What Happened to the European
Option for Eastern Europe?
Keesvan der Pijl1
In this chapter I discuss some key areas of strategic rivalry within the Atlantic ruling and governing classes on the issue of reintegrating Eastern Europe into the western orbit from around 1980 onwards. In line with the general theme of this volume, I will identify the different class fractions, national and transnational, which may be seen as having supported rival strategies in this field.
At the time the Reagan administration took office in the USA under a programme of militant confrontation with the Soviet bloc and the left generally, one author saw the potential for reintegrating Eastern Europe arising from a ‘reduction of Soviet cultural presence in Eastern Europe’ and developing along two axes: a ‘Europeanisation of Eastern Europe’, and an ‘Americanisation of Europe’ ( Zimmerman, 1981: 100). However, the thesis of this chapter is that the ‘Europeanisation of Eastern Europe’, whenever it seemed to crystallise at all, was promptly and unfailingly sidelined by a strategy of Americanisation of Europe in its entirety. This latter strategy was effective not just because it was tied to US/North Atlantic Treaty Organisation geopolitical power, but also to a considerable degree because it rallied social forces across a broad transnational, Atlantic spectrum, whereas such transnational unity within the European setting was much more defensive and usually short-lived.
The structural divisions within the Atlantic and European ruling classes, which underlie the ascendancy of ‘Americanisation’ over any rival project, also transpire in the fact that European integration as such has historically developed along two axes as well ( Holman, 1992). Through crisis and compromise, the option in which Western Europe was to integrate into a relatively closed, supranational quasi-state (the original federalist idea was initially hegemonic in the European Movement, traces of which may still be detected in the European Coal