The Dangers of European Dis-Union

The “European Project” is under unprecedented stress from fissures both east-and-west (over the Ukraine crisis) and north-and-south (over the Greek and refugee crises) and it’s unclear whether the Continent’s bureaucrats can keep the European Union from splintering apart, as Nat Parry explains.

By Nat Parry

The near collapse of the Greek economy and the harsh austerity package forced on Athens by the European Union has led to increasing commentary in recent weeks on what the developments might mean for the “European project” the one-time seemingly inevitable drive on the European continent for an “ever closer union” based on principles of economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity among EU member states.

Far from a demonstration of cohesion and solidarity, as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman noted in a July 12 op-ed, the lesson learned over the past few weeks is that “being a member of the eurozone means that the creditors can destroy your economy if you step out of line.” In Krugman’s view, the fundamental economics are simple enough: “imposing harsh austerity without debt relief is a doomed policy no matter how willing the country is to accept suffering.”

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (center) with French President Francois Hollande (left) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right).

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (center) with French President Francois Hollande (left) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right).

Krugman is not alone in his bleak appraisal of the situation. In testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats on July 14 on the topic of “The European Union’s Future,” prominent American academic Stephen Walt said that the EU, despite its past achievements, now suffers from growing tensions and several self-inflicted wounds.

Walt called the decision to create the euro in 1999 “an enormous blunder,” which was done “for political rather than economic reasons.” The euro’s early critics have since been proven right, according to Walt, with the current crisis demonstrating that the EU lacks the political and institutional mechanisms needed to make a common currency work.

The euro’s proponents had assumed 15 years ago that the currency members would never let themselves get into serious financial trouble, an assumption that was demolished by the 2008 global economic crisis the result of financial malfeasance and lax regulatory enforcement in the United States.

“Seven years have passed since the crisis hit, and the EU still lacks the political institutions needed to sustain a genuine currency union,” Walt writes. “If Greece eventually exits, its departure will demonstrate that the euro is not irreversible, and it will raise new doubts about its long-term prospects. If Greece stays in the currency union but cannot implement the herculean reforms now being demanded by its creditors, another crisis is inevitable.”

Guardian columnist Seumas Milne says it is a misnomer to even refer to the new set of financial assistance measures to Greece as a “bailout.” In reality, he writes, it is “the imposition of new debts to pay existing creditors,” which requires the Greeks to “hand over €50bn (£35bn) of public assets to an ‘independent’ privatisation fund.” In this way, it is more like a heist than a bailout.

The anti-democratic nature of the EU’s demands is self-evident, as the prescription being foisted upon Athens more austerity being injected into a shrinking economy and the reversal of any legislation deemed unsuitable by Brussels flies in the face of everything the Syriza party was elected to do in the historic parliamentary elections of Jan. 25, 2015.

This is why Greek leaders declared that they have been the victims of a coup d’etat, with the ex-finance minister Yanis Varoufakis likening the deal to the Versailles treaty imposed on Germany after the First World War. As the details of the deal became public, the hashtag #ThisIsACoup quickly began trending on social media.

Even the International Monetary Fund hardly a bastion of left-wing economics has criticized the deal as too harsh, saying that any deal without up-front debt relief is unsustainable. “Greece’s debt can now only be made sustainable through debt relief measures that go far beyond what Europe has been willing to consider so far,” stated the IMF in its country report on Greece issued July 14.

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn wrote in an open letter to European policymakers that the deal they had forced on Athens was “profoundly damaging, if not a deadly blow” to European integration. Strauss-Kahn, who resigned from his post as managing director of the IMF in 2011 amid sexual misconduct allegations, referred to the EU’s deal as a “diktat” and accused European leaders of risking the integrity of the European Union by placing ideology ahead of pragmatism.

“Political leaders seemed far too savvy to want to seize the opportunity of an ideological victory over a far-left government at the expense of fragmenting the Union,” he wrote in the letter.

“In counting our billions instead of using them to build, in refusing to accept an albeit obvious loss by constantly postponing any commitment on reducing the debt, in preferring to humiliate a people because they are unable to reform, and putting resentments however justified before projects for the future, we are turning our backs on what Europe should be, we are turning our backs on citizen solidarity,” Strauss-Kahn said.

