pogrom: The Postwar Inquisition of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (Yale University Press, 2002), edited by Joshua Rubenstein and Vladimir Naumov, page 52. Following a familiar pattern, Komarov himself would later be imprisoned and executed—pleading to the last his anti-Semitic credentials.
The survivors were all released in later years, though they and their fellow victims would not be fully rehabilitated and exonerated until 1968.
The script was very precise. When André Marty was unofficially ‘tried’ by the Central Committee of the French Communist Party in December 1952, his ‘prosecutor’, Léon Mauvais, accused him of speaking of ‘the Trotskyist International’ rather than ‘Trotskyist scum’ or ‘group of Trotskyist police spies’, which were the Communists’ ‘natural and habitual’ terms for use when referring to Trotskyists. This linguistic slippage alone placed Marty under grave suspicion.
Catherine Merridale, Night of Stone: Death and Memory in 20th-Century Russia (2000), page 249.
Translation by Professor Marci Shore of Indiana University, slightly amended by TJ. I am also indebted to Professor Shore for the quotation from Ludek Pachman.
Zdeněk Mlynář, Night Frost in Prague (London, 1980), page 2.
Brecht, characteristically, hedged his bets by retaining an Austrian passport.
The best-known of course was Arthur Koestler—but then he might as readily be described as Hungarian, or Austrian, or French or Jewish.
The PSI in these years was unique among West European Socialist parties in its proximity and subordination to the Communists—a pattern much more familiar in Eastern Europe.
In De Sica’s Sciuscià (made in 1946 and set in that same year) the director of a boys’ prison not only gives the Fascist salute—a habit he cannot break—but alludes with undisguised nostalgia to the low crime figures back in Mussolini’s time.
Despite his own misgivings about Soviet cultural policy, Paul Eluard refused to criticize Zdanovism in front of the working-class comrades of his local Party cell. As he explained to Claude Roy, ‘Poor things, it would just discourage them. One must not upset those taking part in the struggle; they wouldn’t understand. ’
François Fejtö, living in Paris, noted some years later that whereas the Italian Communists gave a warm, if guarded, welcome to his history of Eastern Europe, the PCF condemned it as the work of just another renegade.
Thus Emmanuel Mounier, in Esprit, February 1946: ‘Anti-Communism . . . is the necessary and sufficient crystallizing force for a return of Fascism.’
Likewise, the cult of Mao in the West reached its zenith at the height of the Cultural Revolution, just when and just because Mao was persecuting writers, artists and teachers.
In these years ‘progressivism’, as Raymond Aron mordantly observed, consisted in ‘presenting Communist arguments as though they emanated spontaneously from independent speculation.’
These sentiments are unintentionally caricatured in this report from a child’s first class with a Communist primary teacher, in Prague, April 1948: ‘Children, you all know that in America people live in holes dug in the ground and are slaves for a few capitalists, who take all the profit. But in Russia everyone is happy, and we in Prague are very happy too, owing to the government of Klement Gottwald. Now children, repeat loudly with me: “We are very contented and approve the Gottwald government”.’
‘We were intolerant of idiocy in the domains we knew well ’, wrote the French poet Claude Roy, who joined the PCF during the war after an earlier romance with the far Right Action Française, ‘but forgiving of crimes in matters of which we knew little.’
Luc Sante, The Factory of Facts (1998), p.27.
She was not alone in her Victorian allusions. The British Prime Minister at the time, Winston Churchill, used to remind audiences that he had ridden in the last cavalry charge of the British Army—at Omdurman in the Sudan—in September 1898
In high-school history textbooks the message of Franco’s ascent to power was unambiguous: ‘The future of Spain united, after three centuries, to the destiny of the past! . . . The ancient procession has not ceased . . . Along its path advance the dead and the living, bursting with Christianity, in which a world disoriented and in catastrophic convulsions centers and anchors itself . . . This is the grand task that God has saved for the Spain of today . . . An exceptional destiny . . . Through the Empire, to God!’ Feliciano Cereceda,Historia del imperio espanol y de la hispanidad (Madrid, 1943), pp. 273-74, quoted in Carolyn Boyd, Historia Patria: Politics, History and National Identity in Spain, 1875-1975 (Princeton, 1997), p. 252.
Wartime humour in Britain had typically concentrated on material shortcomings, mild sexual innuendo and an undercurrent of resentment at over-privileged American GIs. Sometimes on all three at once: ‘Have you heard about the new Utility underpants? One Yank and they’re off!’
But note that France had more publications devoted to cinema than the other two combined.
Trevor Grundy, Memoir of a Fascist Childhood (1998), page 19.
Rationing in Eastern Europe was not abolished until 1953 in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria; 1954 in Romania, 1957 in Albania and 1958 in East Germany. But since the Communist economy induced shortage systemically, comparisons with Western Europe are inappropriate.
J. H. Plumb, The Growth of Political Stability in Early Eighteenth-Century England 1675-1725 (London, 1967), p. xvii.
In March 1951, under US pressure, the Dutch, overcoming considerable domestic neutralist sentiment, had reluctantly agreed to double their defense budget and ready five divisions for deployment by 1954.
Based, according to Eden, on an idea dreamed up in his morning bath. 4The only explicit restriction placed on German rearmament was an absolute prohibition of any German nuclear arms program, then or ever.
Austrian neutrality was not in the original text; it was inserted by the Austrian parliament during the debate over the State Treaty.
The Americans were not the only ones panicked by displays of Soviet hardware. In 1960 the British Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan privately concluded that ‘They [the USSR] are no longer frightened of aggression. They have at least as powerful nuclear forces as the West. They have interior lines [of communication]. They have a buoyant economy and will soon outmatch capitalist society in the race for material wealth.’
It was left unclear what say, if any, the British would have in their use. At the time (1952) a joint Churchill-Truman communiqué rather obscurely declared that ‘the use of these bases in an emergency would be a matter for joint decision . . . in the light of circumstances prevailing at the time.’8American pressure on the British and French to withdraw from Suez in November 1956 (see Chapter Nine) had led to fears among the NATO countries that when it came to a war the US might retreat to its hemisphere, abandoning the exposed Europeans. Hence the perceived need in Washington to ‘stand firm’, first on Berlin and later on Cuba, in order to reassure America’s vulnerable allies.
Kennedy’s remark was not only confidential at the time, it was even kept out of the documents from the summit meeting when they were first published thirty years later.
As they were to discover in 1990, their fears were not unfounded.
Anatoly Dobrynin, In Confidence (Times Books, 1995), p. 46. Khrushchev’s aversion to war was genuine. As he wrote to Kennedy on October 26th, at the height of the Cuba crisis: ‘If indeed war should break out, then it would not be in our power to stop it, for such is the logic of war. I have participated in two wars and I know that war ends when it has rolled through cities and villages, everywhere sowing death and destruction.’
As late as 1971, 95 percent of Italy’s senior civil servants had begun their careers before the overthrow of Fascism.
Though in the light of Italy’s earlier history it is not entirely fair to lay the blame for the country’s institutional corruption on American foreign policy. See Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes. A History of the World, 1914-1991 (New York, 1994), pp. 238-39.
In the elections of 1945 the Austrian Communists received just 174,000 votes—5 percent—and elected four deputies to the parliament. Thereafter they played no role in Austrian politics.
On the eve of the 1938 Anschluss there were 189,000 Jews in Vienna. When the city was liberated in 1945 there were fewer than 1,000 remaining.
In Belgium the long-established Catholic Party changed its name to Christian to emphasize its cross-denominational appeal and its more modern, reforming aspirations. In the Netherlands, where intra-Christian distinctions actually mattered, the Catholic Party kept its old title.
To which Resnais responded, ‘Naturally I hadn’t realized that the National Socialist regime would be represented at Cannes. But now, of course, I do.’
‘No-one can take this shame from us.’
With unintentionally revealing hyperbole he described the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a ‘Morgenthau Plan squared’.
Many of modern Germany’s senior public figures (including the Federal Chancellor and Foreign Minister at the time of writing—2005) were children of this time, raised in single-parent families by a working mother.
The Portuguese dictator Dr Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was asked in 1968 (seven years into the Angolan revolt that began in February 1961) when he envisaged independence for Portugal’s African colonies, Angola and Mozambique: ‘It is a problem for centuries’, he replied. ‘Within five hundred years. And in the meantime they will have to go on participating in the process of development.’ (See Tom Gallagher, Portugal. A Twentieth-Century Interpretation, 1983, page 200.) But then Salazar’s principled denial of the modern world was legendary: for most of the 1950s he succeeded in keeping Coca-Cola out of his country, something even the French could not manage.
There was occasional substance to the French claim: Félix Eboué, the governor-general of French Equatorial Africa in 1945, was a high French colonial functionary—and he was black.
According to some sources, De Gaulle discouraged open talk of colonial self-government lest European settlers, notably in Algeria, seize the occasion to secede from France and establish a segregationist state, on the South African model. This was not an unreasonable anxiety, as subsequent events would show.
For friend and foe alike, Ho Chi Minh’s incarnation as an international Communist icon was confirmed on January 14th 1950, when Mao and Stalin were the first to recognize his newly declared Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
These events are memorably depicted in Gilles Pontecorvo’s 1965 film La Battaglia di Algeri (The Battle of Algiers).
The referendum established a new, Fifth Republic. De Gaulle was elected its first President three months later.
When the Belgians abandoned the Congo in 1960 they left behind just thirty Congolese university graduates to fill four thousand senior administrative positions.
Between 1954 and 1962, 2 million French soldiers served in Algeria; 1.2 million of them were conscripts.
Quoted in Fernand L’Huillier, Dialogues Franco-Allemandes 1925-1933 (Strasbourg, 1971), pp. 35-36.
