If George Soros is the answer to the EU crisis, what on earth is the question?
Mr. Soros addressed the crisis that has engulfed the EU in a speech to the Brussels Economic Forum on June 1. It was an ambitious speech, one that saw the Hungarian billionaire make a foray into the history of the EU, accurately crediting the vision of European integration to the French businessman and diplomat Jean Monnet. He saw the need to bind in particular France and Germany into an economic union and, in time, political union to forestall the prospect of both countries becoming embroiled in any more devastating conflicts, along the lines of the First and Second World Wars.
Where Mr. Soros goes off the rails it is in his depiction of the Soviet Union as a threat to Western Europe after the Second World War, asserting that: “After the Second World War, Western Europe was rebuilt with the help of the Marshall Plan, but it was still threatened by the Soviet Union, which occupied the eastern part of the continent.”
The truth of the matter is that the Soviet Union liberated Europe from fascism, that without the inordinate tenacity and sacrifice of the Soviet Russian people and the Red Army, Hitler would have succeeded in colonizing the continent. As US historian Peter Kuznick writes, “Up to [D-Day, June 1944], the Soviet Union had almost singlehandedly battled the German military. Until the invasion of Normandy, the Red Army was regularly engaging more than two hundred enemy divisions while the Americans and British together rarely confronted more than ten. Germany lost over 6 million men on the Eastern Front and approximately one million on the Western Front and in the Mediterranean.”
Returning to Mr. Soros’ speech we are regaled with the assertion that “the EU is surrounded by hostile powers – Putin’s Russia, Erdogan’s Turkey, Sisi’s Egypt and the America that Trump would like to create but can’t.”
Here again, the billionaire investor is guilty of peddling a convenient inversion of the truth, and the truth is that Russia is under threat from the EU rather than the other way round, based on the EU’s increasing role as the political arm of the NATO military alliance of which Turkey, to remind Mr. Soros, also happens to be a member. It is not that Russia is actively hostile to the EU it is that Russia has been defending itself from the hostility of the EU. In this regard, the sanctions imposed on Russia after the EU and its officials actively supported an undemocratic coup in Ukraine in 2014 is a double injustice, bringing George Soros’ bald assertion of Russia as the ‘bad guy’ into disrepute.
This being said, Mr. Soros is right to point out that if “the European Union carries on with business as usual, there is little hope for an improvement. That is why the European Union needs to be radically reinvented.”
The crisis that has engulfed the EU is the product of free market fundamentalism, otherwise known as neoliberalism, being embraced as a secular religion by the liberal elite over the past few decades. It is precisely the ability of capital to move around the world back and forth across borders, seeking the best return on investment, which has wrought so much chaos and instability to the self-evident detriment of millions of working people. It is this economic instability that has been the key ‘push factor’ behind mass immigration over the same period. George Soros and his ilk have enriched themselves from this state of affairs, contributing to its egregious impact on national economies and social cohesion in the process.
European integration as a concept is impossible to argue with. However, the EU as it currently stands is clearly dysfunctional and out of sync with the needs of the vast majority of its citizens. It is being run in the interests of a neoliberal elite that consider national sovereignty and political stability anathema to the priority of being able to rake as much of a return from short-term investment as and where the opportunity arises. It is this perverse and grotesque interpretation of ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ that has dominated the institutions of the EU, plunging them into crisis in the wake of the global economic crisis of 2007/08.
The result of the crisis within neoliberalism has been the growth of anti-politics – or to be more specific ‘anti-politics-as-usual’ – that was embodied in the decision of the British people to exit the EU (Brexit) in 2016, and in the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States later in the same year.
European integration without Russia is a political oxymoron. It is an oxymoron that has underpinned the EU in service, not to the economic or political needs of Europe’s citizens but instead in obeisance to the needs of Washington and the unipolar world that has obtained since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991. Thus we have European governments that have chosen to worship at the feet of Rome – i.e. Washington – with all of its consequences when it comes to peace and security while attacking Russia as the cause of those consequences when in truth it has been the biggest victim of them.
George Soros and everything he represents could never be part of the solution to the crisis within the EU. On the contrary, Soros is part of the problem. Until European governments recognize this, recognize that the failings of the EU are indistinguishable from the failings of neoliberalism; they are dealing with a crisis that will only deepen going forward.