Just Like the Good Old Soviet Days

EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos strives to enforce "proper solidarity."

On November 13, 1968, Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, delivered a now-famous speech spelling out the “Brezhnev doctrine,” which was intended to justify the recent invasion of Czechoslovakia and to warn other Soviet satellites not to try to escape Moscow’s orbit. The Czechs and Slovaks had wanted to tear themselves away from Soviet control and live in a free country like those of Western Europe; in Brezhnev’s oration, this desire was transformed, via the magic of Kremlin Newspeak, into an attempt by “imperialist” countries to “sow dissension” in “individual socialist states,” thereby turning them away from “the principles of Marxism-Leninism.” While professing to “respect…sovereignty,” Brezhnev warned that any “deviation from socialism” was unacceptable and would necessitate “military assistance” by the USSR and its “allies” to any “fraternal country” facing “a threat to the socialist system.”

A brief glossary: imperialist was, of course, a euphemism for free and democratic; socialist, for totalitarian Communist; ally and fraternal country, for satellite or vassal or puppet state; military assistance, for a full-scale invasion by the Red Army, which would crush the democratic resistance and execute its leaders.

Brezhnev’s message, filtered through all those euphemisms, was clear to the comrades inside the Iron Curtain: obey, or be invaded.

A little over a decade later, thanks to the rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland, the Soviets faced a crisis in which it was widely feared that the Brezhnev doctrine might shortly be invoked. From the New York Times, April 6, 1981:

Leonid I. Brezhnev, the Soviet leader, flew to Prague today amid intense speculation here and in Eastern Europe that a decision by Moscow on whether to intervene in Poland would come in the next few days….Even as Mr. Brezhnev left Moscow, the Soviet party newspaper Pravda demanded for the fourth straight day that Polish Communists crack down on the independent trade union, Solidarity, and argued in a front-page editorial that “any deviation, even the slightest” from Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy “brings with it grave consequences for socialism.”

Such, then, was the tyrannical power structure that characterized the Warsaw Pact and the rich lexicon of euphemistic rhetoric that the Kremlin and its toadies reflexively deployed in reference to it.

Flash forward to 2017. In June, the European Commission sues the governments of Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic for refusing to accept so-called migrants from the Middle East and north Africa who are currently working on their tans in Greece and Italy. The governments hold firm. On July 26, Moscow – sorry, Brussels – gives them an ultimatum: they have one month to snap into line. On the same day, an official at the Court of Justice of the European Union rules that the EC’s migrant-relocation orders are legal. Well, naturally they’re legal: the EU itself makes the laws under which it operates. Just as the system of government in the good old Eastern bloc provided no peaceful way for the oppressed masses to question or check or challenge Moscow’s power, so the eminentos in Brussels have defanged their own subject peoples, fobbing off on them a parliament that has no authority whatsoever to initiate legislation and that is effectively subordinate to the unelected, autocratic Politburo – sorry, European Commission.

There are good reasons, needless to say, why Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic would prefer not to follow the EC’s directives on migrants. Just look at a map of where European jihadist attacks have occurred in recent years. There’s a simple reason why one city after another in western Europe has been targeted while eastern Europe has been almost entirely spared. It’s called border control. Unlike most of the technocrats who run Western Europe, most of the leaders of Eastern Europe have put the interests of their own people above those of unvetted – and unvettable – foreigners claiming to be refugees.

Ever heard of Dimitris Avramopoulos? Don’t worry, nobody else has either. Outside of his own homeland, Greece, where he was mayor of Athens, nobody has ever voted for him for anything. But he’s a powerful man, holding the august title of EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship. On July 26, commenting on the disobedience of the duly elected Polish, Czech, and Hungarian governments, this Hellenic technocrat sounded for all the world like a Communist dictator – like Brezhnev trying to threaten and cajole Warsaw back into the fold. “There is still time,” said Avramopoulos darkly, “to change everything and come back to normality.” Normality – a fine Kremlin-worthy euphemism for obedience, deference, docility. Avropoulos then engaged in a bit of apparatchik-style finger-wagging: noting that, on the migrant issue, most EU states – especially Sweden – have been showing “proper solidarity” and “making enormous efforts in a real European spirit,” he expressed “regret that other member states continue to show no solidarity and to ignore our repeated calls to participate in this common effort.” Solidarity; European spirit; common effort – more cozy euphemisms for obedience. How do you say “Orwellian” in Greek?

Avramopoulos explained that EU action against the three recalcitrant countries had reached the second stage in what is known as an “infringement procedure” – a term that any Soviet commissar would have been proud to have come up with. Step one in this procedure involves “letters of formal notice” sent to the refractory governments. Step two is a second letter, this one officially called “a reasoned opinion.” Another nice turn of phrase: although the EU claims not to be a superstate, it has plainly arrogated to itself the role of deciding what is and is not “reasoned.” Step three: if this trio of contumacious children fails to knuckle under to Brussels within a month, they face the possibility of being dragged into the Court of Justice. Hefty fines, or worse, may result.

A couple of weeks go by. Poland, Hungary, and Czechia – that’s what they want us to call them now – refuse to budge. On August 7, Italian socialist Matteo Renzi, a former prime minister and current candidate for a return to that office, says he’ll use an “iron fist” to compel the three countries to “respect the rules” – a handy reminder that Mussolini, at least in his early years, was also a socialist.

Just like Brezhnev, the EU insists that it respects national sovereignty. Obviously that’s as much of a lie now as it was then. Like the Warsaw Pact, the EU is no voluntary association of “fraternal countries”; it’s a budding dictatorship, a malevolent colossus, an ongoing exercise in the amassing of undemocratic power and the dissipation of freedom. It’s also a shaky vessel that’s taking on so many non-paying passengers that it’s destined to sink. The Brexiters were right to vote to jump ship – let’s hope that actually happens. And let’s hope the Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians stick to their guns. The quicker the EU founders and the peoples of Europe regain their sovereignty, the better for them, and the better for the cause of freedom in the world.