Mediterranean Crisis

The issue of solidarity is one that has come up quite a bit recently in Europe not only in relation to the Greek debt crisis, but also regarding the Mediterranean refugee crisis, which has hit southern European countries, including Greece, especially hard in recent months.

Largely precipitated by the ongoing civil war in Syria, as well as the NATO-led intervention in Libya four years ago, the crisis of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean represents one of the most glaring failures of European policies in recent memory.

The United Nations notes that the vast majority of the roughly 137,000 people making the dangerous journey during the first six months of 2015 are fleeing war, conflict or persecution, making it primarily a refugee crisis. Yet, the EU is failing to live up to its international humanitarian obligations in resettling these asylum seekers, leaving the burden almost entirely on point-of-entry countries such as Italy, Malta, Spain and Greece.

This week, EU ministers failed to reach an agreement on the resettlement of 40,000 refugees, despite pleas from southern European nations for assistance from their northern neighbors.

The southern nations have backed a quota system in which other EU nations would commit to resettle a certain number of refugees who arrive in Mediterranean countries. But the plan was rejected by several EU member states, opting for a voluntary scheme instead.

Under that voluntary proposal, interior ministers sought to relocate 40,000, but on Monday in Brussels they could only agree to 32,356 relocations in countries such as France, Germany and Ireland. Several EU members, including Austria, Hungary, and Denmark, declined to participate at all.

“This shows that a voluntary scheme is difficult to implement and whenever it was tried before, it has failed,” EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said after the meeting.

The remaining 8,000 refugees will be allocated by the end of the year, he said. Yet, this is still just a drop in the bucket considering that 67,500 people entered Italy so far this year, while 68,000 have arrived on the islands of Greece, according to the UN.

As negotiations over the quota system took place in Luxembourg last month, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi lashed out at fellow EU leaders for rejecting the quotas, accusing his peers of looking after only their own interests. “If that’s your idea of Europe, you can keep it,” an indignant Renzi said. “Either give us solidarity or don’t waste our time,” he added.

The UN has also objected to the EU’s lackluster response to the refugee crisis, saying that “Europe’s response to the crisis on its own shores sends a particularly important message.”

In a report issued earlier this month, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees called for a bold response in the number of places offered through resettlement, family reunification and other legal alternatives.

“These should be coupled with actions to increase intra-EU solidarity and to address root causes of displacement,” according to the UNHCR report. “In this exceptional time, Europe and the international community need to deepen their solidarity with the forcibly displaced, notably by accepting larger numbers of people in need of protection.”

The UN noted that some southern European countries are ill-equipped to handle the burden that is falling on their shoulders.

“In Greece, a limited infrastructure providing less than 2,000 reception places has meant inadequate reception conditions for new arrivals,” according to the UN report.

“Europe has a clear responsibility to help those seeking protection from war and persecution,” said António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “To deny that responsibility is to threaten the very building blocks of the humanitarian system Europe worked so hard to build. European countries must shoulder their fair share in responding to the refugee crisis, at home and abroad.”

All of these developments whether the lack of solidarity shown to southern European countries over the refugee crisis or the punitive vindictiveness shown to Greece over the debt crisis are having an effect on the EU’s “soft power,” largely based on the image of Europe as more progressive than the rest of the world, and in particular the alternative that it has traditionally offered to the American model.

The European Alternative

Europe has long been preoccupied with casting itself as a more enlightened version of American power, which has often manifested itself in criticism of the death penalty in the U.S. and complaints about American belligerence and unilateralism. A decade ago, European leaders attempted to unite the continent by offering an explicitly European alternative vision to the Bush-era doctrine of pre-emptive war as displayed by the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

When the war was launched, the continent was split down the middle into what U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called “Old Europe” and “New Europe” and with that lack of unity, Javier Solana, the EU’s High Representative for Common and Foreign Security Policy, found that there was little for him to do. Making the most of that inactivity, Solana and his top aide, British diplomat Robert Cooper, launched an ambitious initiative to build an international order based on effective multilateralism as opposed to the “with us or against us” approach of the Bush administration.

