The Sons of Cain: Youthful members of the Greek fascist party, The Golden Dawn, celebrate the news that their party has won 21 seats in the Greek Parliament. The frantic efforts of neoliberal European financiers and politicians to shore up the Eurozone is opening the door to extremist political parties not seen since the 1930s. The promoters of austerity have sown dragons teeth.
FRANCE has a new, socialist, president. Greece, no government at all. The world’s stock markets oscillate between greed and fear. Only the world’s editorialists seem content to reassure us that, in spite of appearances, very little has – or will – change.
But, if they’re right, then we are all imperilled.
Because all those reassuring editorials are based on one, chilling, assumption: that democratic politics no longer has the power to countermand the world’s bond dealers and currency traders. That, in any showdown between the power of the people, and the power of global financial markets: it’s the people who will lose.
Except they won’t – not in the long run. Because, if the weapons of democracy fail them, the people won’t stop fighting, they’ll simply reach for new, undemocratic, weapons.
The editorial writers of The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and even our own New Zealand Herald, in their rush to shore up the crumbling intellectual edifice of neoliberalism, and downplay the significance of the French and Greek elections, have failed to digest all of the news emerging from those contests.
In their eagerness to paint Monsieur François Hollande as some sort of professional, weak-kneed, say-one-thing-on-the-hustings-but-do-another-in-the-Elyseé-Palace French politico, they have forgotten who helped him across the line in the crucial run-off ballot. It was the Front National, the supporters of Marine Le Pen, who, either by abstention or active rejection, sealed the fate of President Nicolas Sarkozy.
If the global financial markets make it impossible for Monsieur Hollande to keep faith with the French electorate. If the overweening power of German capital is permitted to humiliate and “discipline” France’s leader – to the profound dismay of his countrymen, then to whom, exactly, do you think they will turn? Certainly not to the Socialist Party, nor to the equally discredited Gaullists. No, they will turn in their hundreds of thousands to the party of the Far Right. The Party that would tear up the treaties binding France to the European Union. The party that would close the borders of France, not simply to immigrants, but to the exports of France’s neighbours. The party that would bring the Eurozone, and the dream which inspired its creation, crashing down in the name of economic nationalism and “France pour les français!”
Those editorial writers also appear to have missed the ominous success of The Golden Dawn. These Greek fascists, with their Nazi-style salutes and their Hellenic version of the Swastika, won 21 seats in the Greek Parliament last Sunday. Their nostalgia for the days when the Colonels ran Greece, and the jails were filled with leftist intellectuals and trade union activists, casts a grim shadow not only over Greek politics, but over the whole of Europe.
The neoliberals’ hatred of history blinds them to the fact that the world has stood before where it stands today. In the 1930s: in the midst of the Great Depression; with millions unemployed; and the political leaders of the “civilised world” unable to conceptualise any way out of the deepening economic crisis except to cut and cut and cut; the way was cleared for the extremist demagogues of Right and Left. Men who preached the primacy of politics over economics: politicians who specialised in identifying scapegoats; butchers who slew them in their thousands.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His stimulus package, known as the New Deal, rescued American capitalism from its enemies to the Left and the Right, and made Keynesian economics the default setting of Western governments for nearly fifty years.
The one great exception to the economic folly of deflation and austerity was the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt. His “New Deal” offered a “third way” between the Scylla of Italian and German fascism and the Charybdis of Soviet communism. In faraway Sweden, and here in New Zealand, social-democratic governments followed Roosevelt’s lead – constructing societies that became the envy of the world.
Too many nations did not. Inevitably, the world was rescued from economic failure by that most terrible and irresistible of “stimulus packages”. Those who had declined the peaceful path to economic success were subjected to the awful audit of war.
There are worse things than fiscal deficits.
How does one account for millions of human losses?
This essay was originally published in The Dominion Post, The Otago Daily Times, The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 11 May 2012.