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:
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.