|Dresden, Germany in 1952. Like many cities in Europe, the town was|
almost completely destroyed via aerial bombardment.
- Keith Lowe, describing Europe in 1945, in his 2012 book Savage Continent
Today, as I write, it's the 75th anniversary of VE Day - the 8th of May, 1945, when, with their Führer dead, their armies exhausted and their country in ruins, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht signed the German Instrument of Surrender and ended the Second World War in Europe. Around 20 million Europeans were dead, along with over 25 million Soviets, and virtually every country in continental Europe had been invaded and occupied by armies of various flags and ideologies. 60 million European civilians had been uprooted, including 12 million German civilians forced out of eastern Europe by the advancing Soviet army. Britain, previously the world's biggest creditor, was now the world's biggest debtor, while the continent itself, from the Atlantic coast to the Soviet border and well beyond, lay in complete and utter ruin, and was rapidly partitioned between the two new superpowers; American plutocracy and Soviet bureaucracy. The installation of new, 'friendly' governments by both occupying powers came soon after.
The Daily Mail got a lot of flack this week (mainly from liberals on Twitter and nationalist scolds in the Scottish media, if we're being truly honest), for describing VE Day as 'Victory over Europe' day - but, to be honest, they really aren't too far from the truth. What was the legacy of WW2 for Europe? Tens of millions dead, many more millions uprooted, a continent in ruins and partition between two outside powers - today, a continent that is, following the collapse of the USSR, politically, militarily and economically subservient to the United States of America and the plutocratic gangsters who run the US government. The war completely shattered a previously mighty continent and left an extractive Yankee-Soviet condominium in its place - and, if you don't believe me, just ask the enthusiastic, American supporters of this idea at Politico!
"Only America, and massive power as the U.S. exercised it, could have pacified and unified Europe under its aegis", writes Claire Berlinski. "No other continental country possessed half the world’s GDP. No other country had enough distance from Europe to be trusted, to a large extent, by all parties and indifferent to its regional jealousies. No other country had a strategic, moral and economic vision for Europe that its inhabitants could be persuaded gladly to share."
Tens of thousands of people were massacred by US/UK-backed, pro-NATO forces in Greece during the 1943-49 Greek Civil War. Around 14,000 woman were raped by advancing American forces in England, France and Germany during the last three years of the war, with 26 people in England directly murdered by American GIs. Direct CIA interference in postwar French and Italian elections ensured the victory of pro-American, anti-communist governments, while former Nazi officials like Reinhard Gehlen (former Wehrmacht chief of military intelligence on the Eastern Front) were recruited into the security apparatus of the new Bundesrepublik. Interesting kind of 'persuasion', eh?
The destruction of Europe, first at the hands of the Nazis and then the Soviets and Americans, had international ramifications far beyond our own continent. Europe's failure (to this day!) to emerge as an independent power on the world stage can be directly linked back to our collective failure to properly respond to the loss of our former colonies in Africa, Asia and Oceania. There's a reason why the United States and the Soviet Union worked their socks off to destroy the British, French, Dutch and Portuguese colonial empires, and it had very little to do with anticolonial altruism - colonies in the Third World had historically allowed European countries to stand on their own two feet, remaining independent of either American plutocracy or Soviet-style communism, and, quite simply, the Americans and Soviets wanted these territories for themselves. I should stress at this point that I'm no advocate of colonialism. The vast majority of the countries liberated in the era of decolonisation are themselves better off as independent nations, particularly those that fell into the Soviet (rather than American) sphere of influence after their independence. Europe, however? We didn't fare so well. There was no real response to this catastrophic loss - Europe simply fell into dependency, with half the continent under permanent Soviet occupation and the rest completely dominated by American plutocrats and their local satraps. Where, then, did we go wrong? What could've been done better, done differently?
