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Will Europe have a second 1989?

We recently celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall, one of the most momentous and welcome events in world history. I remember wandering along the old route of the wall, coming across a monument to those who died trying to escape. The last person was killed in March 1989, just eight months before the wall fell. I recall thinking if only he knew. But that’s the thing, no one could have ever known. The world that was taken for granted in early 1989, assumed to stand forever, was gone before Christmas. But the collapse of East German communism was only possible for one reason; because there were multiple simultaneous anti-communist movements in other Eastern Bloc countries.

I have recently come across discussions in other European countries, who are watching UKIP’s geometric assent. There is increasingly a theme emerging in the conversations I have with people of other nationalities – we would like to leave the EU too, but we can’t be the first country. We need one country, probably Britain, to go first then we can join them. We can’t be the first ones.

Many of these nationals are from countries behind the Iron Curtain. They know better than most that, when you put your head above the parapet, the central authority crushes you unless you have multiple countries with you. History shows that countries which fought on their own went down in flames. Hungary stood alone against Soviet tyranny in 1956, and was crushed. Czechoslovakia stood alone against Soviet tyranny in 1968 and was crushed. But in 1989, when multiple anti-communist movements stood up in multiple Eastern Bloc countries more or less at once, the ossified regimes there could not stand.

The same can be applied to Euroscepticism. For years, UKIP supporters only focussed on their own country. At UKIP meetings when I mentioned scepticism in other countries, I was surprised at how disinterested the membership seemed. They were interested in building ‘Euroscepticism in One Country’ to borrow the lexicon of the left. But this would fail. If a Eurosceptic government was formed or about to be formed in Britain, or indeed any single EU country, you can guarantee one thing – that the EU would round on us and bully us into submission. But if multiple sceptic parties across the EU were about to enter government, even as coalition partners, it is doubtful whether the EU could survive. It is likely that such developments, across the EU at once, could bring about a second 1989.

It is encouraging to see scepticism growing across the EU. Some sceptic parties publically want their countries to leave the EU. Others will tell you off the record they want to leave, but have to restrict themselves to criticism and reformism because the mood isn’t quite ripe in their countries. Some parties are upset about one area of EU policy but not others. My experience is that reformists ultimately always end up as withdrawalists, because they eventually realise reform of the scope and type they need, is not possible. The only reformists who don’t become withdrawalists are those who were never serious about reform anyway (the British Tories for example). So if a political party in Europe doesn’t quite advocate withdrawal from the EU just yet, my advice is give them time.

The Eastern Bloc governments pre-1989 had a lot in common with the Europhile establishments of European countries now. In both cases, diversity of thought was not their strong suit. They all believed the same things, all had the same solutions and all held their populations in contempt. Yet, once the populations of multiple countries at once moved peacefully to change their political situation, the ossified elite ceded power. We need to do this again.

Photo by Trish Mayo

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About Morpheus Magnus (34 Articles)
Morpheus Magnus is the pen name of a religious and political conservative, whose views of the EU went from supporter to opponent the more contact he had with the EU. He is an ex-pat but always keeps an eye on events in the mother country.

4 Comments on Will Europe have a second 1989?

  1. What ever way you view it the EU is rotting from the inside as did the USSR. The EU is another version of the USSR but a slow burn or development one so as to stealthily trap the people in it. The basic problem is that the outlook of those who started things off and those running it today are different. They have didn’t experiences and so apply things differently. Those today also haven’t the ‘feel’ of those who set the foundation and so have little idea how their predecessors would have ‘steered’ things with the circumstances that they have to manage today. They assume what the procedures should be and so blindly follow a process that they don’t understand like a child copying an adult. Result? Meltdown.

  2. A very interesting parallel, but I think the parallel should not be carried too far. The rebellious movements in Eastern Europe were, as you say, crushed – literally crushed, by tanks. The EU has no tanks to crush us – yet.

    The USSR undoubtedly feared a domino effect in Eastern Europe if one of their satellites was allowed to break free, and you’re probably right that exit by Britain would encourage others to follow. But I’m not sure that the EU sees it that way. There is also (I think) a school of thought in Europe which thinks the EU would be better off without Britain. Nigel’s troublesome tactics in the European parliament have undoubtedly encouraged that reaction.

    It is in our national interest to encourage that school of thought. When the time comes to leave, we need to convince the EU that we wish to leave peacefully, turning our backs rather than making trouble by encouraging others to follow.

    Being anti-EU does not mean being anti-Europe, as we always say, and that’s right. Nevertheless it is also true, and very important to remember, that Britain’s future after Brexit is not going to be Eurocentric. Britain looks out beyond Europe. Our future lies in the world outside. We don’t want to replace one European entanglement by another.

    The other unwilling members of the EU probably do need us. But I’m not sure that we need them.

  3. Thanks, I think this a well thought through article. It provides a sound reason why UKIP’s presence in the European Parliament is not a waste of time. UKIP MEPs sounding off about democratic deficit will be picked up by the peoples of other member states.

    • I think, come the day, the peoples of many countries across Europe will have a great deal to thank Nigel Farage for. The hero of our age, perhaps.

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