Perry Anderson, Professor of History and Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, has produced a brilliant study of the EU, the organisation which poses the greatest threat to us in Britain today. He displays, as usual, his peerless acuity and huge range of reference.
This book includes superb surveys of France, Germany, Italy, Cyprus and Turkey, but not of Britain. Anderson explains grandly, "I do not regret the omission of Britain, whose history since the fall of Thatcher has been of little moment." (It was not a `fall' - we pushed her out.) He refers to `England' three pages later, then to Britain again, then to the UK, a slippage whose uncharacteristic uncertainty betrays his disdain for its object.
He shows that the EU had no democratic foundations. Jean Monnet, the `father of Europe', was an international financier, never elected to anything. Now the EU `more and more openly flouts the popular will'.
Anderson rightly cites last year's fall in EU election turnout, to 43 per cent, as evidence that the EU `wants even a modicum of popular credibility'. Yet he inconsistently writes of US elections that high abstention rates are `the surest sign of popular contentment with society as it is'.
Anderson observes sensibly of Le Pen's Front National, "Immigration is a minority phenomenon, virtually by definition, as war between the classes was not. In consequence, xenophobic responses to it, however ugly, have little power of political multiplication. Aron, who had witnessed the rise of Nazism in Germany and knew what he was talking about, understood this from the start, criticizing panicky over-estimations of the Front, In effect, from the mid-eighties onwards its electoral scores oscillated within a fixed range, never dropping much below a national average of 10 per cent and never rising above 15 per cent." There is no need to obsess about the far tinier BNP.
On the EU's economic policies, he quotes EU-enthusiast Andrew Moravcsik: "the EU is overwhelmingly about the promotion of free markets. Its primary interest group support comes from multinational firms, not least US ones." And, "The EU is basically about business." Its Constitution makes a `highly competitive' market `free of distortions' a legal obligation, wrecking a `social Europe'.
Inside monetary union, "The historic commitments ... to full employment and social services ... cease to have any further institutional purchase." Growth suffers too. Before the euro started in 1999, growth was 2.4 per cent a year, after, 2.1 per cent. Non-euro EU members grew faster than euro members. Eurozone income per head rose more slowly than in the previous decade, while productivity growth halved.
Anderson points out that British governments always sought a wider EU, wanting to use the `vast reserve armies of cheap labour in the East, exerting downward pressure on wage costs in the West'. He shows the EU's embrace of capitalism, its contempt for democracy and its failure to create either a European society or a common culture.
He ends the book with the feeblest of forecasts - "But it remains unlikely that time and contradiction have come to a halt." He is brilliant at tracing intellectuals' responses to problems, but not at engaging with the problems or proposing solutions.