Political predictions they got wrong (No3) – Apocalypse 2000

The first thing that strikes you about this book is the rather lurid cover. Because it’s been out of print for so long I had to take this picture from a low-res scan on eBay which doesn’t adequately demonstrate its true horror.

Apocalypse 2000 is subtitled: “Economic breakdown and the slow suicide of democracy, 1989-2000”. It’s actually described by its authors as a work of speculative fiction rather than outright prediction. However they do state in their afterward that they genuinely believe that the events they talk about will happen sooner or later, although not necessarily within the time frame specified (of course given enough time almost any prediction might come to pass eventually). The critics when it came out certainly seemed to think that it’s predictions were possible. This is what some of the reviewers said:

“Exceptionally good” – The Sunday Times

“A hypothetical future history of the Western economy that is readable, entertaining and all-too-plausible” – Financial Times

Pretty grim stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. In terms of predictions Apocalypse 2000 does exactly what it says on the cover. It outlines in detail how Europe could potentially fall into dictatorship, global economic systems collapse, the USA slowly weakens, and all the while a predatory Soviet Union stands by ready to pounce. The fact that the book came out in 1988 should tell the well-informed reader exactly where I’m going with this. By November 1989, less than a year after the book was published, the Soviet Union had started to fall apart. First the Berlin Wall came down, and then the rest of the communist system slowly began to disintegrate. Instantly every single prediction made in the book was invalidated as fifty years of Cold War paranoia fell apart at the seams.

Peter Jay and Michael Stewart were both well-respected financial journalists so I’ve no idea what would have motivated them to write this (money would be a good guess). Apocalypse 2000 does have a clear anti-EU agenda however. The authors argue that the nation-state is the bedrock of democracy, but as more and more power is centralised by the EU this will lead to economic and political dictatorship. In reality in 2010, the EU government is just as messy, disorganised and inefficient at enforcing it its rulings as it ever was. Somehow it doesn’t seem likely that the EU President is going to become a fascist anytime soon.

A whole host of books like this came out in the run up to the year 2000 predicting dire events, or even the end of the world (I’ve got dozens on the millennium bug). As far as I’m aware none of these predictions came to pass. Currently all the doomsayers seem to be gearing up for 2012 which they swear blind will be the end of the world. It’ll be interesting to see how many books they sell off the back of that and how they’ll explain themselves if it doesn’t happen.

For a full list of political predictions they got wrong click here

About matthewashton

I'm a Politics Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University. I specialise in the fields of American, British and media politics.
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3 Responses to Political predictions they got wrong (No3) – Apocalypse 2000

  1. Doctordrink says:

    Interesting – Nick Cohen made a similar point about the “lessons” that many on the left took from “The rise and fall of great Powers” written in 1988 – transposing America for the British Empire.
    Kennedy’s analysis was in many respects correct, but about the USSR….
    Btw, have you read “The Third World War”? written by a retired General Sir John Hackett in around 1983 – scared the bejesus out of me, and conformed to the NATO playbook of the time…

    • I’ve always fascinated by the idea of Empires in decline. The problem with living in times of historical flux is that you can’t always see them for what they are at the time. It’s only later that the historical patterns seem obvious. ‘The rise and fall of great powers’ is a really interesting book and owes a certain amount of Oswald Spengler’s “Decline of the West”. I suppose in some ways it fed into “The Clash of civilisations” as well.

      I’ve not read “The third world war” but was thinking of doing so in the hope it might provide material for this blog. I usually try and stay away from nuclear war themed books though as they always depress me. I watched “Threads” on Youtube a few days ago and was in a bad mood for a long time afterwards. I’d forgotten just how horrible it was.

  2. Pingback: Ten mistaken political predictions | Dr Matthew Ashton's Politics Blog

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