A diligent reader of Hobbes, Machiavelli, and Pareto, the Belgian Jean Thiriart (1922–1992), founder of the pan-European Jeune Europe (Young Europe), is the theorist of a Greater Europe from Galway to Vladivostok.
Born in 1922 to a liberal family in Liege, Belgium, Jean Thiriart was a young militant in the ranks of the Marxist extreme left as part of the Unified Socialist Young Guard and the Socialist Antifascist Union. He greeted the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939 with enthusiasm: “The most beautiful, the most exciting part of my life, I admit, was the German-Soviet pact.” Because, for him, “National Socialism was not an enemy of Communism, but a competitor.”
From One War to Another
In 1940, at the age of 18, he joined the Amis du Grand Reich allemand (AGRA–Friends of the Greater German Reich), the association in occupied French-speaking Belgium of secular and socialist supporters of collaboration, not Rexists. He also belonged to the Fichte Bund, a movement based in Hamburg that emerged from the National Bolshevik current. Condemned to three years of prison after the liberation, he gave up all political activity.
He became reengaged only in 1960, at the age of 38, during the decolonization of the Belgian Congo, taking part in the foundation of the Comité d’action et de défense des Belges d’Afrique (CADBA—Committee of Action and Defense of the Belgians of Africa). Quickly, the defense of the Belgians of the Congo transformed into a fight for the European presence in Africa, including the French in Algeria, and CADBA turned into the Mouvement d’action civique (MAC—Movement of Civic Action). Thiriart, assisted by Paul Teichmann, transformed this Poujadist inflected group into a revolutionary structure that effectively organized Belgian support networks for the OAS [L’Organisation armée secrète, the Secret Army Organization—the French resistance to the decolonization of Algeria—Ed.].
On March 4th, 1962, at a meeting in Venice under the aegis of Sir Oswald Mosley, the leaders of MAC, the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI—Italian Social Movement), the Union Movement, and the Reichspartei moved to found a “National European party centered on the idea of European unity.” But nothing concrete came of it. Vowing to create a true European revolutionary party, in January 1963 Jean Thiriart transformed MAC into Young Europe, a transnational European movement under the sign of the Celtic cross. Although established in six countries, it never had more than 5,000 members in all of Europe, and this, even Thiriart admitted, “only by scraping the bottom of the barrel.” Of the total, two thirds were concentrated in Italy. In France, because of its support of the OAS, Young Europe was banned, which forced the movement to remain semi-clandestine and explains its weak influence, its manpower not exceeding 200 members.
The National European Communitarian
In 1961, in Le Manifeste à la Nation Européenne (Proclamation of the European Nation), Jean Thiriart declared himself for “a united powerful, communitarian Europe . . . opposed to the Soviet and US blocs” . He presented his ideas at greater length in a book published in 1964, Un Empire de 400 millions d’hommes : L’Europe (An Empire of 400 Million Men: Europe). Quickly translated into the seven principal European languages, this work—which was supplemented in 1965 by a booklet of 80 pages, La Grande Nation, L’Europe unitaire de Brest à Bucarest (The Great Nation, United Europe from Brest to Bucharest), deeply influenced the cadres of the European extreme right, particularly in Italy.
The originality of Young Europe lies in its ideology, National European Communitarianism, that Thiriart presents as a “European and elitist socialism,” de-bureaucratized and given a spine by European nationalism. Challenging the romantic concept of the nation inherited from the nineteenth century, which falls under a determinism that is ethnic, linguistic, or religious, he prefers the concept of a dynamic nation: moving, becoming, corresponding to the nation/community of destiny described by José Ortega y Gasset. Without rejecting the common past completely, he thinks that “this past is nothing compared to the gigantic common future . . . What makes the Nation real and viable is its unity of historical destiny” .
Describing himself as a “Greater European Jacobin,” he wanted to build a united nation and advocated the “fusion state,” centralized and transnational, the political, legal, and spiritual heir of the Roman Empire, which will give all its inhabitants European omni-citizenship. In 1989, he summarized: “The main axis of my politico-historical thought is the unitary state, the centralized political state, and not the racial state, the nostalgic state, the historical state, the religious state.” Nothing is more foreign for him than the “Europe of a hundred flags” of Yann Fouéré or the “Europe of the carnal fatherlands” dear to Saint-Loup.
