Part 1 of a viewpoint on Europe by John Bean
I view Europe as an excellent location to live in and for my descendants to likewise grow old in. This place has been made so by its different sects of a common tribe. Its fascinating variety of languages from Icelandic to Basque have evolved over several millennia. As is the nature of mankind throughout this globe the different sects have at times been inspired to settle differences with close neighbours by internecine war. The cause this has arisen from opposing political systems, starting with Athens and Sparta and hopefully ending in the 20th century with democracy versus fascism and the corporate state, aided by the clash between British and German imperialism
Prior to the rise of modern weaponry, particularly aerial attacks, the bloodiest conflicts were those stemming from religious differences. One of the earliest was the invasion of Spain by Moors of Arabian origin who were inspired by the new religion of Islam to destroy Christian Europe. Fortunately for the still evolving European culture, and not just its Christian religion, we were saved by Charles Martel at the battle of Tours. Nine hundred years later another attempt to impose the non-European religion was made by the Turkish Ottomans. This time the threat was removed by joint forces of the Habsburgs of Austria and Hungary and a Polish army led by King John Sobieski of Poland, who destroyed much of the Ottoman army outside the walls of Vienna. It was significant that by this time Christianity had become established into two opposing sects of Protestant and Catholic (as Islam appears to be doing in the 21st century). So strong was the split that the Protestants refused to help the Catholics in defending the Ottoman Muslims assault on Europe.
This was partly a result of the Thirty Years War primarily between Protestantism and Catholicism which had ended just 30 years prior to the Ottoman Turks attack. It reduced the population of the German states by forty percent and took a hundred years to recover from the devastation. On a considerably smaller scale the antagonism between Catholic and Protestant led to death and destruction in France (leading to Huguenot emigration to Britain) in England, Scotland, Wales and in Ireland in particular. The conflict between Britain and Ireland was, of course, also promoted by the desire for Irish independence from Britain with whom it had no common land borders.
In the latter half of the 18th century it was Britain who began the Industrial Revolution, which then spread throughout Europe and into North America. The downside of this achievement were the bad working and living conditions it gave to many working people who had flocked into the rapidly expanding cities from the wage slavery of working on the land, and farmers whose small areas meant they also could no longer survive.
Driven mainly by the desire for more raw materials, Britain, France and Germany, a late starter, expanded their empires in Africa and Asia. The colonised people looked in wonder and admiration that began to turn to envy at these white people from Europe. The industrial society that founded the great social changes in Europe also gave rise to uncontrolled capitalism. This, allied with the imperialism of the three great nations above led to the disastrous slaughter of some of Europe’s finest during the First World War. Then within twenty years came a replay of this slaughter, made even worse than the first for Eastern Europe. Without the advent of Hitler and his distorted attempt to combine nationalism with socialism, this war to end all wars – at least in Europe – would never have come about.
For at least two years after 1945 more than 31 million refugees were on the move trying to find their original or new homes in Europe. Today, this is sometimes held up as an example of why we should not object to around five million Afro-Asian immigrants arriving in Britain and the rest of Europe in the last decade. However, 12 million of these refugees were Germans who had been thrown out of the new geographical state of Poland, Silesia, Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia and parts of Russia, in all cases where their ancestors had lived for several hundred years. This was why the European Convention on Human Rights was drafted in 1950 by the then new Council of Europe. Note that it is nothing to do with the EU
Thereby the majority of the people on the continent, looking for a future of permanent peace, gave support to the formation of the first organisations looking for unity amongst Europeans. In our islands we British had less enthusiasm but nevertheless voted to join the European Community in January 1973. I was one of them; as someone who had been preaching for a European Confederation of independent states for nearly twenty years.
Note that this is not part of British Democratic Party policy but is a personal view of the writer.