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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Barroso saber-rattles to impose social degradation in Europe

The right-wing President of the European Comission, Joao Barroso, reportedly warned of military dictatorships coming to life in Europe if the so-called "austerity measures" (i.e. taxing the poor to give to the rich) find resistence.

This is reported by Heinz Dieterich[es] and the EU Observer[en].

According to the latter, the Secretary General of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), John Monks, had the following exchange with Barroso:

The chief of Europe's trade union chiefs, John Monks, has warned that the austerity packages being imposed across the bloc will send the continent "back to the 1930s." He reported that European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso also fears member states will turn their back on democracy - but for the opposite reason.

"This is extremely dangerous. This is 1931, we're heading back to the 1930s, with the Great Depression and we ended up with militarist dictatorship," the general secretary of the European Trades Union Congress (ETUC) said in an interview with EUobserver. "I'm not saying we're there yet, but it's potentially very serious, not just economically, but politically as well."

Mr Monks reported that Mr Barroso has similar concerns, but based on diametrically opposed reasoning. He said the commission chief believes the austerity packages will save Europe from returning to the darkest days of the last century rather than precipitating the fall.

"I had a discussion with Barroso last Friday about what can be done for Greece, Spain, Portugal and the rest and his message was blunt: 'Look, if they do not carry out these austerity packages, these countries could virtually disappear in the way that we know them as democracies. They've got no choice, this is it'."

"He's very, very worried. He shocked us with an apocalyptic vision of democracies in Europe collapsing because of the state of indebtedness."

For Dieterich, however this exchange is more than mere concern: it is a direct threat:

The European bourgeoisie states, in other words, an ultimatum to the worker and popular movement: pay submissively the costs of the crisis caused by Big Capital or we make you pay by means of the military boot. In political language: if you offer resistance to reduction of your life quality levels, we will move from the veiled bourgeois dictatorship (representative democracy) to open bourgeois dictatorship.

The level of the interlocutors is a clear sign of the seriousness of the threat: Barroso is the highest executive officer of EU and Monks the highest ranking officer of mainstream European labor unions. Dieterich also reminds that it was European bourgeoisie which invented fascism and its variants and which had no problem in 1968 to bring in the tanks to quell the revolt in Paris.

He also cites a report by Merryl Lynch-Capgemini that shows that while the World is immersed in the worst economic crisis since 1930, the number of hyper-rich and their profits keeps growing, a clear sing of who is paying for the crisis: not the oligarchs who caused it but the plain people who has no fault whatsoever (other maybe than being too naive about the real intentions of their rulers and elite class).

Dieterich however calls for a reaction more in the line of the 1840s: when it was becoming evident that revolution was at the gates, the International elaborated a program of action, which had a major impact in 1848 and set the basis for the Worker Movement as we know it. That program is now known as The Communist Manifesto.

Dieterich says that we now know better how Socialism must be (democratic planning, work value and principle of equivalence) as well as how its political structure needs to be (participative democracy) but that we lack, unlike in 1847, unions and intellectuals with class consciousness and critical theory, reason why the European people is "defenseless" in front of this kind of blunt threats.


Update (July 4): On second thought, I'd say that the Spanish Armed Forces are so extremely lacking prestige and numbers that they could hardly serve as backbone of any authoritarian regime. The chance of effective military coup in Spain is nil. However in the particular case of the multiethnic realm, a situation somewhat similar to that of Yugoslavia in the 90s may be generated, that is: open war instead of the current low intensity conflict.

I was somewhat intensely involved in documenting and reporting on the West Balcans war in the 90s and I recall a potentially relevant conversation however. It happened in Skopje, Macedonia, in an interview with the leader of the small liberal party. I don't recall neither the name of the man nor that of his party but doesn't really matter.

He related an anecdote of a year or so before the war broke up, a conversation he had with a CIA agent he said. The Macedonian was telling the spy that he was confident in the future because, after all, Yugoslavia was finally, after the fall of the Soviet Bloc, "strategically irrelevant".

To this the North American agent replied mysteriously: "I would not be so happy if my country would become strategically irrelevant". Soon after the war broke up.

