Effie Samara: From Russia with Brexit Love

Effie Samara, doctoral researcher in Social Science at Glasgow Uni, writer and film maker, argues that there is a good reason why Putin is telling May to “respect the will of the people” when it comes to Brexit

THE sexy fantasy of Vladimir Putin embracing the statue of Brexit with Stalinist conviction and a soupçon of love for the will of the people is the stuff of nightmares. 

This is an oddity, is it not? The historical outcome of the Stalinist era is not great, let us admit it. Siberia, Hungary, East Berlin all attest to a desolate pre-1990 landscape. But, what do you know? Vlad is hopeful that, despite all these unfortunate events stretching across eighty years and two continents, there is still hope for the good bits of Soviet practice to take root: Its cunning mental deformations, its centrally-anointed personality cult; its passion for robotic denunciations of dissenting views; its anti-Semitism; its unending anticipation of a future where the masses are subjected to the most dismal, the bleakest conditions of existence with a fantastical Soviet passion.

Russia’s dislike for Europe, united or otherwise, is ideologically driven and has characterised East-West relations since the end of World War II. For the sake of historical accuracy - unfashionable in our days of Fox News and sound bites - let me indulge in a bit of Russia ++++.  Let us time-travel to the end of the war. In January 1949, the then USSR organised the establishment of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) as a counterweight to the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC). Comecon and the European Economic Community (EEC) had ignored one another for a long time as good foes do. Let us not forget one was very much for Enlightenment liberties and insignificant little things like human rights and the other had lapsed into a comatose state of self-inflicted totalitarianism where, if you displayed any symptoms ranging from “delusion of reformism” or “sluggish schizophrenia” (actual terms used in the Soviet Criminal Code) the Grand Messiah of the Kremlin would give you a choice between exile, mental hospital or a Siberian labour camp.

READ MORE: Calls for 'complete lobbying transparency' as Charlotte St chair Angus Grossart accepts award from Putin 

However, we humans are known for our episodic descent into sanity and the strict separation of East and West was becoming quite difficult to maintain. You see, people like to wander into ‘nowhere’ citizenship with alarming frequency. So, the USSR fearing isolation, strategically condemned any idea of European integration. On 16 March 1957 the Kremlin described the then six-nation common European market plan as “an attempt to deepen the divisions between East and West”. 

Through the sixties Russia was engaged in systematic propaganda to stop the UK joining the EEC. This found resonance within the established British political order. Britain’s exceptionalism and blind adherence to an uncodified common law reinforced the reluctance by differing and often opposing groups to comprehend a project presented in terms of constitutionality and not in ad hoc ‘deal-based’ whims. Happily oblivious to the irony that impartial Britain had created and un-created “States” around the world to suit its own imperialist purposes, Enoch Powell similarly noted that the four of the six initial member states of the EEC were “recent formations in European history which made them more amenable to the creation for another new European political structure”.

Alas, by the late 70s it was already too late. The EEC was growing bigger and more prosperous and the Soviet economic block, Comecon, decided to create closer links with the EEC whose success was evident. Two years after Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party he claimed that Comecon would eventually be ready to compete with the Common Market. As we know now, the Soviet Union would not last to see this. At the time of the Berlin wall collapse, Margaret Thatcher saw an opportunity and wished to see a larger EEC. She proposed EEC associate status be given to the Central and Eastern European countries, and in doing so she instigated the British foreign policy that dated back to the time of Winston Churchill.

By 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev was calling for a speed up in the integration of Europe and 1990 saw Gennadi Gerasimov, the official spokesman of the Foreign ministry expanding on his desire to build a “common European home” calling for a Helsinki 2, an all-European summit which would give substance to Gorbachev’s ambition of seeing Europe as a “commonwealth of sovereign, democratic and equitably interdependent states”. Lo and behold, in 2002 Mikhail Gorbachev gave a speech calling for greater integration, and to call for Russia to have associate membership of the European Union.

In a rather curious twist of events Uncle Vlad appears to be regressing to more Stalinist mechanisms compared to his predecessors. A lover of unquestioned authoritarianism and religious neo-conservatism, a victor of “landside” electoral triumphs (the last one counted 76.67 per cent of Russians voting in his favour) and a direct accomplice in the “disappearances” of hundreds of political dissidents, Putin is, once again, desperate to unravel Europe. Nothing scares Russia more than the idea of the European Union talking with one voice. More significantly, nothing scares Putin more than the idea of freedom of movement, and educated, active European citizenship which can see right through his ethno-state, fundamentalist and extremist agenda. Hence his obsessive financing and support of the Hungarian and Polish anti-constitutional, misogynistic and authoritarian regimes. 

There is little surprise that the Tories are eager Brexiteers. Brexit is a class war and we all know where they stand on that count. They have never made a secret of it. Brexit is there to firmly remind us all that we are not to rise above our station. The reality is Russ is equally devoted to this ideology of unquestioned personality cult and meek submission to the brutality of a totalitarian regime. No change there; that is how it has always been. Last month Uncle Vlad ordered May to “honour the will of the British people”. Notwithstanding the disenfranchisement of over five million voters in the 2016 referendum, Mrs May shows no signs of not heeding Vlad’s valuable advice.

Over the festive period citizens of the European Union were warned to “apply for status” in a climate reminiscent of more fascistic times. Nicola Sturgeon and Joanna Cherry, who both speak Human with great fluency, have condemned this scheme unequivocally and in explicit terms. As Corbyn’s Twitter feed was not busy sharing recipes for vegetarian omelettes this Christmas, we hoped for his reaction to this phantasmagorical lunacy; an affirmation of his human rights supporter credentials. We hoped. And we waited. And waited. No, it was not happening; not a dickie-bird. Not one word of condemnation or criticism from the great deliverer of messianic accomplishments. 

As 2019 begins, we find ourselves before a crisis of unimaginable proportions. Given the stakes, the players and the lunacy of self-inflicted immolation, the answer promises to be messy. 

Picture courtesy of Yuri Akopov

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