The Coming European Civil War

I’ve been thinking about wars.

When I think of wars, I usually think of them as being between nation states or tribes, such as the Punic wars between Rome and Carthage, with one bunch of people against another bunch:

Both states or tribes are hierarchies, with a king or emperor or triumvirate or something at the top.

But there are other sorts of war – usually called civil war – which pit one side of an hitherto unified society against the other.

The Great Roman Civil war between Caesar and Pompey was one such civil war, which divided Roman society vertically, with aristocratic Roman families fighting against each other.

The English Wars of the Roses, in the 14th C, also saw the English nobility divided against each other, with aristocratic families fighting each other.

The 19th C American Civil War was also a war of this kind, between the secessionist south and the unionist north.

But there’s another sort of civil war, which divides societies horizontally. In these the aristocracy fight with the peasantry or common people. If the aristocrats win, it’s called a rebellion. And if the people win, it’s called a revolution.

The Social War in Rome seems to have been a war of this kind, between the aristocracies in Rome and various previously allied, non-aristocratic cities.

The English Civil War of 1642 was also a revolt of common people (the House of Commons) against the English aristocracy and King Charles I. It really ought to be called a revolution, because the common people – personified by Oliver Cromwell – won. But perhaps because the monarchy was re-established shortly afterwards, it’s called a civil war.

The American Revolution of 1776 was another such war, between the settlers in American states and the British Crown. It’s called a revolution because the settlers won. If they had not, it would be recorded as having been the American rebellion.

The French Revolution, which took place only a few years later (and may have taken its cue from the American revolution) was another successful revolt by common people against aristocratic overlords.

And of course the Russian revolution in 1917 was also a successful revolt of common people against the Russian aristocracy.

But whenever one set of kings and aristocrats are overthrown, they are immediately replaced by a new aristocracy. In this manner societies always retain their hierarchical structure.

The American revolutionaries who won independence from Britain may not have established a new aristocracy or monarchy, but once he and his co-signatories of the Declaration of Independence had won their war, George Washington automatically became an American aristocrat, even though he never called himself one.

And people like Bill Clinton and George Bush and Donald Trump are or have been, despite the best efforts of the founding fathers to prevent it, American emperors in all but name, and the current deep division in American society is arguably really one between the aristocratic Clinton family and the newly emergent Trump family. As such, should this ever become a civil war, it will be a civil war like that between aristocratic English families during the English Wars of the Roses.

But increasingly, over the past century or so, the new aristocrats (much like the old aristocrats) have been the taxpayer-funded bureaucrats in an ever-expanding state sector. In Britain today, someone like Deborah Arnott is just such a bureaucrat. And she demonstrates all the hauteur and arrogance and autocratic traits of any aristocrat from a former age. As do her colleagues in almost every branch of government, and above all in the un-elected bureaucracy in Brussels .

Almost all revolutionary civil wars seem to break out when the aristocracy start overtaxing people. It happened in the English Civil War, and it happened in the American and French revolutions. And it’s very likely to happen again when the common people have had enough of the demands by the new aristocracy in the bloated bureaucracies of the state.

There is, I think, little chance of a war between any of the nation states of Europe at the moment. WW1 and WW2 were, in many ways, wars between the imperial aristocracies of Europe. And now nothing remains of either their far-flung empires or their aristocracies. The nations of Europe therefore have no cause for war with one another.

It is of course possible that the new aristocracies of Europe could fall out with each other. But there seems little sign of this happening, largely because the new aristocracy are mutually dependent on each other, and none of them have yet been displaced.

What seems for more likely (and already beginning) is a populist revolt of the common people of Europe against the increasingly authoritarian new European aristocracy (and also in their own nations). So if war breaks out anywhere in Europe in the coming years, it will most likely be a war between the people and the state. And if the people prevail (as they are usually likely to do, simply because they always outnumber their aristocratic overlords) we will see a European Revolution, perhaps accompanied by a Declaration of Independence and a Bill of Rights.