The Canal itself had always been within Egyptian territory and indisputably a part of Egypt. But most of its revenues went to the foreign-owned company.
Quoted in Alan Milward, The European Rescue of the Nation-State (Berkeley and Los Angeles, U of California Press, 1992), page 429.
Andrew Moravscik, The Choice for Europe. Social Purpose and State Power from Messina to Maastricht (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1998), page 137.
The Stalinist leadership remained firmly in place, trials continued in camera for two more years and on May 1st 1955 a grotesque, over-sized statue of Stalin was erected on a hill overlooking Prague. De-Stalinization would not reach Czechoslovakia until a decade later, with dramatic consequences.
Kádár, whom Nagy had released from prison three years before, was appointed First Secretary of the Hungarian Party on October 25th. He replaced Gerö, whose security forces had fired on unarmed demonstrators in Parliament Square that same morning.
That the Soviet leader could know this as early as October 28th, three days before the Anglo-French invasion began, suggests that Soviet intelligence was even better than the Western Allies feared at the time.
Even Gomułka, in Poland, acceded readily enough to Soviet arguments. In Poland, Nagy’s departure from the Warsaw Pact was a source of anxiety—the Poles’ fear of German territorial revisionism gave them a special interest in the security arrangements guaranteed by Soviet arms. It should be noted, though, that in a meeting with Khrushchev in May 1957 Gomułka tried hard, albeit without success, to dissuade the Soviet leader from putting Nagy on trial.
In particularly backward organizations, like the French Communist Party (which for a long time denied all knowledge of Khrushchev’s denunciations of Stalin), many members abandoned the Party not so much because of what was happening in the Soviet bloc, but because the local leadership forbade any discussion of it.
One should not, however, overstate the speed with which old regulations were swept aside. Well into the 1960s the Italian government, for example, found it politically prudent to maintain Fascist-era tariffs and quotas on foreign cars, the better to protect domestic producers (essentially FIAT). British governments pursued similar strategies. 2Much of which would be recycled as loans to that same Third World, now saddled with crippling debts. 3Great Britain, as so often, was different. In 1956, 74 percent of the UK’s exports went outside of Europe, mostly to its colonies and to the Commonwealth. Even in 1973, when the UK finally entered the EEC, only one-third of its export trade was directed at the twelve countries that would form the European Union in 1992.
By way of comparison it might be noted that the figure for the USA in 1950 was 12 percent employed in agriculture.
Sweden constitutes a partial exception—the key to Swedish post-war prosperity was the creation of a manufacturing specialty in high-value products. But the Swedes had access to a pool of cheap and readily available (Finnish) immigrant workers, as well as a hydroelectric power industry that cushioned the country from oil-price shocks. Like Switzerland, and for similar reasons, they constitute a special case.
The contrast with past practice is revealing. In earlier stages of French industrialization even the great Parisian investment banks had lacked the resources to support the modernization of the country’s industrial infrastructure, and had received no help or encouragement from the government. The dilapidated condition of French factories, roads, rail networks and utilities in 1945 bore eloquent testament to these shortcomings.
By 1950, Yugoslavia, Poland, Romania and Albania were the only European countries where more than one child in ten died before the age of one. In west Europe the last-placed country was Portugal, where the infant mortality rate in 1950 was 94.1 per thousand.
The following year, in March 1956, this right was extended to all French workers. Renault workers obtained a fourth week of paid vacation in 1962, but on this occasion it took seven years before the rest of the country followed suit.
With the result that as tourism began to develop towards the end of the Sixties there was actually a shortage of workers in Greece itself, for the most menial jobs.
Just fifteen years earlier, in 1958, there had been 25,000 Italians, 4,000 Yugoslavs and not enough Turks to be recorded in official censuses.
These draconian restrictions on colonial immigration reflected mainstream opinion in both major parties. However, less than a generation before and in rather different circumstances, the Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee had written thus, in July 1948: ‘It is traditional that British subjects, whether of Dominion or Colonial origin (and of whatever race or colour), should be freely admissible to the United Kingdom. That tradition is not, in my view, to be lightly discarded, particularly at a time when we are importing foreign labour in large numbers.’
The exception was Italy, where in 1971 less than 5 percent of all purchases were made in the country’s 538 supermarkets and almost everyone continued to use local, specialized shops. This was still true twenty years later: in 1991, by which time the number of food outlets in West Germany had fallen to 37,000 and in France to a mere 21,500, there were fully 182,432 food stores in Italy. Per head of the population, only Poland had more.
There were ‘cultural’ objections as well. In 1952 the French Communist author Roger Vailland asserted that, ‘[i]n a country like France, where—except for two months a year, and not every year—it is always so cold that a food-box on the window ledge will keep the roast for a weekend, and more, a fridge is a “symbol” an (American) “mystification.’
Only in 1963 did Electricité de France begin upgrading their urban power lines to permit the running of multiple appliances—the countryside followed some years later.
An exponential increase nicely captured in the opening scene of Fellini’s 8 ½ (1963). Even by Fellini’s own standards, this urban traffic jam would have been bizarrely implausible just a few years earlier.
Local response to this innovation followed historical precedent: English motorists, regarding meter charges as a form of unauthorized taxation, withheld payment. The French registered their disapproval by decapitating Parisian meters.
The first European hypermarkets, defined as stores with at least 25,000 square feet of space on a single level and typically located at least two miles from a town center, began to appear at the end of the 1960s. By 1973 there were about 750 of these giant stores in Western Europe, 620 of them in France and West Germany alone. In Italy in that same year there were just three. Twenty years later there were fully 8,000 hypermarkets and superstores in France . . . but still just 118 in Italy.
Between 1959 and 1973, the number of visitors to Spain rose from 3 million to 34 million. Already in 1966 the number of annual tourists in Spain—17.3 million—far surpassed the totals for France or Italy. In parts of the north-east and Spain’s Mediterranean littoral, the transition from a pre-industrial economy to the age of the credit card was accomplished in half a generation. The aesthetic and psychological impact was not always positive.
With the exception of the Iberian peninsula and the southern Balkans, where radio ownership in 1960 was roughly comparable to that of Western Europe thirty-five years earlier, and where people still clustered in cafés to listen to news and music.
Paul Ginsborg, A History of Contemporary Italy. Society and Politics 1943-1988 (1990), p. 240.
It is perhaps worth emphasizing the marginality of jazz. Like American folk music in the sixties, jazz was only ever appreciated and bought by a small number of people in western Europe: usually educated, bourgeois or bohemian (or, typically, both) and rather older than the average rock-and-roll enthusiast. The situation in eastern Europe was a little different. There jazz was American (and black), therefore both exotic and subversive, Western yet radical—and carried a charge quite lacking further West.
The American writer William Stead published The Americanization of the World in 1902: anticipating his subject, perhaps, but not by much.
In 1960 the German economy grew at a rate of 9.0 percent per annum, the British economy by 2.6 percent: the slowest rate in the developed world, except for Ireland—which at this time was still far from ‘developed’.
Quoted in Peter Hennessy, Never Again. Britain 1945-1951 (1993), p.117.
Liberal parties and thinkers in Germany and Italy, like the small free-market wing of Britain’s Conservative Party, did not join in this consensus. But at the time—and in part for this reason—they wielded little influence.
Contrast Italy, which had 13 different governments and 11 different prime ministers in the same period—or France, which had 23 governments and 17 prime ministers between 1945 and 1968. Long-serving party leaders were a Swedish speciality: Erlander’s predecessor as Chairman of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, Per Albin Hansson, had held the post from 1926-1946.
The Saltsjöbaden Pact resembled in certain respects the Arbeitsfrieden (Labour Peace) reached in Switzerland the previous year, in which employers and workers agreed to establish a system of non-confrontational collective bargaining that was to prove an enduring cornerstone of the country’s future stability and prosperity. However, whereas the Swiss Arbeitsfrieden was intended to keep government out of economic bargaining, the Saltsjöbaden Pact committed the government to working in harmony with owners and employees for the common interest.
The suicide rate in western Europe by 1973 was indeed highest in the most developed and prosperous countries: Denmark, Austria, Finland and West Germany. It was lowest at the poorer fringes: per head of population, the Danish suicide rate was six times that of Italy, fourteen times that of Ireland. What this suggests about the depressant effect of prosperity, climate, latitude, diet, religion, family structures or the welfare state was obscure to contemporaries and remains unclear today.
Ironically, it was the Swedish Social Democrats who for a long time showed more interest in Vienna’s early-twentieth-century ‘Austro-Marxist’ theorists Otto Bauer and Rudolf Hilferding. Their Austrian successors, by contrast, were typically happy to put all that behind them—save for the occasional echo, as in the Austrian Socialist Party’s 1958 program, where it was opaquely asserted that ‘democratic socialism occupies a position between capitalism and dictatorship’ . . .
For this translation, see Bark & Gress, From Shadow to Substance. A History of West Germany, Volume 1 (1992), Chapter 16.
The destruction of the selective state schools of England merely drove more of the middle class to the private sector, thus improving the prospects and profits of the fee-charging ‘public schools’ that Labour’s radicals so despised. Meanwhile selection continued, but by income rather than merit: parents who could afford it bought a home in a ‘good’ school district, leaving the children of the poor at the mercy of the weakest schools and the worst teachers, and with much reduced prospect of upward educational mobility. The ‘comprehensivisation’ of British secondary education was the most socially retrograde piece of legislation in post-war Britain.
With the demise of clerical politics, political anti-clericalism lost its raison d’être—ending a cycle of quarrels and obsessions that had endured for nearly two centuries.
In Ireland, however, the authority of the Church and its involvement in daily politics was sustained rather longer—well into the nineties.
