The European Union is a contemporary manifestation of Kant’s fantasy of universal peace. Long condemned as chimerical, his vision is increasingly being realised in Europe.
This project of the imagination is, of course, fragile, ever likely to disintegrate into atavistic warfare, as in the Balkans at the end of the Twentieth Century
The same tendency is witnessed in today’s migrant crisis, which has seemingly raised from the dead the spectres of fascism and racism in hateful hostility towards to refugees from Asia’s wars.
This makes the attempt at a united Europe all the more important; and this has been the ambition of many leaders, political and military as well as philosophical.
To that extent, Boris Johnson’s claim that the EU is merely continuing what Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire, Napoleon’s French Empire and Hitler’s Third Reich had tried, but by peaceful means.
But it is the ‘peaceful’ bit that is crucially different.
To be sure, in practice, the EU is a rich man’s club, designed to protect the interests of international capital, and ensure a unified marketplace for making profit.
But a progressive socialist case can be made for the EU: that it is only from a continent-wide political basis that it possible to resist the encroachments of a globalised capitalism.
Meanwhile, conservatives may doubt the ability of Europe to survive being shorn of its religious roots, in Christian faith, within this increasingly secularised polity.
But if we vote for the EU, then we will be voting for the dream of Europe, even its unreality and unrealisability – peoples living in peace in this continent troubled with too much history.
And it is this history which many today wilfully neglect and even effect to forget: the history of two world wars and mass genocide, started in this peninsula off the greater continent of Asia.
The EU is far from the ideal international intendency that we may desire; but the Left needs to settle with a minimalist transitional programme for Europe, opting for half a loaf rather than none.
As Socialists had to make allowances for ‘actually-existing Socialism’ in the USSR, when making recommendations, so today we must work within ‘actually-existing Europe’ for political change.
The alternative is the increasing probability of war, social dislocation as the migrant crisis deepens, and having no defensive bastion resisting the depredations of Capital.
The institutional array is likely to continue being the same overlapping, untidy, ‘structureless structure’, which we possess at present.
Some arrangements will include all nations, others will permit opt-outs. The resulting system governance will be illogical and inconsistent.
Instead of proceeding according to founding documents, based on rationalist principles, the EU will incarnate historical memories and identities.
Countries, regions, and city-states, will cohere in a loose articulation of differential sovereignties, shifting and sliding according to deep-felt contingencies of affect and interest.
In this respect the EU resembles a postmodern and pluralistic version of the original, multi-cultural, trans-national, Holy Roman Empire.
Like the EU, a ramshackle, shambling, concoction, which nevertheless guaranteed stability for centuries.
Photos: Pixabay – (Traducido por: Natalia Cacabelos)