In The American Conservative, Scott McConnell examines the efforts of Eastern European countries, led by Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, to slow or stop the flow of illegal migrants into Europe. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel unilaterally declared the borders of Europe to be open, inviting in a million migrants to the continent, Orban and other leaders of said no. McConnell writes (abridged):
Faced with the Merkel Million Man Migration, Orbán (Viktor) ordered Hungary’s army to build a fence.
Slovakia similarly refused to take in a quota of migrants dictated by Brussels and Berlin. The former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, wrote a short but excellent book, Europe All Inclusive, about the migration crisis in which he charged that Europe’s western elites were supporting mass immigration explicitly to smash the remaining power of nation states so full European unification could be achieved. Poland has likewise refused EU demands to resettle refugees from the Mideast and North Africa.
It is clear that on immigration, Eastern Europe differs from the rest of the continent—attitudes represented politically only through the populist right in the west are thoroughly mainstream in the east.
This difference in political culture is so vast, it can be traced to many sources. A similar divergence surfaced before, during the Cold War, when Eastern Europeans stubbornly refused to allow Western European intellectuals to forget or ignore that communism was a malign and murderous system. Today, Eastern Europeans note that they have been already been the subjects of utopian projects to remake society according to a progressive vision—and they have no desire for a repeat.
Encountering Eastern European resistance to progressive dogma for the first time is a bracing experience. I first had it during the mid-’70s, in a grad school lecture class at Columbia. A charming and generally well-liked democratic socialist professor would take admiring students through various sophisticated Marxist readings, leading inexorably to the conclusion that the collapse of “late capitalism” was inevitable and to be welcomed. This semester, there happened to be two Poles taking the class, one of whom was a woman who had been an imprisoned dissident. They seemed to know their Marx as well as the prof did: they were smart, they were vocal, and they were having absolutely none of it. It made for an exciting several months, and for me a memorable demonstration that Eastern Europeans were more or less immune to the guilt and self-hatred permeating much of the West.
Perhaps we are in for a reprise, when the people of the west learn once again from the east what is true and essential about their own societies. Of course, there are parallels between the communists’ aspirations and the open borders diversity project. Both are genuinely revolutionary in their desire to destroy and remake Western societies according to models that have little viable precedent in human experience. Under this logic, the ’60s and ’70s can be seen as a kind of transitional phase, during which Western socialists looked longingly towards various Third World models.
Without the voices of Eastern Europe, the West might not have successfully resisted the first progressive onslaught. Once again, it needs the voices of the east to illuminate its path to survival.
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