(This is essentially a continuation of my previous post, which was written two days before the Brexit vote. As there is usually clarity in hindsight, the messages and senses that came out of Strasbourg were further illuminated after the vote.)
For all the Americans who don’t get what this all means:
The EU was created mainly to prevent further war in Europe. I’m pretty sure you all are familiar with the world wars of the 20th century, but the horrors of war in Europe go back for over a thousand years. Wikipedia can explain the Thirty Years’ War and the Hundred Years’ War much better than I can, so I’ll point you there as I really don’t want to type out summaries of those wars on my phone. But I will stress that those are only the biggest two, and that there have been countless other wars that have devastated the European continent.
The seventy years between the end of WWII and now have arguably been the most peaceful time in Europe for hundreds of years, and the EU is the main reason why.
Is the EU perfect? No, far from it. As I’ve elaborated on in the past few weeks, there are many aspects of the EU that are pretty horrible, mainly it’s neoliberal economic policies and the racism inherent in its austerity programs. The power differentials within EU countries causes much suffering for those countries with less power, which is why Spain has been grumbling and Greece has made efforts to exit the EU over the past few years. Those efforts were unsuccessful, but were driven by legitimate grievances against Brussels and the Troika over the treatment they have received.
The U.K. on the other hand, or more specifically England and Wales (as Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain) did not have the legitimate grievances that countries like Greece and Spain do. This was not about economics, this was about racism and xenophobia. This was a vote based on fear-mongering, inaccurate rumors, and outright lies. This is indicative of the rise of fascism and the far right in Europe, a trend that is being mirrored in the United States. Trump is actually in the UK right now, cheering this decision. And fascists across Europe are also toasting this development.
Meanwhile, the refugee crisis is only worsening, with the UNHCR estimating that 24 people per minute are fleeing from their homes due to war and/or persecution, and the UK’s exit will only further empower those in other EU member nations who wish to close their borders to refugees.
History tells us not only of our past, but our future. As the saying goes, if we ignore history it is doomed to repeat itself. WWII was also fueled by racism and xenophobia, most notably but not at all limited to antisemitism. But while hate was the fuel that drove WWII, the war itself was started over food. Hitler invaded Poland for a very specific reason – to secure the food supply for the German people, as there was not (and still is not) nearly enough land in Germany to feed its population.
I’ve been gushing about the food in France all month, in terms of both the quality and the price, which was also the case in Germany. The reason such a food supply exists is due to a combination of EU subsidies and a lack of tariffs across borders as a result of EU policies. Which means that if the EU crumbles, a food crisis will result. And this is where history is crucial, as a combination of widespread xenophobia, the rise of the far right, and a food crisis were the primary conditions that prompted WWII.
And this does not just affect food, nor does it just affect the EU. This also puts the US in great danger as well as the rest of the world, especially given the rise of Trump and far-right nationalism in the US. A Trump presidency in the face of a weakened EU spells danger for the entire world.
Right now the UK has no PM as Cameron has just resigned, basically no functional government at the moment, and everyone who isn’t affluent and white is suddenly in danger. This will only further fan the flames of anti-immigrant sentiment in England, as well as severely affect the lives of poor, disabled, and other marginalized folks who rely on the financial and/or policy-based benefits and protections of the EU in order to survive.
From here, Scotland will undoubtedly once again hold a referendum for independence with the goal of joining the EU, and will likely succeed this time around. Meanwhile, Spain and Greece very well may be empowered to try to exit once again, and given a weakened EU have a much greater chance of succeeding. And while that may be advantageous to those countries themselves, it will still further weaken the EU as well as further exacerbate tensions within other EU member nations. I should add that a significant portion of Europe’s fresh produce comes from Spain and Greece, and that food is heavily relied upon by EU countries that cannot produce enough food on their own.
This entire situation is absolutely terrifying. And while there’s not much that us Americans can do to stop it, there are three crucial things we absolutely must do. The first is to educate yourselves on the politics of Europe and the EU. The second is to build communities of resistance and an actual Left in this country. And the third is to stop Trump.
I love you all, but we really really need to wake up now. It’s literally now or never. This is Tower Time. The storm is now here.