Thiriart’s nationalism is based solely on geopolitical considerations. According to him, the only nations that have a future are those of continental scale like the United States, the USSR, or China. Petty traditional nationalisms are obstacles, even anachronisms manipulated by the great powers. Thus to return to grandeur and power, Europe should be unified.
Unification would take place under the aegis of a European Revolutionary Party, organized on the Leninist model of democratic centralism, which would organize the masses and select the elites. A historical party, following the example of Third World experiments like the FLN in Algeria or the FNL in Vietnam, it would be an embryonic state developing into the united European state. It would have to carry out the national liberation struggle against the American occupation, its dedicated collaborators, thousands of “Quislings” from the System parties, and the colonial troops of NATO. Thus Europe would be liberated and unified from Brest to Bucharest, 400 million strong, and would then be able to conclude a tactical alliance with China and the Arab states to break the American-Soviet condominium.
In spite of their geopolitical lucidity, Thiriart’s theses, rationalist and materialist to the extreme, are perplexing in their eminently modern character. As the traditionalist Claudio Mutti, a former militant of Giovane Europa, stressed: “the limit of Thiriart consisted precisely in his secular nationalism, supported by a Machiavellian worldview and deprived of any justification of a transcendent nature. For him, historical confrontations were resolved by brute power relations, while the state is nothing more than incarnated Nietzschean Will to Power in service of a project of European hegemony marked by an exclusivist, blind, and conceited pride” .
On the economic plane, Thiriart offered, as an alternative to “the profit economy”—capitalism—and the “utopian economy”—Communism—an “economy of power,” whose only viable dimension is European. Taking as a starting point the economists Fichte and List, he recommended “the autarky of great spaces.” Europe would have to leave the IMF, adopt a single currency, protect itself by tariff barriers, and work to preserve its self-sufficiency.
From Young Europe to the European Community Party
After 1963, dissensions in connection with Haut-Adige [South Tyrol—Ed.] caused a radical schism, which led to the birth of the Europa Front in Germanic countries like Germany, Austria, and Flanders.
However, the year 1964 marks the militant apogee of the movement, which played a leading role, thanks to Dr. Teichmann, in the strike of Belgian doctors opposed to the nationalization of their profession, and took part in communal elections in Quiévrain. Its working class members organized themselves as the Syndicats communautaires européens (SCE—European Community Trade Unions). In August 1964, the journalist Emile Lecerf and Dr. Nancy resigned because of ideological differences with Thiriart. Lecerf went on to head the Révolution européenne group, more or less aligned with the positions of Europe-Action in France, a “nostalgic” and “literary” movement according to Thiriart. The departure of this historic leader, followed in December 1964 by that of Paul Teichmann, caused the militant decline of the organization.
In 1965, Young Europe became the Parti communautaire européen (PCE—European Community Party). Doctrinal concerns then distracted it from militant activism. The theoretical review L’Europe communautaire came out monthly while the Jeune Europe weekly became semi-monthly. After October 1965 the party’s Cadre Schools took place across Europe, Thiriart having worked out a “physics of politics” based on the writings of Machiavelli, Gustave Le Bon, Serge Tchakhotine, Carl Schmitt, Julien Freund, and Raymond Aron.
Moreover, the party published, between 1965 and 1969, a monthly magazine in French, La nation européenne, and Italian, Nazione
europea, which offered a counter-current to the traditional extreme right by placing the continental unit above the nation, opposing NATO and promoting the autonomous deterrent force wanted by De Gaulle, denouncing in America as the new Carthage, sees in the regimes of Eastern Europe a kind of national Communism, and taking an interest in the liberation struggles of the Third World to the point of describing Cuba, the Arab countries, and North Vietnam as allies of Europe! The magazine, distributed by the NMPP in France, had 2,000 subscribers and printed 10,000 copies of each issue.
In June 1966, Jean Thiriart met in Bucharest with the Chinese prime minister Zhou Enlai on the initiative of Ceausescu. Beijing then spoke about a “tri-continental” struggle. Thiriart advocated a “quadri-continental” struggle, proposing to foment a Vietnam within Europe. For that, he envisaged creating “European brigades” on the Garibaldian model, which, after having fought in the Middle East or in Latin America, would return to fight a war of liberation in Europe.