In a representative outburst, Osborne writes of British royalty as ‘the gold filling in a mouthful of decay’.
Godard in particular had decidedly eclectic tastes. He is reported to have been ‘mesmerized’ by Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954) starring Joan Crawford.
Italians could certainly design cars, as any motor racing enthusiast would confirm. It was Italian coach-builders who first removed mudguards, running boards and other redundant excrescences from small family cars—much as Milanese tailors in the same years were eliminating trouser turn-ups and inventing the sharp, clean lines and cut of the modern Italian suit. What Italian car manufacturers appeared unable to do with any consistency was build the cars that their draughtsmen had imagined.
In the admiring commentary of one Parisian critic the thousands of identical apartments squeezed into the new grands ensembles were ‘veritable tiny houses incorporated into a vertical structure, like so many different bottles in the same wine rack.’ See Pierre Agard, ‘L’Unité de résidence’ inEsprit, October-November 1953. I am grateful to Dr Nicole Rudolph for the reference.
But contrast Rotterdam: gutted by German bombs and rebuilt in stages through the following decades, the Dutch port was a consciously and genuinely ‘designed’ city.
Obviously this did not apply to small, élite academies like France’s École Polytechnique, or École Normale Supérieure, which admitted their few students by a rigorous selective exam and then taught them very well indeed. But these were unusual and highly atypical.
In the mid-1960s only 44 percent of Italian university students graduated; these figures were to deteriorate still further in the course of the 1970s.
In the Communist bloc ‘the Sixties’ as pop culture were of necessity experienced at second-hand. But this difference should not be exaggerated. To apply the Ur-reference of the age: everyone in Eastern Europe knew who the Beatles were and many people had heard their music. And not just the Beatles: when the French rock star Johnny Hallyday performed in the small town of Košice in Slovakia, in 1966, 24,000 people turned out to hear him.
The Beatles came from the Liverpool working class—or, in the case of Paul McCartney, from a notch or two above. The other iconic rock band of the Sixties, the Rolling Stones, was more conventionally bohemian in its subject matter, as befitted its members’ middle-class London background. This handicap was overcome by a calculated roughness of style and by the Stones’ well-publicized and ostentatiously raunchy private lives.
Note, though, that for most of the Sixties it was still forbidden in many parts of Western and Eastern Europe alike to dispense information about contraception. Britain was exceptional in approving the contraceptive pill for use in 1961—across the Channel the singer Antoine sold a million records in 1966 plaintively imagining a France where the Pill would one day ‘be sold in Monoprix stores’.
There was a time lag in the farther-flung provinces, however, where black berets, cloth caps and even women’s bonnets were still in daily use. For a little while longer, headgear remained a reliable traditional indicator of regional origin and social class.
It was also to evolve with little difficulty into the skinhead attire of the following decade.
By 1960 ‘existentialism’ (like ‘structuralism’ a few years later) had become a general-purpose catchword, roughly approximating to ‘bohemian’ in earlier decades: the unemployed art students who came to hear the Beatles on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg all called themselves ‘Exis’.
In which case it might seem odd that the fashionable psychoanalytical theorist Jacques Lacan should have been popularly assimilated to the category. But Lacan was a special case. Even by the lax standards of Sixties-era Paris he remained quite remarkably ignorant of contemporary developments in medicine, biology and neurology, with no discernible harm to his practice or reputation.
The SPGB continues to the time of writing. Impervious to change, and too small to be adversely affected by its own irrelevance, it will presumably survive indefinitely.
Like Gramsci’s near-contemporary the German Marxist Karl Korsch, or the Austro-Marxist writers Otto Bauer and Rudolf Hilferding.
Althusser’s claim rested on a bizarre structuralist account of Marx, whose contemporary appeal to youthful seekers after Theory was directly proportional to its Jesuitical opacity (older scholars were unimpressed). But the assertion of authority was clear enough: there is only one proper way to think about Marx, he insisted, and it is mine. In France, Althusser’s star waned with the fall of the Party whose cause he espoused; today his obscurantist appeal is confined to the outer fringes of Anglo-Saxon academia.
They had a point. Thus Raoul Vaneigem, a Belgian Situationist, writing in 1967: ‘With a world of ecstatic pleasures to gain, we have nothing to lose but our boredom.’ It is hard to be sure, in retrospect, whether such slogans were witty, innocent or merely cynical. In any event, they did little to imperil the status quo.
This was a longstanding source of friction. In January 1966, after months of dispute at a student dormitory complex in Antony, in southern Paris, a newly appointed director had introduced what was then a radical regime. Girls and boys over twenty one could henceforth entertain members of the opposite sex in their dormitory rooms. Those under twenty one could do so with written permission from their parents. No such liberalizations were introduced anywhere else.
The Minister for Youth, one François Missoffe, had come to Nanterre to open a new sports facility. Cohn-Bendit, a local student enragé, asked why the Education Ministry was doing nothing to address the dormitory disputes (or ‘sexual problems’, as he put it). The Minister, rising to the provocation, suggested that if Cohn-Bendit had sexual problems he should jump in the splendid new swimming pool. ‘That’, replied the part-German Cohn-Bendit, ‘is what the Hitler Youth used to say.’
To visit the French Army in Germany, as it transpired, and assure himself of its loyalty and availability were it to be called upon. But this was not known at the time.
This was palpably untrue. The French Communist Party had no coherent strategy in 1968, beyond pouring scorn on the student radicals and trying to preserve its influence in the labor movement. Seizing political power was quite beyond its ability or imagination.
There were no women among the student leaders. In contemporary photographs and newsreels girls can be seen prominently perched on the shoulders of their boyfriends, but they were at best the auxiliary foot soldiers of the student army. The youth revolt of 1968 talked a lot about sex, but was quite unconcerned with inequalities of gender.
Quoted in Robert Lumley, States of Emergency. Cultures of Revolt in Italy from 1968 to 1978 (London, 1990), p.96
West Berlin itself had taken on something of a counter-cultural tone in these years. Fossilized by its peculiar isolation at the heart of international political tensions, dependant on handouts from Bonn and Washington, its future lastingly impermanent, the city was suspended in time and space. This made it rather appealing to dissidents, radicals and others who sought out the political and cultural fringe. The irony of West Berlin’s situation—that its survival as a bohemian outpost of the West depended entirely on the presence of American soldiers—was lost on many of its youthful residents.
Echoes of this inversion were to be heard again at the time of the first Gulf War in 1991, when its German opponents did not hesitate to cast America as the twentieth century’s leading war criminal . . . and Germany as its first victim.
Though it was replaced by a newly mythologized version in which Stalin himself—and his crimes—passed half unacknowledged.
The credibility of the Soviet system rested to a quite extraordinary extent upon its capacity to get results from the land. For most of its eighty-year life, agriculture was on an emergency footing in one way or another. This would not have struck an eighteenth-century European or even a twentieth-century African observer as especially unusual; but the Soviet Union was held to rather higher standards of performance.
A year after his release, Sinyavsky emigrated to France and took up a post teaching Russian literature at the Sorbonne. Daniel stayed in Russia, where he died in 1988.
Although the best-known reform economist of the Sixties was a Czech, Ota Sik, it was the Hungarian school that had the broadest influence and the most practical impact.
Djilas was imprisoned for four years when The New Class appeared in the West, and re-incarcerated for a further four years shortly after his release.
Richard Nixon was by no means the last American to be seduced by the Romanian dictator. Impressed by Nicolae Ceauşescu during a visit to Romania in 1978, Senator George McGovern praised him as “among the world’s leading proponents of arms control”; and as late as September 1983, when the awful truth about Ceauşescu’s regime was already widely known, Vice President George Bush memorably described him as “one of Europe’s good Communists.”
The French translation of the Open Letter that circulated in Paris the following year was distributed by Jeunesse Communiste Révolutionnaire, a Trotskyist organization.
Of the approximately 30,000 Jews in mid-Sixties Poland, less than 7,500 belonged to the official Jewish organizations.
In 1966 a Polish-language edition of the anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was unofficially circulated in Party groups, universities and the army.
Novotný was not the only one afraid of a backlash. On April 5th 1963, the Italian Communist leader Palmiro Togliatti secretly wrote to ask Novotný and his colleagues to delay news of the rehabilitation of Slánský and other trial victims until after the forthcoming Italian elections. As the PCI’s chief well understood, it was not only Czechs who had good cause to be disgusted at their leaders’ collaboration in covering up large-scale judicial murder just ten years before.
In December 1967 Party members constituted 16.9 percent of the Czechoslovak population—the highest share of any Communist state.
Jiří Pelikán, ed., The Czechoslovak Political Trials. The Suppressed Report of the Dubček Government’s Commisson of Inquiry, 1968 (Stanford, 1971), p. 17.
The request was hardly spontaneous. Two weeks earlier—at a secret meeting near Lake Balaton in Hungary hosted by János Kádár—Vasil Bil’ak (one of Dubček’s opponents within the Czechoslovak Party leadership) was advised by Shelest that Moscow would like a ‘letter of invitation’. The ensuing letter refers explicitly to the Party’s ‘loss of control’, the likelihood of a ‘counter-revolutionary coup’ and the ‘risks to socialism’ before inviting Moscow’s ‘intervention and all round assistance’. It ends: ‘we request that you treat our statement with the utmost secrecy, and for that reason we are writing to you, personally, in Russian.’
Because Ceauşescu refused to take part in the invasion or allow Warsaw Pact troops to cross Romanian territory, the Bulgarian contingent had to be airlifted to Ukraine instead. Their presence hardly justified the trouble; but the importance of spreading responsibility for the attack across the largest possible number of fraternal states overrode other considerations.
