Tuesday, 2 September 2003

Is the European Union the new Soviet Union?


I ought to be the happiest man in the universe today after in 1991 my lifelong enemy the Soviet Union collapsed and disappeared. Indeed twenty years ago speaking in Westminster Hall, President Reagan boldly proclaimed the Soviet Union and the communist system to be on the ash-heap of history. At the time his words were greeted at best with disbelief or at worst with mockery but twenty years later even the Communists don’t like to be called by that name any more, while the last General Secretary of the Soviet Government earns his living selling pizza. In reality however, I find very little to celebrate. We might have won a few decisive battles under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher but contrary to popular belief we surely did not win the Cold War. If we interpret the Cold War as some kind of military confrontation between the Warsaw Pact and NATO there was some sort of victory, but first and foremost it was an ideological war, a confrontation between the liberal democracies and communist totalitarianism, and that war will never be finished.

The Soviet Union and its allies collapsed not because we won but because they exhausted themselves, mostly through their own stupidity, in the arms race, and attempting to finance their huge empire, they simply over-stretched themselves, but right to the last moment of their existence, the West actually tried to prop them up with loans, technology and diplomatic support. In the crucial last seven years the Soviet government received 45 billion dollars of foreign assistance to prolong its existence. In those seven years the West shifted its support from real democrats like us to liberal communists and communist reformers, thus making any of our efforts completely useless. And when the Soviet Union finally collapsed there was no jubilation in the West, no demand for punishment for the most odious perpetrators of crimes against humanity. The Western leaders even looked saddened and embarrassed by the death of their former adversary, although it was probably the most significant event of the whole century.

The consequences of this unfinished business are very grave indeed, more serious than the unfinished war with Saddam Hussein. Just imagine if in 1945 instead of unconditional surrender the victorious allies would have accepted some kind of perestroika from the Nazi regime. What would have happened in Western Europe? In thirty years Europe would have had anything but democracy. It would have had a post-totalitarian period, whatever that means, and of course in a few years the Nazi party and its collaborators under a different name would have come to power in every country. They would have run a milder version of their regime, but nevertheless they would be doing it. And that is exactly what is happening today not only in Russia, Byelorussia and Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria but even in Poland, where recent elections brought a stunning victory for the former communists. Is that a victory in the Cold War? Do we still believe we won it?

In Russia things went even more badly. The last Presidential elections show what kind of democracy this country had established for itself when the voters had a surprising choice between a communist leader and a colonel of the KGB. Indeed the KGB has won. After ten years of half-hearted attempts at reform the power was handed back to them once again, and they were very quick to establish their authority throughout the country. The last outlets of the independent media were closed down one by one. We didn’t have political prisoners for ten years; but several people are in prison now for speaking out against the war in Chechnya, or some abuses of military powers, or about the pollution caused by nuclear waste.

Corruption today in Russia is something out of another world. It’s not corruption anymore, but a system where the KGB have become something like a crime syndicate not unlike the famous Spectre of the James Bond films. This is a very bad moment for the West to suddenly warm towards Russia, yet that is exactly what we are seeing. Putin was received by President Bush who said he looked into his soul. In my many encounters with KGB officers soul is the one thing I failed to spot. Your Prime Minister Tony Blair went to Russia to welcome the new allies in the anti-terrorist coalition. He said how pleased he was that Russia stands alongside the West in this war because, and I quote, ‘Russia has such vast experience in fighting terrorism’. I never thought I would live long enough to hear a Western politician making such a strange statement. It’s as insulting and callous as saying that Germany has a vast experience in dealing with the Jews. In its former phase Russia practically invented terrorism and spread it across the world, and these new hot spots of terrorism, be they Muslim or otherwise, all have a previous history of Soviet invasion, of Soviet subversive operations, or Soviet so-called liberation fronts financed and trained in Moscow. That’s what Russia’s experience of terrorism consists of.

What about the West itself: the former communist collaborators, sympathizers and apologists, are they now condemned, are they now retired or pensioned off? On the contrary, in many Western European countries they are still the decision and opinion makers, and they are developing a new structure in our continent. It’s really puzzling that we just buried by a miracle one monster which had been threatening us for fifty years and yet another one remarkably similar to the one we buried is being built.

The USSR was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. What is the European Union? Quite recently, before the elections in Italy and Austria, it was almost a union of Socialist Republics. The Soviet Union was always very eager to keep its own model of socialism in place and if anyone tried to deviate, they were either invaded or put under enormous pressure. That method was called the Brezhnev doctrine. Now exactly the same has happened in Europe. When Austria deviated from the course of socialism it was ostracised. Milosevic’s socialism was somewhat different from the people in Brussels, so his country was bombed.

How was the Soviet Union governed? It was governed by fifteen unelected people who appointed each other and who were not accountable to anyone. How is the European Union governed? By two dozen people who appoint each other and are not accountable to anyone, and whom we cannot sack. How was the Soviet Union created? By coercion or very often with the military occupation of the Red Army. How is the European Union created? Admittedly not by armed force, but by coercion and bullying, making it impossible for any other country to live outside it economically. It is like a shot-gun marriage. The Soviet Union had in its constitution the right of secession for the constituent republics. It existed for propaganda purposes, particularly as there was no actual procedure and even to talk about it was considered a crime against the territoriality of the Soviet Union. I was amazed to discover that more or less the same situation exists in the European Union. You can enter it but you can’t quit. No one said so far you cannot quit but a procedure is not in place. That seems to be very similar to what I used to know.