It should be noted that following this discussion, the Italian militants of Giovane Europa carried out united actions with local Maoists, unified by a minimal common program of hostility to the two superpowers, rejection of the Yankee occupation of Europe, anti-Zionism, and support for Third World liberation struggles).
This collaboration was not without consequences. Various National European cadres ultimately joined the Maoist ranks. Thus in 1971 Claudio Orsoni, nephew of the fascist leader Italo Balbo and a founding member of Giovane Europa, would create the Center for the Study and Application of Maoist Thought. In 1975, Pino Bolzano, the last director of La Nazione europea, went on to lead the daily paper of the extreme left group Lotta Continua [The Struggle Continues—Ed.]. Renato Curcio would join the Marxist-Leninist Italian Communist Party before founding . . . the Red Brigades!
Young Europe had supporters in certain countries in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Thus, on August 1st, 1966, Thiriart published an article in Serbo-Croatian, entitled “Europe from Dublin to Bucharest,” in the official diplomatic review of the Yugoslav government Medunarodna Politika. Ferociously anti-Zionist, the Belgian leader was in contact with Ahmed Shukeiri, predecessor of Arafat as the head of the PLO, and the first European to fall with weapons in hand at the side of the Palestinians was a French engineer and member of Young Europe, Roger Coudroy.
Thiriart also had ties to Arab secular-socialist regimes. In the autumn of 1968, he made a long voyage to the Middle East at the invitation of the governments of Iraq and Egypt. He had discussions with several ministers, gave interviews to the press, and took part in the congress of the Arab Socialist Union, the party of Nasser, whom he met on this occasion. Disappointed by the lack of concrete support from these countries, in 1969 he renounced militant combat, causing the breakup of Young Europe.
The Euro-Soviet Empire
He would continue, however, his rich theoretical reflections. When Washington approached Beijing in the 1970s, he suggested a Euro-Soviet alliance against the Sino-American axis, in order to build a “very large Europe from Reykjavik to Vladivostok,” which he thought was the only way to resist the new American Carthage and billion-strong China. This is what led him to declare in 1984: “If Moscow wants to make Europe European, I preach total collaboration with the Soviet enterprise. I will then be the first to put a red star on my cap. Soviet Europe, yes, without reservations” .
Thiriart’s dream of a Euro-Soviet Empire, which he described as a “hyper-nation state equipped with a de-Marxified hyper-communism”, merges with Eurosiberia: “Between Iceland and Vladivostok, we can join together 800 million men . . . and find in the soil of Siberia all our strategic and energy needs. I say that Siberia is the economically most vital power for the European Empire” . He then worked on two books: The Euro-Soviet Empire from Vladivostok to Dublin: After-Yalta and, in with José Cuadrado Costa, The Transformation of Communism: Essay on Enlightened Totalitarianism, which remained on the drawing board because of the sudden collapse of the USSR. He left his political exile only in 1991 to support the creation of the Front européen de libération (FEL—European Liberation Front). In 1992, he went to Moscow with a delegation of the FEL and died of an heart attack shortly after his return to Belgium, leaving a controversial but original body of theoretical work, which inspires to this day Guillaume Faye, the preacher of Eurosiberia, and Alexander Dugin, the prophet of Eurasia.
1. C. Bourseiller, Extrême-droite. L’enquête (F. Bourrin, 1991), p. 114,.
3. Nation-Belgique, no. 59, September 1, 1961.
4. J. Thiriart, La Grande Nation. L’Europe unitaire de Dublin à Bucarest (1965).
6. C. Bourseiller, p. 119.
7. Notes complémentaires de C. Mutti à G. Freda, “La désintégration du système,” supplément to Totalité, no. 9 (1980).
8. Conscience Européenne, no. 8, July 1984.
10. J. Thiriart, “L’Europe jusqu’à Vladivostok,” in Nationalisme & République, no. 9, September 1992.
Source : Réfléchir & Agir, no. 21, Fall 2005, pp. 44–47.