After 1989 it emerged that the Czech Secret Police in the normalization years had established a special unit to monitor and target the country’s Jews: an echo of Czechoslovakia’s own past as well as contemporary Poland. It had not escaped the authorities’ notice that only one of Dubček’s leading colleagues had refused to sign the Moscow document renouncing his actions. He was František Kriegel—the only Jew in the group.
Milan Šimečka, Obnovení Pořádku (The Restoration of Order), (Bratislava, 1984—in samizdat). Eighty thousand Czechs and Slovaks fled into exile following the Soviet invasion.
The baby-boom generation itself never wanted for employment. It was its immediate successor, the cohort born after 1953, which entered the employment market just as jobs were getting harder to find. Not surprisingly, the politics of the successor generation were markedly different.
Only in Spain, where the cycle of social protest lasted into the mid-Seventies before blending into the movement for a return to parliamentary democracy, did the upheavals of the Sixties herald a genuine political transformation—a story to be taken up in Chapter 16.
Britain’s Profumo Affair of 1963—a deliciously multifaceted scandal of sex, class, drugs, race, politics and spies that absorbed the country for months—would have been unthinkable a few years later. The peccadilloes of a fallen élite might continue to arouse a certain prurient interest, but after the Sixties they could no longer shock.
The US federal budget deficit grew from $1.6 billion in 1965 to $25.2 billion in 1968.
As a point of comparison American oil imports, at the height of the 1973 crisis, represented no more than 36 percent of US domestic consumption.
An average, of course, is just an average. In the particularly bleak year of 1976, when British unemployment passed one million for the first time since the war and annual inflation approached 25 percent, rates of growth everywhere hit a low point—in Italy the national economy actually shrank, for the first time since the war.
National Association of Local Government Officers; National Union of Public Employees; Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs.
This acronym had a distinct political use: by reviving the name of an eighteenth-century French silver coin it helped assuage Parisian discomfort at having to acknowledge West Germany’s emerging primacy in the affairs of Europe.
Quoted in Harold James, International Monetary Cooperation since Bretton Woods (NY, Oxford, 1996), p. 180.
Most notoriously on October 17th 1961, when the French police murdered an estimated two hundred Algerians, many of them drowned in the Seine, following a protest march through Paris. The Chief of Police at the time was Maurice Papon, later indicted and found guilty of crimes against humanity for his collaboration in the wartime rounding up and despatch of French Jews to Auschwitz. See Epilogue.
The Provisionals took their name from the April 24th 1916 declaration in Dublin, when the insurrectionists proclaimed a provisional government.
It was estimated at the time that the cost of maintaining a British presence in Northern Ireland was £3 billion per annum, at a time when London was hard pushed to balance its budget.
The unimpeachably law-abiding French Socialist Party even formed a ‘Committee for the Defense of Human Rights’ in the Federal Republic, offering to provide expertise and practical help to defendants accused of terrorist acts there.
As in Germany, the police had actually found the leaders at one point, only to lose them again. Arrested in 1974, Renato Curcio escaped from prison in February 1975, only to be recaptured eleven months later.
Initially released, Negri was re-arrested in 1983. In June 1984 he was tried and condemned to thirty years in prison.
One such network, the infamous ‘P2 Lodge’, was a mysterious Masonic web of right-wing politicians, bankers, soldiers and policemen, organized by Licio Gelli, a former militant in Mussolini’s ‘Social Republic’ from 1943 to 1945. Its 962 members included thirty generals, eight admirals, forty-three parliamentary deputies, three active Cabinet Ministers and a fair cross-representation of the highest ranks of industry and the private banking sector.
West European punk left a particularly ugly aftertaste in the waning years of Communist Eastern Europe, where it was taken up by nihilistic underground bands cynically fastening on to a heritage of political and musical dissidence for their own ends. In a repellent blend of pornography and political incorrectness, the Spions, a Hungarian punk group of the Eighties, recorded ‘Anna Frank’: ‘A little forced intercourse before they come and take you away, Anna Frank! Make love to me! Anna Frank! Cry you bitch! Anna Frank! Otherwise I’ll give you up! Anna Frank—the boys are waiting for you.’
In Britain this trend could be traced to longstanding enthusiasms for vegetarianism, ‘authentic’ building and clothing materials and the like—often overlapping with networks of socialist societies and rambling clubs: the Left’s response to the hunting, shooting and fishing of the conservative set. In continental Europe the cultures of both Left and Right reflected a very different history. Whereas Britain’s Good Food Guide was founded and edited by Fabian socialists and presented from the outset as a contribution to class warfare on the gastronomic front, France’s Guide Michelin was always and only a commercial enterprise, albeit directed to much the same audience.
By 1980 the Soviet Union was releasing almost as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the United States—a statistic that would until very recently have been a source of pride rather than embarrassment for its admirers.
Within certain limits environmental protest—because of its ostensibly apolitical character—offered a safe space for political action and national self-expression in otherwise restrictive regimes. By 1983 the problem of water pollution had brought fully 10 percent of the population of Soviet Lithuania into a ‘Lithuanian Nature Protection Association’.
Heideggerian existentialism in this key opened another link to the West: the French philosopher Emmanuel Mounier had many years before claimed to see in the existentialism of his contemporaries (like Sartre) a ‘subjective barrier’ against what he excoriated as ‘objective materialism’ and ‘technology’, In later decades, Mounier’s intellectual heirs in the circle of writers on the journal Esprit would be among the first in Western Europe to publish and celebrate Havel and his fellow dissidents.
In the same years Moscow even funded the minuscule American Communist Party to the tune of $42 million, a revealing exercise in undiscriminating generosity.
On April 13th 1976, just nine weeks before the Italian elections, Kissinger publicly declared that the US would ‘not welcome’ a Communist role in the government of Italy—thereby confirming Berlinguer’s intuitions.
One of Brandt’s first decisions upon taking office in 1969 was to rename the ‘Ministry for All-German Questions’ as the ‘Ministry for Inter-German Relations’: to allay East German fears that the Federal Republic would continue to assert its legal claim to speak for all Germans, and to indicate his readiness to treat with the GDR as a distinctive and enduring entity.
This legal fiction, and the emotional issues surrounding it, account for the Christian Democratic Party’s initial reluctance to sign the 1973 Basic Treaty which established relations with East Germany—and for the CD’s continuing insistence upon keeping open the issue of the eastern frontiers right up to 1990.
From the very start of Ostpolitik, special attention and privileges were accorded to Volksdeutsche, Germans still living beyond the frontiers of Germany, to the east or south. Defined by family or ethnic origin, such people were accorded full citizenship if they could reach the Federal Republic. Hundreds of thousands of residents of Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Hungary and elsewhere suddenly rediscovered German backgrounds they had taken great pains to deny for the previous half century.
The first ‘Helsinki Group’ was founded on May 12th 1976, in Moscow. Its eleven initial members included Yuri Orlov, Yelena Bonner and Anatoly Sharansky. Helsinki Watch, the international umbrella organization set up specifically to publicize rights abuses in the Helsinki signatory states, was born two years later.
The Makronisos’ warders’ practice of forcing Communists to repent and then turn on those who refused was remarkably similar to Romanian Communist techniques in the prison at Pitesti in the same years, albeit marginally less vicious. See Chapter 6.
At first, as elsewhere in Europe, the US expected to find friends and allies on the centre-left of the Greek political spectrum. It was soon disabused of this, however, and switched to a close and enduring friendship with the nationalist and military Right.
And to Costas Gavras’ influential 1969 film Z, based on the Lambrakis affair.
The officers, most of them formed in military cadet schools under the pre-war dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas, were perhaps not as unpopular as their foreign critics asserted. But they were—rightly—presumed to have the sympathy (and perhaps more) of the United States. What was in essence a belated extension of the Greek civil war of the 1940s rapidly came instead to be seen as the latest cause célèbre in Europe’s century-old civil war. ‘Greece’ now replaced ‘Spain’ as the divining rod for polarized political sentiment.
Since 1962, Greece had ‘Associate’ status with the European Economic Community.
The junta itself, however, did not escape retribution. Eleven of its leaders were tried and convicted in August 1975. Three were given death sentences, later commuted to life in prison. Papadopoulos died in custody in 1999, unrepentant to the end. Brigadier-General Ioannidis was convicted at a later trial for his role in the suppression of the Polytechnic revolt. He remains in prison at the time of writing.
Maurras died in 1952, aged 84. Salazar himself, the son of an estate manager, was born in Vimeiro, Portugal, on April 28th 1889, just a week after Hitler. For a man still ruling a European state in the late 1960s he was unusually deeply rooted in the mores of the previous century—his mother was born in 1846.
By 1973, Western Europe accounted for two-thirds of Portugal’s imports and exports alike. 9The puritanical young officers and their left-wing allies were not, however, well-pleased with the subsequent outpouring of what they regarded as pornographic literature and films, as Portugal compensated for fifty years of cultural constriction. They even attempted at one point to ban the playing of fados, the traditional Portuguese folk songs: these, they felt, encouraged ‘bitterness and fatalism’ and were thus inimical to their goals of enlightenment and social progress.
As recently as 1963 the Spanish leader had not hesitated to execute a captured Communist, Juan Grimau, in defiance of widespread international criticism.
One ironic consequence of the carefully calibrated freedoms that Franco allowed to university activists in his last decade is that Spanish students of the Sixties generation typically exaggerate in retrospect the role they were to play in their country’s subsequent struggle for democracy.
See Chapter 7. As a result, Catholic leaders, unsullied by any Francoist past, were able to play an active role in the transition to democracy, serving as a ‘bridge’ between radicals and conservatives.
One month before it was declared legal, the PCE hosted in Madrid a public meeting of the Eurocommunist parties of Western Europe.