The resulting 4,000-word document, unveiled in December 2003, was called “A Secure Europe in a Better World.” While it had its roots in the Iraq crisis, as an attempt to counter what the EU external relations commissioner, Christopher Patten, slammed as America’s “unilateralist overdrive,” the exercise forced Europe to seek common ground and seriously consider the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction, international terrorism, so-called “rogue states,” and the use of force.

But the Europeans were not only addressing terrorism and other emerging threats. They were also consciously offering an alternative to the perceived challenge to international order posed by the United States and the pre-emptive war doctrine of George W. Bush.

As Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister, observed, it was no longer sufficient to rely on Europe’s “soft power” versus the “hard power” of America’s unmatched military and economic might. There was a need to codify how and in what circumstances Europe’s power could actually be used.

While arguably a bit vague on details, the resulting document was sweeping in its scope and its implications. In a comprehensive way, the EU attempted to clearly spell out a coherent European worldview on security matters, and collectively promote a new model for confronting the threats and challenges of the Twenty-first Century.

Now 15 years into that century, this alternative European model seems like a fading memory, with continental politics instead dominated by demands for economic austerity and a lack of solidarity on common threats. Not only is the European “social cohesion” policy in disarray, but its short-lived attempt to establish a more progressive long-term approach to security has nearly been forgotten, overshadowed by a growing East-West divide most clearly on display in the Ukraine crisis.

Falling in Line

Notwithstanding occasional grumblings over Guantanamo Bay, NSA surveillance and capital punishment, Europe has largely followed the U.S. lead on policies ranging from regime change in Libya to the persecutions of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden to the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, and most recently, the efforts to isolate the Russian Federation in relation to the crisis in Ukraine.

The isolation of Russia culminated earlier this month in a controversial decision by Finland to deny entry to several Russian parliamentarians on the EU’s travel ban from attending an international conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, being held ironically under the theme of “Recalling the Spirit of Helsinki,” a reference to the détente-era signing of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act.

The European divisions on display by the ban of Russian parliamentarians from this conference were punctuated by the absence from the conference by Greece, which was necessitated by the bailout negotiations. The absence of Russia and Greece underlined both the East-West and North-South fractures in Europe.

The news of this conference, which was held on July 5-9 and tackled several important issues including Ukraine, climate change and the Mediterranean migrant crisis, was largely overshadowed in European media by the Greek debt crisis and the EU’s financial assistance package, but in many ways the fissures on display are indicative of the multiple crises facing the European continent.

As Stephen Walt argued in his recent column on the Greek debt crisis, “Every hour that Europe’s leaders have spent trying to dig themselves out of this mess is an hour they could not devote to responding to China’s rise, the upheavals in the Middle East, the Ukraine debacle, or any number of pressing domestic issues.”

Moreover, by denying liberal democratic populism a chance to succeed in the likes of Syriza in Greece (or the up-and-coming Podemos party in Spain), European bureaucrats may be ensuring that uglier right-wing populist movements are given the space they need to set roots and flourish which could ultimately prove more destructive to the European project than anything the continent is now witnessing.

Nat Parry is the co-author of Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. Follow Nat Parry on Twitter @natparry. [This story originally appeared at Essential Opinion.]

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24 comments for “The Dangers of European Dis-Union

  1. paul wichmann
    July 28, 2015 at 05:48

    ” …it’s unclear whether the Continent’s bureaucrats can keep the European Union from splintering apart …”
    True enough.
    But can the Continent’s bureaucrats keep whole nations of people from being laid waste? This is THE question. And the answer to this question is pretty clear.
    One, Greece, is in the can. Portugal, Italy and Spain are on deck. There must be others, surreptitiously, on the brink. Contagion, thanks to cluster globalization and derivatives, is certain.
    Blank-You Capitalism, save for those few elites who’ll manage escape, has blanked itself. I’d have added us, but, of course…

  2. Rolf
    July 26, 2015 at 10:45

    The neocons think all the good in the Word happens because of the USA. Leftwing Americans think all the bad thinks happen because off the USA. That is nearly the same thick kind off thinking and it is not true.
    As a europian (german) I have to admit that the leading nation in destroying Libya was France, here the USA were not leading!

    • Mark
      July 26, 2015 at 12:49

      What evidence do you have to substantiate the claim? The “coalition of the willing” to invade the Mid-East on behalf of Israel, in the succession of go rounds starting with Afghanistan and 2003 Iraq, was lead by the US after 9/11.

