If the present regime is not going to fail through total economic collapse, and is not going away through hollowing-out, maybe it will collapse through secession. That, after all, is a large part of what happened to the USSR and to Yugoslavia. If the breakaway regions then fight, as in Yugoslavia, that would produce a total collapse.
For Britain, that just isn’t going to happen. Scotland looks quite likely to secede, but if it does, that won’t really be a significant event — the progressive UK state would become a progressive rump-UK state, and an even more progressive Scottish state. The continuity of the establishment and its ideology would be total.
Wales might also secede, with the same non-effect, though that seems less likely. However, England itself I cannot see breaking up without a social collapse happening first — there just aren’t regional identities or regional institutions strong enough to become nation-states.
Northern Ireland could return to disorder if the British government lost control. While the actual scale of the Troubles was relatively restricted — even at their height Belfast was less violent than several US cities, and Luton this year (10th shooting yesterday) is running it fairly close — it could conceivable get much worse. Frankly, I doubt it: the concept of nationalism is too weakened in the West now to support the escalation.
Actually, a bigger deal than Scotland seceding from Britain would be Britain seceding from the EU. This seems slightly less far-fetched today, with UKIP running close to the Tories in the polls, than it did a few years ago. It would be a bigger blow to the dominant ideology — European transnationalism is more fundamental to the ruling class than old-fashioned British Unionism.
At the end of the day, though, the ruling establishment could perfectly well regain control inside or outside of the EU institutions, and a British withdrawal might in fact strengthen the grip of the ruling class by suppressing their more unsustainable excesses. Competitive pressure between Britain and the rump EU would make both more effective.
Alternatively, British withdrawal might trigger a partial or total disintegration of the EU, by breaking its illusion of inevitability. That would be a blow to the elite, but I still don’t think it would defeat them. At the end of the day even UKIP and similar forces in Germany and elsewhere are within the progressive consensus, and as they approached power the normal mechanisms of politics would make them more moderate. The net effect would be a kind of 1980s-style retreat and consolidation of progressivism on some fronts, rather than a defeat.
In the US, things may be rather different. There, I think secession is a bigger threat to the progressive elite than it is in Europe. There are regional identities and institutions that could form breakaway nation-states, and which would have to reject more than a couple of decades of “progress” to do so.
The entity of the Union is so closely identified with the progressive ideology that secession is probably a necessary step in an American Reaction. Before reactionary forces are able to take over the whole USA, they will be strong enough to take over a section of it and tear it out of the union.
The main reason for doubting that secession is the first step in the American Reaction is that the Federal Government is strong enough and determined enough to prevent it. An attempt to simply grow a reactionary seccessionist movement in a favourable state or set of states would merely repeat the recent unpleasantness, probably more decisively than before.
The Federal Government has to be crippled first, then a reactionary element can secede. The causes already examined — economic failure and hollowing-out — are not sufficient for this. Something else must happen.
That will be the next article in this series.