The socio-geographical breakdown of the 1977 vote was uncannily close to that of the elections of 1936—the country’s political culture had in effect been placed in cold storage for four decades. 15Article 151 of the Constitution offered ‘home rule’ to any region requesting it.
There were to be two further plots against king and parliament, in 1982 and 1985, both easily foiled.
By the mid-Eighties official unemployment data suggest that more than one in five of the working-age population was out of work. The real figure was probably closer to one in four. In a country still lacking a fully functioning social safety net and where few people had private savings, these figures indicate widespread hardship.
In 1982, the PSOE campaigned on the slogan ‘OTAN, de entrada no!’ Four years later, their posters read ‘OTAN, de entrada si!’
The traditional Socialist platform of nationalization hardly applied in Spain, where the authoritarian state already owned much of the official economy.
Spain’s new constitution of 1978, whose design was aimed above all at reconciling the antagonistic poles of Spanish history—Left/Right; Church/anti-clericals; center/periphery—was conspicuously silent about the regime it replaced.
His films—most recently La Mala educación (Bad Education, 2004)—were also quite pointedly anti-clerical; perhaps the one respect in which Almodóvar remains consistently faithful to an older tradition of Spanish cultural dissidence.
Victor Perez-Diaz, Spain at the Crossroads. Civil Society, Politics and the Rule of Law (Cambridge, MA, 1999), p.65
On both occasions the capital, Oslo, voted heavily in favor. But the decision was carried by an anti-European coalition of radicals, environmentalists, ‘linguistic nationalists’ and farmers from the country’s coastal and northern provinces, along with fishermen vehemently opposed to the EEC’s restriction of the exclusive coastal fishing zone to just twelve miles. Denmark’s entry also brought in Greenland, at the time still governed from Copenhagen. But after Greenland achieved self-rule in 1979, a referendum was called in which the country voted to leave the EEC, the only member-state ever to do so.
This was offset, however, by new investment opportunities for the private sector: the proportion of foreign-owned shares in Spanish companies rose 374 percent in the years 1983-1992.
More than one influential voice was raised in Brussels entreating the European Commission to call his bluff . . .
Of course the Common Agricultural Policy, the other major charge on the EU budget, had long had the effect of exacerbating the very regional distortions that the Cohesion Funds and others were now supposed to help eliminate . . .
Richer countries were typically less beholden to Brussels and maintained closer control of their affairs. In France, despite the ‘decentralization’ enshrined in laws passed during the 1980s, the reins of budgetary power stayed firmly in Parisian hands. As a result, prosperous regions of France followed the international trend and benefited from their EU links, but poor districts remained dependent on state aid above all.
The ‘Schengen zone’ has since been expanded to encompass other EU member states, but the UK has remained outside and France, among other participants, has reserved the right to re-impose border controls on security grounds.
Were it not for the distinctly upward curve of the birth rate in immigrant communities from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, the figures would have been even lower.
In Eastern Europe it was Hungary, where the ‘underground’ economy (see Chapter 18) furnished many people with a higher standard of living than elsewhere in the Bloc, which first reached comparably low birth-rates in these same years.
The highest level of resentful anger was to be found in the public service unions, covering underpaid government employees from dustmen to nurses. The major industrial unions were far more sanguine about Callaghan’s cuts: so long as Labour kept its promise to protect the traditional skilled industrial workers and leave their privileges intact, their leaders were pleased to tolerate the government’s apostasy. They were rather taken aback to discover that no such deals could be cut with Mrs. Thatcher.
In 1996 (its last year of existence) Britain’s nationalized railway network ‘boasted’ the lowest public subsidy for a railway in Europe. In that year the French were planning for their railways an investment rate of £21 per head of population; the Italians £33; the British just £9.
And private poverty, too. By breaking the link between pensions and wages, Thatcher sharply reduced the retirement income of most of her fellow citizens. By 1997 UK public pensions were just 15 percent of average earnings: the lowest ratio in the EU.
In the decade following her retirement, Margaret Thatcher’s heirs at the Conservative helm declined from the tiresomely humdrum (John Major), through the bumptiously inadequate (William Hague), to the terminally inept (Iain Duncan Smith). After the long reign of the Sun Queen there ensued a deluge of mediocrity.
As she explained to the Scottish Tory Party Conference, on May 14th 1982: ‘It is exciting to have a real crisis on your hands, when you have spent half your political life dealing with humdrum issues like the environment.’
With perhaps this difference: whereas Margaret Thatcher believed in privatization as something akin to a moral good, Tony Blair just likes rich people.
A 1979 poll revealed that the electoral profile of Mitterrand’s Parti Socialiste uncannily reflected that of the country at large, something no other party could claim.
A former banker and one-time adviser to Gaullist Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas, Delors would go on to preside over the European Commission from 1985-1995.
Even at the height of popular discontent with government policy, in the economic slump of the mid- 1980s, 57 percent of electors declared themselves pleased with Mitterrand’s foreign policy.
In 1982 IRI (Instituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale) controlled, among much else, all of Italy’s cast-iron manufacturing, two-thirds of its special steel output, one quarter of its ice-cream production and 18 percent of its peeled tomatoes.
The original goal of the Treuhand was to convert as many as possible of the nine thousand East German companies (employing seven million men and women) into real businesses and liquidate the rest. But under political pressure it preferred to rehabilitate or consolidate many of the unprofitable concerns, ironically thereby creating a new, semi-public sector subsidized from public funds. See Chapter 21. 14Instituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale, Instituto Nazionale delle Assicurazioni, Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi, Ente Nazionale per l’Energia Elettrica.
Evgenia Ginzburg, Journey into the Whirlwind (Harcourt, 1967); Margarete Buber-Neumann, Von Potsdam nach Moskau: Stationen eines Irrweges (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1957); Wolfgang Leonhard, Child of the Revolution (Pathfinder Press, 1979), first published in Cologne in 1955 as Die Revolution entlässt ihre Kinder; Victor Serge, Mémoires d’un révolutionnaire (Paris, 1951); Boris Souvarine, Stalin. A Critical Survey of Bolshevism (first published in English in 1939).
Between 1975 and 1981 France alone took in 80,000 refugees from Indo-China.
In 1963, long after he had lost interest in France’s own Communists, the author of Les Mains Sales could still be heard in Prague enthusing about Socialist Realism to a bemused audience of Czech writers and intellectuals.
‘La responsabilité envers l’Histoire dispense de la responsabilité envers les êtres humains’.
‘Pour ma part, je pense que s’il y a une grande cause aujourd’hui, c’est la défense des intellectuals.’ See Le Nouvel Observateur, #1140, septembre 1986, ‘Les Grandes Causes, ça existe encore?’
Antonino Bruno, Marxismo e Idealismo Italiano (1977), pp.99-100.
Curiously, it was the Czechoslovak government’s decision to ratify the UN human rights Covenants in 1976—the 35th state to do so—that made those Covenants binding under international law.
But even environmentalism had its internal dissidents. Milan Šimečka, the Slovak writer, warned his colleagues (Havel among them) against underestimating the benefits of modernity: ‘I am of the opinion that even the pollution that accompanies industrial prosperity is better than the chaos and brutality which plagues those societies in which people are unable to satisfy their basic needs.’ Milan Šimečka, ‘A World With Utopias or Without Them’, Cross-Currents, 3 (1984), p. 26.
Yugoslavia is the exception that illustrates the rule: ‘As there had never been an official culture established in Yugoslavia (which did not prevent the existence of official figures in cultural life), there could never be its natural opposite, an underground, alternative or parallel culture, such as was richly cherished by other socialist countries.’ Dubravka Ugresic, The Culture of Lies (1998), page 37.
With good reason. As we have since learned, the British and West German peace movements of the time were thoroughly penetrated by Soviet and East German intelligence.
During the 1980s Poland and Czechoslovakia both slipped into negative economic growth—their economies actually shrinking. The economy of the USSR itself had probably been shrinking since 1979.
Timothy Garton Ash, The Uses of Adversity (NY, 1989), page 9.
In agriculture, much of the Soviet Union, Hungary and Romania once again resembled the great nineteenth-century landed estates: poorly-paid, under-performing, inadequately-equipped agricultural labourers did the minimum for their absent employers while saving their energy for the real labour they put into family plots.
I am grateful to Dr Paulina Bren for this reference. 15In the Brezhnev years a pound of beef cost three and a half rubles to produce but was sold in shops for two rubles. The European Community subsidized its farmers too, and in approximately the same proportions. The difference, of course, was that Western Europe could afford a Common Agricultural Policy and the Soviet Union could not.
Hungary joined the IMF in May 1982, to mutual self-congratulation. Only in 1989 did it emerge that its government had seriously understated its internal and external debt for the previous decade.
Moreover, like Brezhnev himself, they were among the leading consumers of the age. In a Soviet joke from the time, the Soviet leader is showing his mother his dacha, his cars and his hunting lodges. ‘It’s wonderful, Leonid,’ she says. ‘But what if the Communists come back to power?’
It is of course the business of the Catholic Church to inveigh against material idols and the sin of pride. But Karol Wojtyła went much further. In his 1975 Lenten Exercises at the Vatican, three years before becoming Pope, he explicitly announced that of the two threats to the Church, consumerism and persecution, the former was by far the graver danger and thus the greater enemy.
Witness his initial support for a projected Carmelite convent at Auschwitz, later withdrawn in the face of international protest. His thoughtless description of Poland under martial law as a ‘vast concentration camp’ reflects a similar limitation.
With the encouragement of the Vatican, the US would provide significant financial support for Solidarity in its clandestine years—by some estimates as much as $50 million.
Though early in his presidency, in November 1981, Reagan did let slip the thought that a nuclear war in Europe need not lead to a strategic exchange. Washington’s West European allies were at least as alarmed as Moscow and both protested vociferously.