      And behind the scenes in the US is Israel’s AIPAC lobby and their now defunct “think tank” PNAC with their “New Strategy for Securing the Realm”, along with the Yinon plan; while Israel’s double agents embedded in the Bush administration, acted on behalf of Israel to replace US Mid-East experts with Israeli lobbyists to propagandize and push Americans into backing the illegal M-E invasions. Included in their plans was and is the intention to remove Al-Assad from Syria and also to have America bomb Iran also on Israel’s behalf — which could mean yet more refugees for the EU. Search “The New Pentagon Papers” along with (Israel’s) PNAC’s “New Strategy for Securing the Realm”, and their Yinon plan…

      • Rolf
        July 26, 2015 at 14:37

        I do not disagree with You. I can’t give You links on Libya, I just remember what happened.
        Let me give You another example: We both could write about what the USA and Isreal had done to Syria. But let us assume the great and the little satan did not even exist.
        Paris would still like to get rid of Assad ( Democratie promotion ? Getting back there colonie ? I do not know.) The Turks, the Saudis … would still have there motives for supporting war. The same goes for Iran and Russia on the other side. The mess in Syria could be the same without the US and Israel.
        Not being an empire would be better for the US because it would be much cheaper. And from a moral point of view: It is not fine not to stop atrocities, but that is better than being the one who commits atrocities.

        • Mark
          July 27, 2015 at 14:46

          Your comment,

          “The mess in Syria could be the same without the US and Israel.”

          has no relevance to the situation as it stands.

          And as far as I can tell, you neglected to state why you think France is more responsible for Lybia than anyone else.

  3. Abe
    July 24, 2015 at 16:18

    Totalitarian formations demand obedience to the rules, and when such formations are hierarchical in character, the rules are elaborated and refined at each level of power and authority, in this case starting with the US, with the EU its next-in-line to execute its wishes and broader design (as will the nations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership do the same in Asia, Germany and Japan functionally the same in administering the rules of The Leader), and the EU in turn demanding the compliance of Greece with the rules, if the structural-political-ideological integrity of the formation is to be preserved. Even the slightest disturbance to a totalitarian framework, so rigidly conceived and tightly organized that it is, sends shock waves through the entire system. Up until recently, Greece did exactly that.

    No longer; it has submitted, and in submitting confirmed—which is why so much pressure was brought to bear in the first place—the expectations within capitalism that uniformity presupposes differentiation not only between classes but also between nations. What is sacrifice (among the lesser and/or weaker), without hierarchy? Wealth accumulation (and presumed progress), without hierarchy? Obedience (to the rules drawn up by others, the more powerful), without hierarchy? In all three cases—attributes of austerity—Greece is on the receiving end: sacrifice; a decline in wealth accumulation, except perhaps its upper groups, but decline certainly in relation to top-tier EU nations; obedience, servile acceptance, the result of an institutional convergence of pressure. To have resisted the troika and stood tall, is deemed an ideological crime. Creditors want their pound of flesh, whether here as governments or individuals, but neither one is as exorcised by financial liability as both are by rules-breaking, i.e., defying/subverting capitalist principles. Debt-reduction is a no-no, a shattering of the social compact of capitalism, whereas extending repayment time without penalty and reduction of interest rates, both advanced by Lagarde of IMF and thus far grudgingly considered by Merkel and Schauble of Germany, are okay because principle is not compromised.

    We see, then, what I might term a massive reaction-formation, a psychopathology of reliance on rules, to the degree that it provides evidence of capitalism having become its own reification in ideological form, a system so inflexible, determined in its moral goodness and superiority, ideologized, that it can no longer figure in Smithian self-interested ways or other shibboleths, leaving only the naked quest for profit, punitive demands for conformity, and the use of force to implement the foregoing. Greece is now termed, I guess, an outlier. The bad news is that it has joined the respectable, to the detriment of its own people. And, regrettably, to the detriment of the world.

    Greece: Political Football of World Politics
    By Norman Pollack
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/07/24/greece-political-football-of-world-politics/

  4. Abe
    July 24, 2015 at 15:50

    Greece’s ruling ostensibly left-wing Syriza party signed a “status of forces” accord with Israel on July 19. The Jerusalem Post explains that the agreement “offers legal defense to both militaries while training in the other’s country.”

