By: Peter Truden
At last year’s confrontation of candidates for MEPs, far-leftists were greatly surprised when Violeta Tomić brought up Slovenian eccentricity to the global stage and said that European Union was based on anti-fascism.
In Europe, even among leftists, there is no doubt that the predecessor of the European Union, European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), is a child of liberal capitalism, not anti-fascism which was then (unlike today), in 1950 when ECSC was founded, an already well-forgotten topic. The original motivation of the source of European integrations was indeed the need to finally stop the centuries-long bloodshed in the conflicts among European powers. However, the tool with which the fathers of European Union pursued this goal was the market calculation of all involved. Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenauer, Christian Democrats and fathers of European Union, understood that people will not have the time to go to war if they would trade with each other and start making profits. For the first time in history, France and Germany renounced absolute national sovereignty over natural resources, not because of benevolence and noble motives, but because they knew that a common market for such important raw materials as coal and steel would benefit both.
The success of European Union began as the success of joint capital calculations. The proto-design of the common market was so successful that the next logical step followed – the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, which established the European Economic Community. Yes, also this alliance, which represented the first of three pillars of the later Union, was originally economic – a duty-free common market for coal and steel among the original members worked so well that the original members of ECHR (=European Convention of Human Rights) (France, West Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries) extended the market to other products and goods. The leitmotif of European integration has thus always been the capital gain of individual members brought by a free market without borders and bureaucratic obstacles. Economic synergies were the glue that held and still holds this super-national interest group together.
ALDE party (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party) is one of the children of this integration. ALDE was founded in 1976 as a centrist, pro-European political party, today made up of a rainbow of various European parties, from Dutch and Czech conservative liberals to French social humanists. In general, they promote liberalism in an unfiltered form, which was shaped with the development of the European Enlightenment and says that the foundations of liberalism are freedom of the individual and his/her equality before state institutions. The individualism of the individual, according to the founders of the party, has historically represented the antipode to absolutism.
Among other things, the core programme states that ALDE seeks to complete the European internal market as a truly common economic area without internal borders and to reform European economy to be more successful and competitive, with more jobs and stable prices for consumers. In essence, ALDE wishes to complete the story started by the EU’s core countries with the Paris Agreement on the ECSC. The story of liberal capitalism. That is, a political system where people are free, without absolute supremacy, and the means of production are privatised. And the basic motivation of every individual is to create added value. The story of EU is thus also the story of ALDE. The story of the common market, which began with the ECSC, continued with EEC, and ended with the EU, the internal market of almost half a billion people who trade and exchange goods, services, and capital as if they were members of a single country.
The 2018 ALDE manifesto reads: “Through competition, fairness and open trade, we liberals believe that progress for everyone and support for the vulnerable can be achieved by embracing the dynamics of market economies.”
It seems that ALDE is on exactly the same wavelength as the current Prime Minister of Slovenia Janez Janša, when he said in his address to the National Assembly before taking over the government: “Theorists can turn things around as they wish; the fact is, however, that it has been known throughout human history and civilisation that only economic growth, that is the creation of new value, can represent a lasting basis for prosperity. Everything else is a bluff that is paid. You can lounder money, only the value will be eaten up by inflation. You can incur debts, but you will pay principal and interest. You can propose certain obligations, but only for a limited time. So only economic growth can be a lasting basis for prosperity.”
What about ALDE in Slovenia? Slovenian ALDE parties live in a constant identity crisis, the source of which is the specific history of liberal democracy in Slovenia. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was politically similarly plural as today’s Europe, where liberal thought was successfully developing with a whole bunch of liberal parties tackling individual freedom in various ways, albeit within the dejura of an absolutist monarchy. The final breakdown of liberalism was the establishment of anti-imperialist front, which was quickly renamed the Liberation Front (LF), after Hitler deceived Stalin and the Communists had to erase every trace of the silent support for Nazi-Fascism overnight. When the younger Slovene liberals joined the LF in 1941, naively expecting a kind of social democratic post-war landscape, liberalism in Slovenia was over for the coming 49 years. And Nagodet’s 1946 trial was the last straw.
Ever since then, Slovenian perception of liberalism has been for ever marked and permanently condemned to the perception of global affairs through the prism of egalitarianism, socialism, and a great state that takes care for incapacitated citizens, and without a great state these citizens cannot successfully walk through life. This was even less visible during Drnovšek’s LDS, partly because he wanted to please everyone with Pahor’s politics, and partly because the nation was hungry for a free market after 46 years of self-government, and had an unforgettable desire to become a new Switzerland (further read: new country, where liberal capitalism rules). When LDS exploded, no shrapnel stuck in the flesh of Slovene politics managed to retain Drnovšek’s gradualism. Also, the people were almost a generation away from dying in instalments which we once called the common homeland.