There was, of course, never any question of Pershings or Cruises being deployed in France itself . . . 6It emerged after 1990 that at least 25 Bundestag members in these years were paid agents of the GDR. 7On December 13th 1981, the day martial law was declared in Poland, Schmidt was in the GDR holding ‘summit talks’ with his counterpart Erich Honecker and was somewhat put out, less by the imprisonment of hundreds of Polish dissidents than by the potentially ‘destabilizing’ impact of Polish developments on improving inter-German relations.
Thanks to an ever-larger GDP, the defense element in American public expenditure had fallen steadily in relative terms from the mid-Fifties through 1979, even during the Vietnam years. It then increased dramatically: as a percentage of Federal outlay, defense spending in 1987 was up by 24 percent on 1980 levels.
In fact Gorbachev’s own family had suffered greatly under Stalin: both of his grandfathers were imprisoned or exiled in the course of the dictator’s purges. But the new Soviet leader did not even acknowledged the fact until November 1990.
‘Mais c’est quoi, la dialectique?’ ‘C’est l’art et la manière de toujours retomber sur ses pattes, mon vieux!’ Jorge Semprún, Quel Beau Dimanche (Paris: Grasset, 1980), p. 100
This was the subject of a book by Zhores Medvedev, Nuclear Disaster in the Urals, published in exile in 1979.
In an opinion poll taken some months later, in January 1990, Gorbachev ranked just after Peter The Great in public favour—but far behind both Karl Marx and V.I.Lenin...
It was Sakharov who forced the issue into the open by demanding—on live television—the abrogation of Article Six and the return to the peoples’ representatives of the power ‘stolen’ by the Party in 1918. Gorbachev himself finally switched off Sakharov’s microphone, but too late.
He also made a point, at Chernenko’s funeral in March 1985, of meeting and greeting Alessandro Natta, the head of the Italian Communist Party, until then perennially in Moscow’s bad graces.
In an ironically apposite echo of the American fiasco in Vietnam, the puppet regime in Kabul—now bereft of armed support from abroad—limped on until 1992 before succumbing (its international guarantors notwithstanding) to the forces of the Taliban.
Andrei Grachev, quoted in Archie Brown, The Gorbachev Factor (Oxford, 1997), p.88.
In 1986 the US lifted its veto on Polish membership of the IMF, in return for the release of all remaining political prisoners and a general amnesty.
See Harold James, International Monetary Cooperation since Bretton Woods (IMF + Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 567.
Officially the site of Nagy’s grave had remained unknown for thirty years; in fact its location, in an obscure and unmarked corner of the Budapest Municipal Cemetery, was public knowledge.
I am grateful to Professor Timothy Garton Ash for this reference.
It appears that Honecker had calculated, reasonably enough, that Gorbachev would not last and could safely be ignored.
Three days after Gorbachev’s visit Honecker received a visiting Chinese dignitary and compared the unrest in the GDR with China’s recent ‘counter-revolution’. It seems likely that he was at least contemplating a German re-play of the Tiananmen Square massacre—one reason why his colleagues took the decision to oust him.
To be fair, the East German dissidents genuinely misread the courage of the crowds in November 1989 as the basis for a renewed socialist republic. On the other hand, the source of that misreading was their blind failure to understand what ‘socialism’ had come to mean—and their own investment in its survival.
In certain respects its Polish equivalent came in 1980-81—the political transition in Poland a decade later was an altogether more calculated and negotiated affair.
The author, who was in Prague at this time, can vouch for the intoxicating feeling that history was being made by the hour.
A cartoon in one of the ephemeral Prague student newspapers of December 1989 perfectly captures the generation gap. A paunchy middle-aged man in an undershirt stares with distaste into his shaving mirror at a blowsy woman in the doorway, a dirty nightgown draped over her shoulders, her hair in rollers, a cigarette dangling from her lips. ‘Don’t you recognize me?’ she taunts him. ‘I’m your dream of 1968.’
‘If a people have never spoken, the first words they utter are poetry.’ Ferdinando Camon in La Stampa, ‘Tutto Libri’, December 16th 1989.
At least until the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev, after which the West had no further use for an anti-Soviet maverick.
The trial and execution by firing squad were filmed for television, but not shown until two days later.
Officially, of course, the Turks didn’t exist: ‘There are no Turks in Bulgaria’ (Dimitur Stoyanov, Interior Minister).
Such considerations did not always apply in remote rural communities and small provincial towns, where the police continued to the very end to operate unhindered by television cameras or public disapproval.
A backhanded nod to the Sixties’ only lasting monument, the idea that youth is an inherently superior condition—in the words of Jerry Rubin: ‘Never trust anyone over 30.’
This line of reasoning was developed by Voltaire, among others, and is elegantly explicated by Larry Wolff in Inventing Eastern Europe (Stanford, 1994).
Even Reagan’s initial response to the declaration of martial law in Poland was distinctly lukewarm. Only after loud public criticism (from Henry Kissinger, among others) did official Washington adopt the hard-line stance for which it became better known.
In August 1989 the deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Party had criticized the Kohl government for ‘aggravating’ the crisis by welcoming East German refugees who were seeking to come west via the newly opened Hungarian border. However in Berlin (a traditional SPD stronghold) the SPD did much better in the elections of 1990, winning 35 percent of the vote.
Bohley’s own response was to observe somewhat sourly: ‘We wanted justice and we got the Rechtstaat [constitutional state].’
De Maizière’s second act was at last to acknowledge East Germany’s shared responsibility for the Holocaust and allocate DM6.2 million for reparations.
It is no coincidence that Mitterrand was the only major Western political figure to accommodate himself without hesitation to the apparent overthrow of Gorbachev in the abortive Moscow coup of the following year.
It is not a little ironic that Mitterrand’s successors are now having to grapple with the budgetary constraints and social consequences of that same treaty.
Not the least of which was the appointment of Mitterrand’s crony Jacques Attali as head of a new institution—the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)—with a remit to invest in the rebuilding of Eastern Europe. After spending millions refurbishing a prestigious building for himself—but very little on the bank’s putative beneficiaries—Attali was ignominiously removed. The experience did no discernible damage to his considerable self-esteem.
There is some evidence that Gorbachev conceded this crucial point inadvertently, when he acceded in May 1990 to President Bush’s suggestion that Germany’s right of self-determination should include the freedom to ‘choose its alliances’.
In Grass’s view, modern German history consists of a perennial disposition to bloat and expand, followed by desperate attempts at constraint by the rest of the continent—or in his words: ‘Every few years, for our all-German constipation, we are given a Europe-enema.’
Note that just eight weeks earlier Gorbachev had adamantly refused to consider any such change.
The five central Asian republics—Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Tadjikistan, Turkmenia and Uzbekistan—between them covered more land (18 percent of Soviet territory) than any republic other than Russia itself, although their combined share of Soviet GNP in September 1991 was just 9.9 percent. But their story falls outside the bounds of the present book.
But mostly unpredicted. For an impressive exception, see the essays by Roman Szporluk: written over the course of the Seventies and Eighties and gathered in Russia, Ukraine and the Break-Up of the Soviet Union (Hoover Institution, Stanford, 2000).
And should not be confused with historical Moldavia just across the Prut river in Romania.
The Azeris being of Turkic origin, part of the background to these tensions can be traced to the Armenian massacres of World War One in Ottoman Turkey.
The characteristic Russian self-image, an unstable alloy of insecurity and hubris, is nicely captured in remarks by the liberal philosopher Peter Chaadayev, from his ‘Philosophical Letters’ of 1836: ‘We are one of those nations which do not seem to be an integral part of the human race, but which exist only to give some great lesson to the world. The instruction which we are destined to give will certainly not be lost: but who knows the day when we shall find ourselves a part of humanity, and how much misery we shall experience before the fulfillment of our destiny.’
That is one reason why the end of the Soviet Union was and is a source of genuine regret among many Russians. ‘Independence’ for everyone else meant something gained; independence for Russia itself constituted an unmistakable loss.
Yeltsin received 57 percent of the vote in a turnout of 74 percent.
The exception was French President François Mitterrand, still uncomfortable with the destabilization of eastern Europe and a little too quick to acknowledge the plotters’ success in restoring the status quo ante.
Even in Ukraine, where many Russian-speakers had been wary of talk about national independence, the coup of August had a dramatic impact on the public mood: on August 24th the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet voted for independence, subject to a referendum, by 346 votes to 1. When the national referendum was held on December 1st, 90.3 percent (in a turnout of 84 percent of the electorate) voted to leave the Soviet Union.
The will, but not the means. Had Gorbachev—or the August plotters—chosen to use the army to crush all opposition, it is by no means sure that they would have failed.
This occasioned some ill-feeling among Czechs. On a visit to Prague in 1985 the present author was regaled by liberal Czechs with accounts of the privileges accorded by the regime to the Slovak minority. Schoolteachers from Slovakia—recruited to teach in Prague’s elementary schools and deemed by parents to be hopelessly provincial and inadequate to the task—were a particular target of resentment. 21The appearance of a separate Hungarian party reflects the presence on Slovak territory of some 500,000 Hungarians, 10 percent of the population of Slovakia.
Quoted in Mladá Fronta dnes 12th March 1991. See Abby Innes, Czechoslovakia: The Short Goodbye (Yale U.P., Newhaven, 2001), page 97.
The political split proved easier to manage than the economic one—it was not until 1999 that agreement over the division of Czechoslovakia’s federal assets was finally reached.
Zagreb, Belgrade and Skopje (the capital of Macedonia) were all among the fastest growing cities of Central Europe between 1910 and 1990.