    That is to say, it is a pact in which Greece agrees to help the Israeli military—which has illegally militarily occupied and colonized Palestinian sovereign territory for almost five decades and which, practically bi-annually, demolishes infrastructure and massacres civilians and journalists (whom it deliberately targets when soldiers are “bored”) in Gaza.

    Only one other country in the world has signed such an accord with Israel; that country is the US, which calls its uncritical support of Israel the “special relationship.”

    Greece’s Syriza makes military deal with Israel that only US has made
    By Ben Norton
    http://mondoweiss.net/2015/07/greeces-syriza-military

  5. Abe
    July 24, 2015 at 14:15

    We are always told that the European Union is a bastion of free enterprise and market economics. It is therefore assumed that if countries are out of step with it, even if they are actually members of the Union, they are mired in outdated, statist policies and unable to accept the demands of the global economic consensus.

    EU leaders themselves seem to actually believe this. But the Greek crisis has lain bare the fact that this is, and always has been, a grand self-delusion. The EU has never believed in the principles it claims to have. It is inflicting another form of Communism on a continent which fought so hard to rid itself of it, under the guise of free enterprise.

    The Greek Crisis: Europe Turns Communist To Destroy Those Who Believe In It
    By Seth Ferris
    http://journal-neo.org/2015/07/22/the-greek-crisis-europe-turns-communist-to-destroy-those-who-believe-in-it/

  6. John B
    July 24, 2015 at 09:41

    Democracy does not work when its members lose the will to resolve factional differences, as illustrated by the lead-up to the US Civil War and the lead-up to the Ukraine coup. This happens when (1) two generations have passed since the need for unity was found, and (2) when money takes over democracy, resulting in refusal to make redistributions per economic need. Both have happened to the US, the UN, and the EU.

    The East-West crisis of Ukraine is symptomatic of the corruption of politics and mass media by money in the US especially since WWII. It has no underlying necessity, being primarily due to the stupidity of the US right wing, merely a symptom of money power.
    But the North-South crisis is the failure of economic redistribution, a much broader and more serious long-term problem due to the defeat of democracy by money. That is clear in the US substitution of constant war instead of a humanitarian foreign policy, the inability of the UN to convince rich nations to fulfill humanitarian duties, and the EU refusal to assist weak members or absorb refugees from outside.

    The ascendancy of money over democracy has destroyed all progressive movement in history: it has destroyed any leadership role of the US, has rendered the UN ineffective in resolving world problems, and will inevitably fragment and reduce the EU to a selfish totalitarian business state like the US. The question is whether this will happen to China and even South America in the next 60 years, or whether these can restart economic progressivism. I suspect that it is dead due to surveillance technology.

  7. Peter Loeb
    July 24, 2015 at 06:23

    “DISHONEST BROKER” NO MORE…

    “…Assuming the role of “honest broker”, …while.
    being Israel’s chief diplomattic backer, financial
    donor and military supplier, the United States
    placed itself at odds with the global consensus…”

    Naseer H. Aruri, DISHONEST BROKER…(2003) p.3

    In the recent talks with Iran the US while remaining powerful
    was not alone but together with Russia, China and other
    powers more interested in their own poltical and economic
    well-being.

    ( Such rhetoric as Senator Lindsay Graham’s, US Presidential
    candidate, that a nation which does not follow US sanctions
    will have to give up doing business with the US may have
    a jingoistic ring on the campaign trail but fails to comprehend the
    new power relations, specially the ascendancy of Iran as
    a Mideast power with considerable influence. Such
    statements would continue to isolate the US whomever is
    elected US President in 2016.)

    —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  8. Mark
    July 23, 2015 at 14:26

    Does anyone know why the Europeans or others refused or were unable to sue Wall Street banks for orchestrating the world’s greatest Ponzi scheme — which could no longer be concealed after 2008?

    And for that matter, I’m sure there is plenty of evidence pointing to individuals and the collective of US government representative and appointed officials in Washinton DC — why wouldn’t European and other governments hold Washington and Wall Street both responsible for fraud and other crimes on some level? Are they that subservient?

