There are many views and differing priorities on how society can be improved but there are two ends to the spectrum. The first is a plan formulated to address today’s problems, intended to leap or progress rapidly towards an ideal model. The second is a process of continual tinkering to adapt to current issues and local circumstances. We could think of these two as creationist and evolutionary models of progress. We are not aware that the first has ever worked but often it has led to catastrophic failure; the second is seldom optimal but rarely fails dramatically unless its nemesis is invasion or environmental disruption.
The EU Project is clearly creationist since the model is imagined rather than based on existing experience or examples. In one sense the approach is ‘evolutionary’ rather than ‘revolutionary’, because progress towards its vision is made carefully, step-by-step, to avoid drawing undue attention that might stimulate rejection. But this is ‘directed’ evolution requiring a designer’s guiding hand that may override current or local deficiencies in the plan to keep a steady course.
The Brussels establishment sees itself as creating a United States of Europe or USE. Mikhail Gorbachev, ex-president of the USSR, sees it creating something closer to a USSE:
“The most puzzling development in politics during the last decade is the apparent determination of Western European leaders to re-create the Soviet Union in Western Europe.”
“Life is much richer and more complex than even the most perfect plans to make it better. It ultimately takes vengeance for attempts to impose abstract schemes, even with the best of intentions.”
“History teaches us … that when the times are ripe for change and the government refuses or is unable to change, either society starts to decay or a revolution begins.”
The Four Causes of the Apocalypse
On our Home page we summarise our concerns about the EU under four headings: ideology, ambition, competence and fragility. The first three features lead to the fourth.
Put simply, the original idea that Europe should be governed by a supra-national, federal state has become a fixation in the minds of EU leaders and others, which entitles us to categorise it as an ideology. From statements they make, each of us is either with them or against them; a characteristic of ideologues.
Because they are aware how unpopular such a proposal would be, it is disguised under a veil of unrealised expectations, for growth, jobs and prosperity. The ambition of EU leaders is to create a federal Europe under the cover of this veil.
However, they have shown themselves to be short of the necessary competence to deliver growth, jobs and prosperity; indeed to oversee improvements in any of the three to a convincing level. It isn’t working.
Their fixation with the ideology, coupled with their undimmed ambition, dishonesty and lack of competence, have made their project fragile. The persistent unwillingness to change course, let alone to reverse what has been designed to be irreversible, has made the collapse of the EU more likely than not.
The almost complete absence of any recognition of this risk, and the consequent failure to carry it into economic calculations, is a – possibly the major – reason that Brexit excites so much continuing opposition and so much effort to resist it.
We can speculate (we can’t know) that those who are, for whatever reason, OK with the EU and wish Britain to remain a member, see themselves as its beneficiaries and do not want to open their minds to the possibility of failure and the probable costs that would incur.
And now we have the uncomfortable prospect of various Leave preachers and practitioners clinging to their own disparate ideologies with the ambition to mould Brexit to fit their competing visions. Mostly they lack both the understanding and the competence to prepare for Britain to leave the EU by negotiating a mutually beneficial exit, or even believing that one is possible.
Remainers can’t bear to look at the costs of remaining; Leavers can’t bear to look at the costs of leaving. Britain is in a pickle.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Europe?
The Brussels Journal describes itself as “the voice of conservatism in Europe”. Nearly 11 years ago (in February 2006) Paul Belien of the Journal interviewed former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovksy, who held strong views of the way the European Union is evolving, based on his experience of the ideology and history of the USSR.
Bukovsky claimed to have been allowed to see, in 1992 soon after the Soviet experiment collapsed, secret documents in the archives that confirmed the existence of what he termed a “conspiracy” to turn the European Union into a socialist organisation. The papers he refers to are notes following meetings between President Gorbachev and communist and social democratic leaders from EU countries.
“The Soviets came to … an agreement with the left-wing parties that if they worked together they could hijack the whole European project and turn it upside down. Instead of an open market they would turn it into a federal state.”
Note: Before we get too excited, it’s worth keeping three things in mind: the EU was always intended to become a federal state; the interview is reported in a conservative journal; and Bukovsky is (or was) a patron of UKIP.
Belien asked Bukovsky why he drew a parallel between the European Union and the Soviet Union.
“I am referrring to structures, to certain ideologies being instilled, to the plans, the direction, the inevitable expansion, the obliteration of nations, which was the purpose of the Soviet Union.”
Belien then pointed out that member states had joined the EU voluntarily.
“No, they did not. Look at Denmark which voted against the Maastricht treaty twice. Look at Ireland [which voted against the Nice treaty]. … Switzerland was forced to vote five times in a referendum. All five times they have rejected it…. It is always the same thing. It is a trick for idiots. The people have to vote in referendums until the people vote the way that is wanted. Then they have to stop voting. Why stop? Let us continue voting. The European Union is what Americans would call a shotgun marriage.”
When asked if young people should insist on democratising the EU, Bukovsky replied:
“I think that the European Union, like the Soviet Union, cannot be democratized. Gorbachev tried to democratize it and it blew up. This kind of structures cannot be democratized.”
After visiting the European Parliament, Bukovsky gave a speech at the invitation of UKIP. Here are a few highlights from the transcript, which accompanies the record of the interview.
“It is no accident that the European Parliament … reminds me of the Supreme Soviet. It looks like the Supreme Soviet because it was designed like it. Similarly, when you look at the European Commission it looks like the Politburo. I mean it does so exactly, except for the fact that the Commission now has 25 members and the Politburo usually had 13 or 15 members. Apart from that they are exactly the same, unaccountable to anyone, not directly elected by anyone at all.”
“When you look into all this bizarre activity of the European Union with its 80,000 pages of regulations it looks like Gosplan. We used to have an organisation which was planning everything in the economy, to the last nut and bolt, five years in advance. Exactly the same thing is happening in the EU.”
“The most likely outcome is that there will be an economic collapse in Europe, which in due time is bound to happen …. The inability to create a competitive environment, the overregulation of the economy, the bureaucratisation, it is going to lead to economic collapse. Particularly the introduction of the euro was a crazy idea. Currency is not supposed to be political.”
Perhaps Bukovsky exaggerates the comparison or invented the conspiracy, and clearly some of the instruments of enforcement used by the USSR have no analogues in the EU. Nevertheless the parallels he draws seem not altogether far fetched.