Such a revolution might have the surprising effect of creating something like a United States of Europe that replaces the bureaucratic monstrosity of the EU with real working institutions and genuine representative democracy.

If not, Europe will have to endure 70 years of something not much different from the Soviet Union.

And thereafter history will continue to repeat itself, just as it always has, with one new aristocracy following another.

About Frank Davis

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10 Responses to The Coming European Civil War

  1. Fredrik Eich says:

    In order for the EU to have a future, a massive transfer of wealth needs to go from north to south IMO. The southern nations are saddled with debt, locked into permanent austerity and they can not set their own interest rates because of the euro. But this (massive transfer of wealth) will never happen because voters in northern countries (especially Germany) will never vote for it. Germany would have the Deutsche-mark back in banks with in days if such a thing were ever to happen. So I predict southern countries will, eventually, try to leave the EU. A problem in the derivatives market will kick all this off I predict. But who knows what will happen after that. It could all get nasty, so there could be a coming European war , I just hope it is not a bloody one and resolves itself peacefully.

    • Rose says:

      They may be waiting to see how we do.

    • smokingscot says:

      Not sure about that Fredrik. This putrid coalition the German elite are trying to foist on the electorate may result in exactly the wealth transfer Mr. Schulz advocated when he attempted to gain more votes at their General Election.

      That failed in a spectacular manner, in this case there’s no doubt whatsoever the Germans rejected that concept.

      Yet because Merkel is so power hungry, she has agreed to an interim coalition that if approved by party members will give Schulz the power to do so as well as cuddle up to Macron, who himself is reviled by the French.

      I know we have a least bad government that few are truly happy with, but what they propose in Germany is a no holds barred power grab that completely ignores the electorate. And prepared to destroy Germany or at least fatally wound her in the process.

  2. Tony says:

    In the UK, universal suffrage was only achieved after centuries of struggle. In 1918 for men and 1928 for women. The fear of a revolution like those of France and America certainly spurred the ruling elite into reforms but I wonder if it was the 1917 Russian revolution that provided the final push.

    It seems the current elite are fully intent on taking away this, relatively recently acquired, liberty.

  3. Philip Neal says:

    To my mind, a European civil war would more likely be regional, and on rather the lines Fredrik envisages.

    I am increasingly fascinated by the Thirty Years’ War – essentially the German Civil War – and its strange similarities to the American Civil War. Consider the pattern. The country (the United States, the Holy Roman Empire) is bitterly divided on a matter of principle (slavery, the Reformation). For a generation and more, the issue is contained at the level of the states (the Missouri compromise, cuius regio eius religio). Finally, and very suddenly, a divisive figure comes to federal power (Lincoln, the emperor Ferdinand II). One of the states rebels (South Carolina, Bohemia), the other dissenting states realise that it is now or never, and the country falls apart.

    It is possible to imagine an EU civil war of this kind, not imminently, but in 10 or 20 years time. By then there will be a European treasury imposing Greek-style punishments on any country that crosses it and a European army to back up the threats. Which side would win, who can say?

    • Frank Davis says:

      Was it slavery that was the principal matter of bitter division in the American Civil War? Several Americans on these threads – most notably the late Harley – have said that it wasn’t what the war was about.

      I’ve rather got the impression that Abraham Lincoln was more concerned to maintain the Union of the American states than he was to abolish slavery. He perhaps wanted to keep a united country..Because a Disunited States would be enfeebled and powerless.

      Similar considerations may underlie Unionism in the United Kingdom – which is also a union of different states.

      The European Union is something that has emerged rather stealthily over the past 50 years or so, and I’m not quite sure at what point it stopped being a Community, and started being a Union. (and quite possibly an indissoluble union). What happens when, for one reason or other, countries wish to leave the union? As you say, there will be a European army soon that might be able to stop countries leaving, just like the American North sent armies to end the secession of the South.

  4. RdM says:

    And this comment, with Nisakiman in mind as well, but generally:

  5. Pingback: The Looming European Civil War | Frank Davis

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