THOSE who thought EU integration would bring an end to nationalism were mistaken. A united Europe has done nothing to turn nationalism into a relic of nineteenth century nation building and anti-colonial struggles post-World War II.
In fact, the decreasing population in old European countries and the post-communist block combined with an influx of immigrants has apparently breathed new life into political parties with nationalist tendencies.
The cold hard truth is that nationalism is here to stay, and there is no doubt that it owes its survival to its great powers of transformation.
Nationalism is one of those wily doctrines that can wear different guises in the service of different goals. The nationalist doctrine has championed all kinds of causes, from the worst of the worst to the best of the best.
Human rights organisations warn that the apparent dissolution of international borders is a chimera. They say that new walls are taking shape in the form of increasingly restrictive refugee and migration laws.
Even as physical boundaries disappear, Slovakia is constructing its own checkpoints. The Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) has brainstormed and hit upon its central 2005 election theme: Boost the Slovak population and decrease the number of immigrants living in Slovakia.
Given the fact that Slovakia has the worst track record in Europe for granting asylum to refugees, it is difficult to imagine what the KDH has in mind when it comes to decreasing the number of immigrants in Slovakia.
“We want to propose that Slovakia adopt certain population measures that would change the country’s demography in the upcoming years,” said KDH chairman Pavol Hrušovský.
Hrušovský made it clear that admitting more immigrants into the country would in no way solve the problem of national population decline. He said that government should improve the conditions of Slovak families instead.
The Christian Democratic Movement contradicts itself. In the past, the KDH has several times declared that it would not curry votes by evoking nationalist fears.
But the KDH claims that it has diagnosed a need to “guard a traditional way of life” and “well-tested views of the world”.
Hrušovský told a KDH congress November 20 that the increasing influx of immigrants incapable of accepting Slovakia’s cultural norms and integrating into Slovak society had become unacceptable.
The KDH claims that there is culture war raging in Europe, and that Christians should fight to win that war in the same way they defeated communism.
Over the past few years, the KDH has waged a kind of personal “Holy War” to redeem family values and a “traditional way of life”. Its ruling coalition partners, however, have so far resisted signing up for a crusade that has scant public support.
The KDH earned loud protests from non-governmental organisations and the Slovak public alike when it tried to insert an abortion ban into the Slovak Constitution.
In 2000, one-time KDH boss Jan Čarnogurský declared war against prostitution, saying that Slovakia did not need to adopt legislation to curtail the practice in Bratislava but simply exert the right type of pressure.
He suggested that the police harass prostitutes through frequent questioning so they would flee Bratislava’s city centre and highway stations of their own accord.
The KDH has also taken a radical stand on homosexuality. Čarnogurský declared that homosexuality was a disorder and that stricken individuals should voluntarily undergo treatment.
Analysts remain sceptical about whether KDH policies, if adopted, would succeed. For example, sociologists say that establishing good economic conditions would not be enough to motivate families to have children.
Political analysts say that the KDH has the greatest potential to lure Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) voters to their fold. HZDS voters are conservatives who stand for national pride and Christian values but who cannot identify with Vladimír Mečiar.
Mečiar himself fantasised about creating an alliance with the KDH, calling it the most probable ally of the HZDS out of all the ruling coalition parties. The KDH strictly rejected Mečiar’s overtures outright, although it would not dream of rejecting HZDS voter support, and perhaps the eventual support of the Slovak National Party (SNS), too.
In 2001, the KDH went so far as to prepare a draft law preserving Slovakia’s sovereignty. The KDH, apparently under pressure from the SNS and a party mutation, the Real Slovak National Party, included a clause giving the Interior Ministry authority to shut down any institution that could harm Slovak state interests. The question of who would determine what constitutes “harmful” to Slovak state interests was delicately sidestepped.
The draft, which the cabinet rejected, was designed to eliminate the Hungarian Status Law that allows Hungarian minority institutions to receive financial support from Hungary.
Slovak celebrities, intellectuals, and a great many regular people protested the “nation-protection draft” sponsored by the KDH, saying such a doctrine was in conflict with the spirit of a modern civil society.
Modern civil society will have to stay dedicated to protecting itself if it is to survive the worst that nationalism can bring
29. Nov 2004 at 0:00