Washington is eagerly awaiting the result of the British referendum on continued membership of the European Union and is openly seeking to influence the vote. President Obama is widely expected to urge people to vote to stay in the EU when he visits London later in April. The issue is that big.
Europe cannot be limited to or defined by the entity known as the European Union or conceptually confined within its borders. Europe encompasses the Enlightenment, which has shaped what it is to be modern, and is one of the great world civilisations. The European Union is not Europe; it is a political project created out of intensely ignoble motives of gaining advantage and realpolitik. The EU is actually a deeply anti-European phenomenon.
The EU is a historically specific institution not a permanent feature of civilisation or democratic model of government. A strong case can be made for arguing that no EU identity exists; there is clearly little evidence of any groundswell of pro-EU feelings or sense of attachment among the peoples of Europe for the EU.
The EU is lauded by its assiduous proponents as the ultimate guarantor of peace, freedom and democratic rights. It is erroneously asserted that only the existence of the EU has kept the peace in Europe since 1945 and that it has ensured that the various powers won’t ever repeat the cataclysmic mistakes of the 20th century.
What those who make these specious arguments deliberately fail to acknowledge is the role of the USSR in defeating Hitler’s fascist regime. This is one of the great dishonesties in the case made for the EU.
By an ideological sleight of hand they try to give credit to the EU when it should rightly lie with all the peoples of Europe who had given their lives in the last world war, including the 27 million Soviet people, years before the EU was conceived.
The EU, it should be recalled, emerged post-war in the cold war era, when it was established in order to institutionalise the east-west division of Europe. Its recent eastwards expansion right up to the borders of Russia, in tandem with Nato’s aggressive designs, demonstrates that it remains decisive to the continued division of Europe and the exclusion of Russia, one of the greatest of European cultures.
The military aspect of the EU has been admitted by Nato, which has been warning that a vote to leave will only give comfort to Moscow by weakening the western alliance against Russia.
The head of the US army in Europe, Lieutenant-General Frederick ‘Ben’ Hodges, indicated that the EU is perceived to be a central plank of the Nato military alliance.
A ‘Brexit’ would weaken the West’s capacity to resist alleged Russian expansionism in Ukraine and Syria, Hodges told the BBC.
Thus, the EU should not be confused with the cultural richness of Europe as a historic entity or the geographical expanse of the European continent.
European greatness has far more substance than any temporary institution like the EU, which is really just an opportunistic alliance.
Furthermore, to credit the EU with securing people’s rights and liberties is to belittle the history of popular struggles that have taken place in varying degrees within each European country.
Our civil rights and liberties certainly do not depend on the fate of the EU, but are the outcome of the strength of organised labour and the struggles of many diverse social movements.
It is an affront to the memory of all those who faced state violence, blacklisting, imprisonment, transportation and discrimination in the protracted fight for social change in Britain over many decades and centuries to suggest otherwise.
True internationalists have been driven by a burning determination to right injustice and a desire to correct the ills of society rather than seeking to create a common agricultural policy, common currency or common defence policy. The EU is not the embodiment of people’s democracy but an instrument for the preservation of the free market and defence of corporate class power.
The honourable traditions of international solidarity cannot be conflated with the unelected European Commission or identified with its largely powerless and so misnamed parliament, elected but lacking even in such democratic powers and legitimacy as one can expect from bourgeois democracy.
The history of popular struggles is erased from public memory and utterly dismissed by the invidious attempts to portray the EU as the apex of democracy and as the ultimate defender of people’s liberties and rights –when in truth such rights, which we now take for granted, have been won by Chartists, suffragettes and trade unionists among others.
Opposition to the EU need not be seen as a xenophobic option because true freedom and democracy do not reside in the remote Brussels bureaucracy with its opaque decision-making. A vote against the EU is emphatically not to oppose Europe’s revolutionary traditions; quite the contrary, it is to begin the process of recovering them from the overweening corporate power that oppresses us all.
David Morgan, London