‘We shall kill some Serbs, deport others, and oblige the rest to embrace Catholicism’—thus the Ustashe Minister of Religion in Zagreb, July 22nd 1941.
On a ‘fact-finding’ visit to Skopje just after the 1999 Kosovo war the present author was ‘confidentially’ informed by the Macedonian Prime Minister that Albanians (including his own ministerial colleague who had just left the room) were not to be trusted: ‘You can’t believe anything they say—they just are not like us. They are not Christian’.
This was not, of course, the way things appeared to Croats and others, who could point to Serb domination of the national army (60 percent of the officer corps was Serb by 1984, a fair reflection of Serb presence in the population at large but no more reassuring for that) and Belgrade’s disproportionate share of investment and federal expenditure.
Since ethnic identity in Yugoslavia could not be ascertained from appearance or speech, roaming militias relied on villagers ‘fingering’ their neighbours—families with whom they had often lived at peace, sometimes as friends, for years and even decades.
Between 1992 and 1994 the UN agencies in the Balkans were all but complicit with the Bosnian Serbs—allowing them, for example, an effective veto over what and who could enter and leave the besieged city of Sarajevo.
It was at French insistence that the signing ceremony was held in Paris—an exercise in ceremonial overcompensation that only drew attention to France’s previous reluctance to act against the Serbs.
The NATO-led Stabilization Force was replaced by the European Union’s EUFOR on December 2nd 2004.
The ageing Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, manipulating nationalist sentiment for electoral advantage, claimed that the term ‘Macedonia’ was part of his country’s ancient heritage and could apply to only the northernmost region of Greece itself. If the Slav state carved out of southern Yugoslavia called itself by that name it must harbour irredentist ambitions. What Papandreou could not acknowldge was that many of the ‘Greeks’ of Greek Macedonia were themselves of Slav descent—albeit officially Hellenized for patriotic ends.
In the winter of 1996, following palpably fraudulent results in local elections, Serb students demonstrated for three months in the streets of Belgrade, protesting Milošević’s dictatorship and demanding change. They received no support or encouragement from the Western powers, however, who looked upon Milošević as a stabilizing factor in the post-Dayton years and did nothing to weaken his position.
And as with the Sarajevo atrocity, Belgrade and its apologists insisted either that it never happened or, when that became untenable, that it was a staged ‘provocation’ by the victims themselves.
Janvier’s performance aroused demands in France and elsewhere that he be co-indicted for responsibility in the subsequent massacre.
Among a younger generation, business-oriented and impatient to escape their country’s encumbering past, it even brought forth a new conformism to substitute for the wooden public language of Communism: uncritical adulation for the mantras of neo-classical economics blissfully unclouded by any familiarity with their social cost.
Giving rise to nationalist jitters at the prospect of Prague’s re-absorption into a Greater German Co-Prosperity Sphere—and a popular joke: “I have some good news and some bad news about Czechoslovakia’s post-Communist prospects.” “What’s the good news?” “The Germans are coming!” “And the bad news?” “The Germans are coming.”
A notable exception to this story is Estonia, which has benefitted hugely from its virtual adoption by its Scandinavian neighbours. In 1992, when it left the ruble zone, 92 percent of Estonia’s trade was with the former Soviet Union. Five years later over three quarters of that trade was with the West, much of it across the Baltic.
And inefficiency—one irony of ritualized privatization in eastern Europe was that once collective farms were broken up into tiny plots they could no longer be worked by tractor but only by hand. 17It is estimated that inflation in post-Communist Ukraine reached an annual rate of 5,371 percent in 1993.
But Romania is perhaps unique. In the Bucharest mayoral elections of 1998 the Romanian Workers’ Party blanketed the city with posters of Nicolae Ceauşescu. ‘They shot me’, the posters read. ‘Do you live any better? Remember all I did for the Romanian people’.
And even on occasion with unreconstructed Fascists, nostalgic for the better days of World War Two—notably in Croatia.
Though not, perhaps, across the self-serving moves of certain prominent writers—who would have risked little by declining their services: e.g. Christa Wolf, whose much-vaunted literary ambivalence appears somehow less admirable in the light of later revelations of her cooperation with the Stasi.
By way of comparison, the Gestapo in 1941 had a staff of fewer than 15,000 to police the whole of greater Germany.
From the Czech lustrace, meaning ‘bringing to light’, though the translation carries purgative connotations as well.
I am indebted to Dr Jacques Rupnik for the reference.
Julius Caesar’s Gallia Belgica lay athwart the line that was to separate Gallo-Roman territories from the Franks and mark the boundary thenceforth demarcating Latinate, French-dominated Europe from the Germanic north.
The main newspapers, Le Soir and De Standaard, have almost no readers outside the French- and Dutch-speaking communities respectively. As a result, neither takes much trouble to report news from the other half of the country. When someone speaks Dutch on Walloon television (and vice-versa) subtitles are provided. Even the automatic information boards on interregional trains switch back and forth between Dutch and French (or to both, in the case of Brussels) as they cross the regional frontiers. It is only partly a jest to say that English is now the common language of Belgium.
The more historically disposed perhaps called to mind the passage in the Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène by the Comte de Las Cases, where the exiled Napoléon Bonaparte envisages a future ‘association européenne’ with ‘one code, one court, one currency’.
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined in 1999, just in time to be (somewhat reluctantly) committed to NATO’s engagement in Kosovo. Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia were admitted in 2004.
The economic recession of the early Nineties also helped, contributing to a widespread view in Sweden especially that the country’s exporters could not survive without unrestricted access to the European market.
See Chapter 21. The pain was real enough. East European countries lost between 30 and 40 percent of their national income in the years after 1989. The first to recover its 1989 level was Poland, in 1997; others took until 2000 or beyond.
A highly optimistic assumption. In the years following their accession to the EC in 1986, the economies of Spain and Portugal grew on average between 1 percent and 1.5 percent faster than the rest of the Community.
On January 1st 2002 a total of 600,000,000,000 euros in cash was seamlessly distributed and introduced across the euro-zone countries, a remarkable technical achievement.
If they still worked as smoothly as they did it was at least in part because the federal machinery was so very well oiled, not least by money: in the 1990s Switzerland was still by most measures the world’s wealthiest country.
Quoted in Kenneth Harris, Attlee (London, 1984), p. 63.
The decline in the Dutch vote may be especially ominous. Once the kernel of European enthusiasm and a generous contributor to EC and EU funds, the Netherlands in recent years has been retreating into itself—a development both illuminated and accelerated by the rise of Pim Fortuyn and his subsequent assassination.
It is perhaps worth adding that in January 2004 only one French adult in fifty could name the ten new EU member states.
Not everywhere, however: in the UK—as in the US—the income spread between the wealthy and the rest grew steadily wider from the late 1970s.
The ECJ should not be confused with the European Court of Human Rights, set up under the auspices of the Council of Europe to enforce the 1953 Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
In Giscard’s ‘Constitution for Europe’, Article 3(I) defines the Union’s aims as being ‘to promote peace, its values, and the well-being of its peoples’.
Quoted by Andrew Moravscik in The Choice for Europe (New York, 1998),. p. 265.
Mordantly predicted at the time by the US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, who foresaw that the Europeans ‘will screw up and this will teach them a lesson’.
The EU was not alone in subsidizing its own farmers to the detriment of others. It was not even the worst offender: Norway, Switzerland, Japan and the US all pay out more in per capita terms. But the EU appeared somehow more hypocritical. While Brussels preaches virtue to the world at large, its own practice is often quite selective. East Europeans, instructed to incorporate and adopt a veritable library of European Union regulations, could hardly fail to notice the frequency with which West European governments exempted themselves from those same rules.
In 1995, according to a UNICEF study, one British child in five lived in poverty, compared with one in ten in Germany and one in twenty in Denmark.
Invoking slightly different criteria to make a similar point, the Cambridge political theorist John Dunn divides the workforces of wealthy countries into ‘those who can individually take very good care of themselves on the market . . . , those who can hold their own only because they belong to surviving units of collective action with a threat advantage out of all proportion to the value of individual members’ labour, and those who are already going under, because no one would chose to pay much for their labour’. Dunn, The Cunning of Unreason. Making Sense of Politics (London, 2000), p. 333.
Gorz, as befitted a man of his time and politics, assumed that this new class would in turn fuel a new generation of radical social movements. To date there is little evidence of this.
In 1992 alone, the Federal Republic opened its doors to nearly a quarter of a million Yugoslav refugees. Britain admitted 4,000; France just 1,000.
At the end of the twentieth century there were an estimated 5 million Gypsies in Europe: some 50,000 in Poland, 60,000 in Albania, half a million in Hungary, perhaps 600,000 each in Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia and the Czech Republic and at least 2 million in Romania. The prejudice and abuse to which they were exposed was common to every country in which the Gypsies lived (not to mention places like Britain to which they were forbidden entry).
The Dansk Folkeparti originated in a breakaway from the Danish Progress Party, itself a product of the anti-tax movements of the early 1970s (see Chapter 14) but considered by a new generation of radicals to be too ‘soft’ on the EU and insufficiently anti-immigrant.
In Switzerland, where anti-immigrant prejudice was especially widespread in the German-speaking cantons, the racism was not always buried: one election poster showed an array of dark-skinned faces over the caption ‘The Swiss are becoming Negroes’.
With one exception: Edith Cresson—a former French Socialist Prime Minister turned EU Commissioner—contributed to the discrediting of the whole Commission when it was revealed in 1999 that she had used her power in Brussels to invent a well-paid consultancy for her former dentist.
Even taking into account the Yugoslav wars of the Nineties, the number of war-related deaths in Europe in the second half of the century was less than one million.