That is why, from Positive Slovenia and its derivatives onwards, we have become prisoners of the liberalism of those young man who fled from the liberal parties of the kingdom to the Liberation Front. Recently, we heard that one of the coalition ALDE parties is an ideological party that does not support liberal capitalism. Their opposition colleagues (LMŠ and SAB) do not need to tell this at all – as it is obvious from the rhetoric and actions. I do not believe that the word liberal bothers them, as they are not even for Chinese, Hungarian, or Vietnamese so-called “liberal” capitalism. They only want to remove the word capitalism in its lexical image – a political system where the means of production are in privatised. This is a legitimate political position. They only need to ask themselves whether they TRULY belong to a European group of liberals and democrats, which is fundamentally liberal capitalist and strives for a private and more competitive European economy that will successfully tackle both American venture capitalists as well as Chinese state-backed privateers.
If Slovenian liberals want to attack every form of foreign private initiative as a fascist desant on Slovenia, if they want to destroy the last traces of private education, if they want to change healthcare to an even closer approach to Cuban, then – honestly – there exist a market in Slovenia as well as EU, a political constellation, and an electoral base for such ideas. In Slovenia, they are represented by the SD and Levica parties, and in Europe by the European Left Party, which also included the French and Austrian communist parties, as well as the Slovenian Levica party. These are the parties that reject neoliberal capitalism, but once they describe it, we quickly see that they are in fact thinking of completely ordinary liberal capitalism and not crony capitalism a la Bernie Madoff. They are bothered by the merits of large companies. They are bothered by the “unfair” distribution of wealth around the world. They are bothered if the difference between the earnings of highly qualified staff and cleaning staff is doubled. This is the European Left.
ALDE, however, this never was nor will be. ALDE supports the development of private education. It supports private healthcare – one of the key members, Mark Rutte, is the President of the country with the most sophisticated healthcare system in the Union, which very subtly incorporates elements of public and private healthcare for the benefit of all citizens. ALDE also supports private entrepreneurial initiative and sees it as the key to successful race with global competitors. Therefore, Slovenian liberal parties should reconsider whether they really belong to this group. Of course they will not, because they are not bothered that Europe does not know their true nature.
Three years ago, there was serious embarrassment and surprise in Slovenia when European Commissioner Margareta Vestager urged her ALDE partner Miro Cerar to fulfil the commitment made by Slovenia during the government of Alenka Bratušek. The commitment was to sell the majority share of the state-owned NLB, which was a condition for the last state aid to a financially stranded bank. Despite the fact that every month Cerar sent Finance Minister Vraničar Erman, basically begging on bended knees and incredibly creative manoeuvres, trying to keep the bank in the hands of the state. However, Vestager as well as the European Commission insisted. In the end, the EU had to threaten with a forced sale of Balkan branches before out “liberals” finally decided to keep the promise, and sell the bank. At home, the “liberal” media and “liberal” politicians did not understand why the liberal European Commissioner Margareta Vestager insisted so forcefully on the sale (at that time our liberals and socialists had not yet taken Matjaž Nemec’s lesson entitled pacta “und” servanda.). Similarly, Vestager did not understand why Miro Cerar is fighting so hard for the state of Slovenia to keep the failing bank. As a liberal, she had no idea that our liberals were not liberals but “liberals” and that they are fighting for a state-owned bank, because the elites they served used it as their ATM and occasionally for financing Persian allies. Within the ALDE constellation, Margareta Vestager is otherwise considered more social, with dangerous ideas about taxing internet giants (which could make the EU a technological loner). However, she is still far from the rabbit hole of Slovenia’s perception of liberalism.
Since they do not want to show their true colours themselves, the European mirage about Slovenian liberals will have to be dispelled and expose them for who they truly are – real socialists with a pedigree that goes back to real socialism, when liberal capitalism was a really ugly word. Somehow, only a few words are needed to explain to a foreigner that Irena Joveva, Ivo Vajgelj, Alenka Bratušek, Miro Cerar, and Marjan Šarec are not ideological companions of Guy Verhofstadt, Andrej Babiš, and Margareta Vestager. The above-mentioned are worldview extreme leftists (okay, Joveva is nothing, she simply just exists, looks nice, and reads prepared texts), and their European counterparts, social liberals who understand market capitalism.
Perhaps that bizarre delay in selling NLB was an opportunity to explain to Europe the specifics of Slovenian liberalism, but we missed it. Now, that the opposition has become the United Left, we have another opportunity to explain the facts to Europe. In our country there are liberals and “liberals”. And here only SD could politically connect with ALDE, and as far as it goes for SMC and NSI, they are both opposition members belonging to the European left.