    • paul wichmann
      July 28, 2015 at 06:14

      Walt called the decision to create the euro in 1999 “an enormous blunder,” which was done “for political rather than economic reasons.”
      [ Utter nonsense. Well before 1999, economics had overrun (had bought) politics. ]

      “European countries must shoulder their fair share in responding to the refugee crisis, at home and abroad.”
      [ The nation that provided the explosives and lit the fuse on the conflicts leading to the refugee crises, though not European, ought to absorb its fair share of refugees as well. ]

      “Europe has long been preoccupied with casting itself as a more enlightened version of American power…”
      [ As republicans went wild Right, dragging democrats mid-Right, so the gravitational pull of America has Righted Europe. ]

    • paul wichmann
      July 28, 2015 at 06:23

      Sorry, Mark. Went for an independent post, but replied to you.

      The answer to your question, I think, is that European banks were participating in the making of our melt up.
      You and I wonder why Europe didn’t take on US bankers.
      Maybe we were both hoping Greece would tell Europe – and capitalism – to get off. Yet here we sit, in the very belly of the beast, incapable giving it the least sensation of discomfort.

  9. Hillary
    July 23, 2015 at 14:24

    “who gets stuck with the refugee tab.?

    Millions of people from Iraq , Syria , Libya , Yemen and of course Palestine made destitute by neocon wars sometimes referred to as the modern Christian Crusade against Islam or the “Clash of Civilizations” Judeo/Christian v Islam are paying 24/7…
    …..
    A humanitarian holocaust is happening but “native” casualties do not seem that important ?

  10. mark
    July 23, 2015 at 11:38

    As far as the refugee crisis in Europe goes; this should be considered a direct result of Europe backing Washington’s policies in the Mid-East. The overthrow of Iraq, the ongoing attempt to overthrow Syria, and the desire to not make peace but rather to “bomb Iran”, are each and every one a result of US politicians carrying out Israel’s plans for the greater Middle East — mid 1990’s plans which needed an excuse to launch because they were war crimes of aggression, but 9/11 proved to be the awaited excuse — although 9/11 did not eliminate the fact that these so called “wars” and “regime changes” were illegal.

    So how much of that refugee expense burden is Israel or the US going to pay to the European Union or the refugees, for having created the problem?

    The refugee situation, along with outright death and destruction caused by the illegal invasions into sovereign nations are just a couple of the reasons why international laws were agreed on — unless the West originally intended to selectively “enforce” them for their own benefit — which is what they do and is the same as having no law at all…

    So now Europe is going to fight among themselves first to see who gets stuck with the refugee tab. And it is also very unlikely that neither politicians nor mainstream network news will discuss the truth for two hundred years or more if they ever do at all.

    Would the world be having this problem without the deceptions that enabled and have protected those who conspired to commit the above mentioned war crimes?

  11. Abe
    July 23, 2015 at 11:11

    “I can see the gleam of hatred in their eyes”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVHf2hnwZSA

  12. Abe
    July 23, 2015 at 11:09

    Big banks and corporations, in places like Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, liked the collapse of democracy just fine. Classic fascism was an alliance of an autocratic state, financial elites, and fearful ordinary people who traded ultra-nationalism for the vagaries of democracy that wasn’t delivering for them.

    If this sounds familiar, it is being repeated today. The European Central Bank and Europe’s political leadership, under German Chancellor Angela Merkel, put the needs of the banks first and the people last. We don’t have full-blown fascism yet, but we have the preconditions.

    […]

    Germany, the land that gave us the revealing word schadenfreude (joy at someone else’s suffering) is profiting from the pain of the rest of Europe. Despite plenty of experience with fascism, Germany seems willfully blind to what occurs when people are pushed to the breaking point.

    As economic oligarchs run roughshod over the livelihoods of working people, despairing people give up on democratic government as a counterweight and turn to ultra-nationalism and the far right. There is a bizarre alliance between plutocrats and the downwardly mobile. The elites laugh all the way to the bank.

    Inside the Troubling Rise of Fascist Parties Across Europe
    By Robert Kuttner
    http://www.alternet.org/world/inside-troubling-rise-fascist-parties-across-europe

    • Mark
      July 23, 2015 at 11:57

      There has to be so much human psychology, including group psychology, that plays into history repeating itself over and over — these cycles of exploitation and rebellion are much more than just coincidence in my opinion.