One solution, proposed by a whole host of European figures - from outspoken fascist Oswald Mosley to Italian communist Altiero Spinelli and Austrian-Japanese Christian democrat Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi - was the formation of an independent, social-democratic United States of Europe, outside both the American and Soviet spheres and equipped with the resources and economic power to forge its own destiny in an increasingly integrated world. Spinelli and Rossi's Ventotene Manifesto calls for "the rational organization of the United States of Europe, which can only be based on the republican constitution of the federated countries... (with) sufficient means to see that its deliberations for the maintenance of common order are executed in the single federal states, while each state will retain the autonomy it needs for a plastic articulation and development of a political life according to the particular characteristics of the people." The Manifesto of Verona drawn up by the Italian fascists in 1943 calls for "the establishment of a “European Community”, based on a federation of all those nations which accept the following principles: (a) Elimination from our continent of the centuries-old British intrigues; (b) Abolition of the internal capitalistic system, and struggle against the world plutocracies", while, on the other side of the conflict, Jean Monnet, a member of the National Liberation Committee of the Free French government in Algiers, argued that "There will be no peace in Europe, if the states are reconstituted on the basis of national sovereignty ... The countries of Europe are too small to guarantee their peoples the necessary prosperity and social development. The European states must constitute themselves into a federation", and the anti-Nazi 'White Rose' movement's pamphlets claimed that "Only in large-scale cooperation among the nations of Europe can the ground be prepared for reconstruction". The common thread among these people, men of wildly different philosophical outlooks and political positions, is that they knew that a capitalist Europe of petty states would be easy prey for American and Russian vultures - they realised that the era of the 'nation-state', so beloved (for good reason) in the minds of many Europeans, has necessarily given way to the age of the civilisation-state.
This is a more important realisation than a lot of people really get. China, Russia (and the USSR before it) and the United States of America aren't nation-states; they're empires, unified civilisation-states, with enough resource concentration and industrial capacity within their own borders and immediate sphere of influence to be economically and culturally self-sufficient. With the (very slowly) emerging exception of India, these countries are the only states on earth that can be said to be truly independent - even highly isolated 'independent' countries, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Cuba, exist in a state of pseudo-independence, reliant on underhand dealings and covert operations in their own near abroad to acquire foreign currency and maintain international allies. Despite what screeching monkeys like Guy 'Baby Thatcher' Verhofstadt might tell you, the European Union isn't like the USA or China. Even if some of the figures mentioned above played a role in the EU's founding, the European Union isn't a manifestation of the dream of 1945. The United States of Europe dreamt up by these visionaries was a social and national Europe, a Europe independent of American power and with a social-democratic economic system that was capable of transforming our continent into something truly self-sufficient; a continental civilisation-state that acted in the interests of European workers and stood against American plutocratic capitalism *and* Soviet bureaucratic socialism. The present European Union is a capitalist jungle, an ultra-free market seemingly designed to strangle European farmers, crush European industry and export it all to China, while Europe scrounges off the unsustainable neo-colonial profiteering of Africa and Latin America by international high finance and defends itself with the US Army. The EU likes to drape itself in the iconography of 1945, while, in reality, constituting a total betrayal of the independent, socialist spirit and values of that era.
I guess that's why I write all of this as a staunch Brexiteer. The changes that the Second World War wrought could've been the opportunity for a European renewal - and, if the opportunities of that era had been properly exploited, who knows what kind of world we'd be living in. The fact of the matter is, that's not what they became. The European project has gone down a nasty path, and, in the end, that led to its decisive rejection by British voters in the 2016 referendum, in which a British exit from the EU received a larger amount of support than anything else in British electoral history. Even if the EU could be saved, attempting to do so from a British standpoint really is a loser's game, as the Liberal Democrats and 'Change UK' will undoubtedly tell you. Britain will never force Europe to change - various governments have tried their best, and all they've hit is a brick wall. The spirit of 1945 was one of European unity, yes - but it was also one of independence, solidarity, socialism and non-alignment. The best thing socialists in Britain can do to honour that spirit is to reject all 'rejoin' rubbish and fight for a neutral, British social-national democracy, out of NATO, out of the American sphere of influence and as independent as possible from the three major powers in the world today. 'Victory in Europe' has been America's victory for far too long.
75 years later, it's time to finally claim our own.