Published on Current Concerns no 12, by thk, June 2010.
Translating General Guisan’s attitude into the 21st century: When Markus Somm started his presentation about General Guisan, the vaulted hall in the historical Jegenstorf castle was packed to the last seat. Markus Somm is the biographer of Henri Guisan (“General Guisan – Widerstand nach Schweizer Art” [Resisting the Swiss way], 2010, ISBN 987-3-7272-1346-5), he is an expert in Giusan as a person and his historical environment.
In his speech one got the same impression as when reading his book – his concern is not only to deal with an important chapter of Swiss history and its actors, but also to contemplate similarities with the present political reality. Switzerland, one of the few European countries not subject to the power construct EU, has to face ongoing attacks and pressure attempts; whether or not this is done by EU member state Germany under her own auspices or those of her favourite allies, is another matter. The task today just like then is to preserve the independence and, with that, freedom, direct democracy and neutrality, or in other words: the essence of Switzerland … //
… The awareness that self-sustained survival is possible:
The concept of Reduit (retreat into the Alp fortress) was interpreted by Somm in a dual meaning. From the military point of view it was the only feasible strategy to face such an overwhelming superiority and render Switzerland un-conquerable. On the other hand the Reduit had a great significance for morale: “The awareness that self-sustained survival is possible.”
In order to appreciate Guisan’s politics and Switzerland’s situation correctly, Somm mentioned the fact that Switzerland did suffer from the British sea blockade imposed on the European continent after the German invasion into Poland. No mouse could get into Europe, let alone any vitally important goods. Negotiating in such a situation with a sense of proportion and vision, without surrendering the country’s freedom and independence, was indeed a high-wire stunt. Which almost nobody wants to dares doing today, as it seems.