      It all comes down to human nature and instinct reacting to conditions as they change — from being exploited to throwing off the oppressors. If we were all starving, you can bet some will eat others at some point.

      Can we change our human natures or instincts to control our own behavior? Not in this day or without heavy use of drugs.

    • F. G. Sanford
      July 23, 2015 at 20:26

      Thanks, Abe, for pointing out what should be painfully obvious. Simple as it is, fascism appears to be a difficult diagnosis. Like syphilis, it should probably be called “The Great Imitator” due to its frequent atypical presentations. But the economic and oligarchic pathogens are always there. The sentence, “being a member of the eurozone means that the creditors can destroy your economy if you step out of line” would be true if it weren’t for the word “creditors”. There is absolutely nothing “democratic” about the EU. Representatives are all appointed positions; they are bureaucrats who have never held any elected office or are failed politicians elevated to EU positions by their state level political patrons. Catherine Ashton is a perfect example. Creeping fascism is being willfully ignored except in the Baltic states where it is openly embraced. This is the new face of NATO. Creditors? Try “Germans”, and see if it reads a little smoother. Dissolution is the BEST thing that could happen to the EU.

      • July 25, 2015 at 04:58

        I don’t go along with endless complicated definitions of fascism. I certainly do go along with know it’s history, much of which is being repeated. For me, a useful definition of fascism (whose core meaning is ‘strength in unity’) is: The capitalist class and the business class join forces and cut the people out, while telling them they are part of the project. The people are told that if they have elections and can vote, then they have democracy.

        The rest is detail.

        “Let Tommy Douglas, whom some people think is Canada’s greatest Canadian, instruct us further:

        “Once more let me remind you what fascism is. It need not wear a brown shirt or a green shirt—it may even wear a dress shirt. Fascism begins the moment a ruling class, fearing the people may use their political democracy to gain economic democracy, begins to destroy political democracy in order to retain its power of exploitation and special privilege.” – David McLaren (http://bit.ly/1IoaIHM)

        “The ideology the think tanks promote is properly called neoliberalism because, in contrast to libertarians who want a small, powerless state that leaves people alone, neo-liberals require a strong state that uses its power to create and enforce markets, and prop them up when they fail, as happened after the 2007-08 financial meltdown. Their utopian dream is a state governed by market transactions and not democratic practices. it’s based on the principle that economic freedom must come before political freedom. Political freedom may not even be necessary. It’s fair to say they believe in government, but not in democracy.” – Donald Guststein, page 12 of “Harperism – How Stephen Harper And His Think Tank Colleagues Have Transformed Canada”

        I use the terms ‘neoliberal’, ‘fascist’ and ‘corporatist’ interchaneably, most of the time.

    • Abe
      July 23, 2015 at 23:38

      In The Nature of Fascism, Roger Griffin describes fascism as “a genus of political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultranationalism”.

      Griffin describes the ideology as having three core components: “(i) the rebirth myth, (ii) populist ultra-nationalism and (iii) the myth of decadence”.

      In The Anatomy of Fascism, Robert Paxton says that fascism is “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

      The notion that “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power” has been attributed to Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini, but there is no evidence that he made such a statement.

      The definition of fascism as corporatism appears to be a misrepresentation of corporazione — councils of workers, managers and other groups set up by the Fascist Party to control the economy and populace.

      Corporatism may refer to economic tripartism involving negotiations between business, labour, and state interest groups to establish economic policy.

      Corporatocracy is a more accurate term used as an economic and political system controlled by corporations and/or corporate interests.

      Having said this, one may speak of fascist corporatocracy
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ho0O0hkZNZU

  13. Salman
    July 23, 2015 at 11:07

    I always thought that EU has no future unless it becomes a united stated of countries. I don’t think in the USA other states force austerity measures on border states which protect them in hard times. Countries like Greece have lost all their political power in the world to EU and have got nothing in return. One of the reasons of bad economies in south European countries is the sanctions regimes accepted by EU but paid by countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, etc. Peoples of these countries understand these things, but public media don’t discuss them.

    This is oversimplified version of the situation by I think there is some truth to it.

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