Raymond Aron (born in 1905) shared some of Zweig’s wistful memories, if not his despair: ‘Ever since, under a July sun, bourgeois Europe entered the century of wars, men have lost control of their history’.
Many Poles, it should be noted, also insist upon their country’s place at the centre of Europe—a revealing confusion.
Much the same is true of Albanian Kosovars. Liberated by NATO from Serbian oppression, they aspire to independent statehood less from nationalistic ambition than as a surety against the risk of being left in Serbia—and out of Europe.
Anna Reid, Borderland. A Journey through the history of Ukraine (2000), p. 20. Hence the place of ‘Europe’ in the language and hopes of the Ukrainian revolution of December 2004.
See Tony Judt, ‘Romania: Bottom of the Heap’, New York Review, November 1st 2001.
As the common language of many tens of millions of people in the Americas, from Santiago to San Francisco, the international standing of Spanish was nevertheless secure. The same was true of Portuguese, at least in its quite distinctive Brazilian form.
With the exception of Romania, where the situation was reversed and French had by far the broader constituency.
The exception in this case is Bulgaria, where Russia and its language had always found a more sympathetic reception.
Respectively the French, German and Italian flagship expresses.
In June 2004 the present author received the following greeting from a correspondent in the foreign ministry in Zagreb: ‘Things here good. Croatia got EU membership invitation. This will change many mental maps’.
Hungarians in twenty-first-century Romania, Slovakia and Serbia were another, smaller post-imperial minority: once dominant, now vulnerable. In the Vojvodina region of northern Serbia, Hungarians who had lived there for centuries were periodically assaulted and their properties vandalized by Serb youths. The response of the authorities in Belgrade, who appeared to have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from the catastrophe of the Nineties, was depressingly predictable: the attacks were not ‘serious’ and in any case, ‘they’ started it.
Quite the opposite. In a series of measures in the spring and summer of 2004 the authorities significantly curtailed both the rights of the press and the already restricted opportunities for public protest. Russia’s brief window of freedom—actually disarray and the absence of constraint rather than genuine constitutionally protected liberty—was fast closing. In 2004, Russian observers estimated that KGB-TRAINED officials occupied one in four of civilian administrative posts in the country.
Including the domestic political calculations of Greek politicians, who for many years used their vote in Brussels to hinder and block any movement on Turkey’s candidacy.
In addition they were wont to see as ‘European’ an idealized free-market, contrasting it with the graft and cronyism of Turkey’s own economy.
The Christian Democratic Union in Germany was officially opposed to Turkey joining the EU.
Democratic Spain did indeed develop an official ‘heritage’ industry, fostered by its Patrimonio Nacional, but the latter took care to emphasize the country’s distant Golden Age rather than its recent history.
In T .R. Reid, The United States of Europe. The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy (NY, 2004), p. 131.
Britain was not unique. In one week in September 2004 the Spanish national lottery, El Gordo, took in 5,920,293 euros.
Though not yet constrained by the American obligation to partner a white male (host) with a black male (sports), a white female (soft news/features) and a weather-person (colour/gender optional).
The death and morbid afterlife of Princess Diana may seem an exception to this rule. But even though many other Europeans watched her funeral on television, they lost interest soon enough. The bizarre outpouring of public grief was a strictly British affair.
The notorious exception was a tiny but very hard core of German and (especially) English fans who travelled to international games explicitly in search of a fight, to the utter mystification of everyone else.
In January 2003, at the initiative of the Spanish and British prime ministers, eight European governments (Britain, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic) signed a joint declaration of pro-American solidarity. Within a few months the Hungarians and Czechs were privately expressing their regrets and expressing bitterness at having been ‘bullied’ into signing by the Spanish Prime Minister, José María Aznar. A year later Aznar himself was thrown out of office by Spanish voters, in large measure for having led Spain into the ‘coalition’ to invade Iraq—something to which the nation was overwhelmingly opposed.
‘Yes, Americans put up huge billboards reading “Love Thy Neighbor”, but they murder and rape their neighbors at rates that would shock any European nation’. T. R. Reid, The United States of Europe (NY, 2004), p. 218.
The new business class in Eastern Europe, it should be noted, ate, dressed, phoned and drove European. To be modern it was no longer necessary to imitate Americans. Quite the contrary: American consumer products were frequently disdained as ‘dowdy’ or ‘bland’.
In France in 1960 there were four workers for every pensioner. In 2000 there were two. By 2020, on present trends, there would be just one.
In 2004, health costs absorbed 8 percent of GDP in Sweden but 14 percent in the USA. Four-fifths of the cost was borne by the government in Sweden, less than 45 percent by the Federal government in the US. The rest was a direct burden on American businesses and their employees. Forty-five million Americans had no health insurance.
Under Delors’ successors the pendulum has shifted: the Commission is still as active as ever, but its efforts are directed to de-regulating markets.
In Europe, but not in America. In international surveys at the end of the twentieth century, the number of Americans claiming to be ‘very proud’ of their country exceeded 75 percent. In Europe only the Irish and the Poles exhibited similar patriotic verve; elsewhere the number of ‘very proud’ people ranged from 49 percent (Latvians) to 17 percent (former West Germans).
The American prosecutor Telford Taylor was struck by this in retrospect but acknowledges that he did not even notice it at the time—a revealing admission. See Telford Taylor, The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials (NY, 1992), p. 296.
In the town of Pithiviers, near Orléans, where Jewish children rounded up in Paris were kept until their shipment east, a monument was actually erected in 1957 bearing the inscription ‘A nos déportés morts pour la France’. Only in 1992 did the local municipality erect a new plaque, more accurate if less reassuring. It reads: ‘To the memory of the 2300 Jewish children interned at the Pithiviers camp from July 19th to September 6th 1942, before being deported and murdered in Auschwitz’.
Giuliana Tedeschi is quoted by Nicola Caracciolo in Uncertain Refuge: Italy and the Jews During the Holocaust (University of Illinois Press, 1995), p. 121.
In post-war Britain, an unusually thin or sickly person might be described as looking ‘like something out of Belsen’. In France, fairground chambers of horror were labelled ‘Buchenwalds’—as an inducement to voyeuristic trade.
See The Times Literary Supplement for October 4th 1996. Jews were not the first people in Britain to opt for discretion where the Holocaust was concerned. The wartime government under Churchill chose not to deploy information about the death camps in its propaganda against Germany lest this incite an increase in anti-Semitic feelings—already quite high in some parts of London, as wartime intelligence reports had noted.
Especially in America. In 1950 the Displaced Persons’ Commission of the US Congress stated that ‘The Baltic Waffen SS units are to be considered as separate and distinct in purpose, ideology, activities and qualifications from the German SS. Therefore the Commission holds them not to be a movement hostile to the government of the United States’. The Baltic Waffen SS had been among the most brutal and enthusiastic when it came to torturing and killing Jews on the Eastern Front; but in the novel circumstances of the Cold War they were of course ‘our’ Nazis. I am grateful to Professor Daniel Cohen of Rice University for this information.
Except of course in Israel.
In October 1991, following the desecration of tombs in Vienna’s Jewish cemetery, Gallup polled Austrians on their attitude to Jews: 20 percent thought ‘positions of authority’ should be closed to Jews; 31 percent declared that they ‘would not want a Jew as a neighbour’; fully 50 percent were ready to agree with the proposition that ‘Jews are responsible for their past persecution’.
The Poles happily agreed—for these purposes Warsaw saw no impediment to defining Jews as Poles . . .
Ondergang was published in English in 1968 as The Destruction of the Dutch Jews.
See Sonia Combe, Archives interdites: Les peurs françaises face à l’histoire contemporaine (Paris: Albin Michel, 1994), p. 14.
Professor Paxton of Columbia University, who had initiated historical investigation into Vichy’s crimes nearly a quarter of a century earlier (when most of his French colleagues were otherwise engaged), took a less monastic view of his professional calling and gave important testimony.
When US President Ronald Reagan, on a visit to West Germany in 1985, was advised to avoid the military cemetery at Bitburg (site of a number of SS graves) and pay his respects at a concentration camp instead, Chancellor Kohl wrote to warn him that this ‘would have a serious psychological effect on the friendly sentiments of the German people for the United States of America.’ The Americans duly capitulated; Reagan visited Belsen and Bitburg . . .
Quoted by Ian Buruma in ‘Buchenwald’, Granta 42, 1992.
When the Czechoslovak parliament voted in 1991 to restitute property seized after the war it explicitly limited the benefits to those expropriated after 1948—so as to exclude Sudeten Germans expelled in 1945-46, before the Communists seized power.
Under President Putin, Russia continues to insist that the Balts were liberated by the Red Army, after which they voluntarily joined the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The memorial was not uncontroversial: in addition to many who disliked its abstract conception there were those, including a Christian Democrat Mayor of the city, Eberhard Diepgen, who criticized it for helping turn Berlin into ‘the capital of repentance’.
In March 2004 eighty-four Hungarian writers, including Péter Esterházy and György Konrád, left the country’s Writers’ Union in protest at its tolerance of anti-Semitism. The occasion for the walk out were comments by the poet Kornel Döbrentei following the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to the Holocaust survivor Imre Kertész. The prize, according to Döbrentei, was ‘conscience money’ for a writer who was just indulging the ‘taste for terror’ of ‘his minority’.
The last statue of Franco in Madrid was quietly removed at dawn, in front of an audience of one hundred onlookers, on March 17th 2005.
‘We, the survivors, are not the true witnesses. . . . We are . . . an anomalous minority: we are those who by their prevarications, or their attributes or their good luck did not touch bottom. Those who did so, those who saw the Gorgon, have not returned to tell about it, or they returned mute.’Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved (NY, 1988), pp. 83-84.
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (Seattle, 1982), p. 116.