The Soviet Union was a very aggressive country; it couldn’t exist unless it spread its own model of socialism further and further. The moment it stopped spreading, it started collapsing and I suspect that the same thing is true of the European Union. Although economically it makes no sense for them to attract more new countries, they impose enormous pressure on the half-developed Eastern European countries and some other European countries like Switzerland to join the union. It seems to be ideological. They used to be told in the Soviet Union that the purpose of its function was to create a new historic entity, the Soviet people. We were supposed to forget our nationalities, our ethnic traditions and customs. Growing up in Russia, you couldn’t tell a Ukrainian from a Russian; it was not supposed to be mentioned, for we were supposed to be one entity. The same seems to be true of the European Union. They don’t want you to be British or French. They want you all to be a new historic entity – European. One of the grand purposes of socialism was always the destruction of the national state. The old belief was that the state would wither away – with some help from them. And that’s exactly what we observe in Europe. The purpose of this agglomeration from Brussels is to absorb nation states, so that they should cease to exist.

Some might say my comparison is not accurate because the Soviet Union was an ideological state and the European Union is a practical, pragmatic arrangement. In reality the European Union today is based on a very firm ideology. It’s a statist ideology involving the preservation of socialism for ever but also the ideology of political correctness, which has become the rule. One might say that the Soviet Union had a gulag, and as long as a country doesn’t have a gulag it cannot be compared with the Soviet Union. I think we already have the beginning of a gulag in the European Union. At least we have an intellectual gulag. When anyone tries to speak his own mind on questions of race or gender, if their views differ from those approved, they will be ostracised, might not be able to occupy a professional job or to publish a book. This is the beginning of the gulag. The Home Secretary has tried to introduce a bill making ‘hate’ speech a punishable offence, something completely contrary to the common law of this country. The Treaty of Nice includes provisions for creating a European Police force which will have enormous privileges, including diplomatic immunity. Can you imagine, a policeman coming to you, beating you, taking whatever he wants, and you can’t even sue him because of his diplomatic immunity ? If you introduce some kind of subversive hate speech into a computer in one country, you might be extradited from your own country without any prior hearings and without any of your rights being defended by local law. I have seen myself how easy it is to lose your freedom and how difficult it is to get it back.

The EU is only half a plan. Even being a half is awful enough. In a sense I can tell what will happen because to rejig Lincoln Steffen’s phrase, I lived in your future and it didn’t work. The results of what they are doing in Europe will be exactly opposite to what is promised. They told us that they need the federal state to avoid war in Europe; there is no danger of war at the moment but after many years of the European Union, Europe will certainly be on the verge of conflict. We are told that to surmount all our prejudices and national feelings we will be living as multi-national communities ever after. The opposite is going to happen. After living in the Soviet Union, which was supposed to be a happy family of nations, we had more ethnic conflicts than anyone. We are told that the aim is to become prosperous, the economy will be strong, on a par with the United States, and capable of competing with it. The opposite will happen; the over-regulated, stupidly organized economy of the European Union will become very weak. People will become increasingly poor and more dependent on the United States. The game the Socialists play in the West is very similar to Lenin’s game. He concentrated on the proletariat and on minorities in order to take power and govern in their name. The western socialists are doing very much the same. A couple of years ago I read a revealing study published by the European commission about employment problems in Europe: In twenty years Europe will be so short of labour that thirteen million people will have to be imported from the Third World. In France there is high unemployment at present and they are not in danger of a shortage of labour. Why from the Third World? Plenty of qualified workers exist in Eastern Europe and Russia. The European Commission doesn’t want them to come here; they want ethnically different people. Being from Eastern Europe myself, I sympathize with people seeking asylum from persecution and I am very tolerant, but it is one thing to be tolerant of what you have and another to deliberately create a huge problem which will become disruptive.

We all know that the absorption of immigrants from the Third World is a painful process. Why do they do it? First they will create an electorate for the Social Democratic parties by redistributing wealth and assistance. Second we will all be made to appear guilty. Anyone who says anything about this problem will instantly become a pariah: very convenient for repressive measures to silence opposition. The ultimate goal of these Utopians is to have one big state out of the whole world. We insensitive and egotistic people don’t sympathize enough with the problems of the Third World. If the Third World is brought into Europe, they will have to sympathize much more, or else. I don’t think the European Union will ever develop a chain of concentration camps because you don’t have a Siberia. The Shetlands are not bad enough. What might happen is that they will send us for counselling. Instead of spending time in a psychiatric prison, there will be collective counselling which will be the European version of the Gulag.

I can predict that this Union will collapse. It has within it the seeds of its own destruction, like the Soviet Union, but it will leave immense destruction behind and we will be left with huge economic and ethnic problems. The sooner they are assisted in their own destruction, the better. The good news is that it’s much easier to resist the bureaucrats in Brussels than the KGB. They are just intellectuals; they want to talk about love for humanity; they don’t have any experience of ruthlessness or the capacity to kill millions of people. The bureaucrats in Brussels are afraid of crowds. Look how scared they were by the anti-globalist demonstrators. If we have a real mass movement against the Brussels project, they will forget all their plans and run away. The one thing we can count on is their cowardice.

This article is based on a talk given at a public meeting in the House of Commons in February 2002, organised by the Anti-Common Market League. Vladimir Bukovsky spent twelve years in Russian psychiatric prisons and labour camps, a victim of the crackdown on political demonstrations in the early 1960s. He came to the West in 1976.

Vladimir Bukovsky

This article appeared in The Salisbury Review Autumn 2002 (Vol.21 No.1)