The case of Spain is very different: it is strategically most relevant, in particular because it is a platform to control the Gibraltar strait and potentially North Africa and because it hosts key US bases in that strategic area: the naval base of Rota and the air base of Morón de la Frontera. Also for several reasons France specially would not want Spain to break apart (fear of contagion, important neighboring ally, major investments).

So, for good or bad, open inter-ethnic war in Spain is not probably an option, unless powerful third parties would intervene, what does not seem likely at all.

So I would dare say that the threats are empty threats in this case. Greece instead still keeps a large conscription army which can effectively occupy the country, unlike the Spanish one, which can barely just reinforce the police force. However one of the dangers of a conscription army is that recruits can potentially take over it, if they are organized.

The real problem is overall lack of organization of the class forces and a self-defeating pactist dynamic of the mainstream unions. Without grassroots class organization the people is very weak and even police alone, with the help of the media, controlled by the same oligarchic forces, can keep high levels of repression.

But a coup? I don't think so: they'd lose all their remaining legitimacy and would disintegrate easily.


joe90 kane said...

My apologies for this trivial and somewhat personal post -
- I know Leherensuge blogger doesn't think much of football, unlike us Scots who have a genetic propensity in that direction, but what does he think of cycling and the Tour de France?

I only ask this given Basques are well known for their love of sports and especially in cycling, with great Basques such as Miguel Indurian being amongst the all time greats.

all the best

As I type, Scot David Millar has just missed the maillot jaune in today's time trial.

Maju said...

"but what does he think of cycling and the Tour de France?"

Tiresome. Sincerely I prefer football (but for playing - for watching most sports are awfully boring).

Elite sport is so professional and commercial that I really can't like it. I see advertisements and I zap TV... but anyhow the tour and similar are strange because while I know how to ride a bike and did it often when young, I never understood all that issue of teams and so on well.

And it's kind of sadistic anyhow: the Tour was conceived as a show where people would enjoy watching someone else suffering.

I think, that sport must be joy, so I really hate that.

"I only ask this given Basques are well known for their love of sports and especially in cycling"...

Well a lot of Basques love sports, like anywhere else. Not me though. I have enjoyed when younger football, cycling, trekking and swiming, as well as basketball and Basque ball games and a few instances of climbing... but I normally get bored watching them. I could not care less who wins if it's not me playing, really.

Though I'd have preferred Spain got kicked off earlier, as was France. I enjoyed when Switzerland kicked Spanish ass... but I watched the goal just accidentally, as I decided it was a good moment to go shopping and ended watching it at the kebab.

I also watched the Spain-Portugal also semi-accidentally and cheered Portugal... to no avail.

"Emtre Espanha e o Oceano, o Oceano". ("Between Spain and the Ocean, the Ocean" - possibly from Pessoa, unsure. It was a favorite phrase and eventually epitaph of an old friend).

I'm not bothering watching the new match, as I expect Spain to win, what can only anger me.

joe90 kane said...

Thanks Maju.

I would have reckoned on you being unsympathetic to the Spanish national football team, but when I come to think of it, your antipathy towards the French national football team also makes sense.

By the way, I've posted up your blog article on the EU Prez prediction of coming European dictatorships onto my Facebook Wall.

all the best!

Manju Edangam said...

Aren't there Basques in Spanish or French football teams?

First time I'm watching almost all WC matches. The game is not very popular in India (and we being at the bottom of playing nations also doesn't help). However, couple of left leaning states like Kerala and West Bengal are football crazy. Probably, they are just continuing their abnormality from politics to sports field in difference to majority of other states where cricket is the only sports.

Considering I watch cricket no sports should bore me!

Of course, my understanding of the game is limited though I have acquired as much knowledge as possible in these couple of weeks. I like Spain's way of playing but I have read that is not very helpful in creating many opportunities to score goals.

Maju said...

"Aren't there Basques in Spanish or French football teams?"

Yes a few are in the Spanish selection, so? They should boycott it the same Spain blocks the Basque National team.

"Considering I watch cricket no sports should bore me!"

Absolutely agreed. I can't understand how can cricket be so popular in some countries: it's even more boring than baseball and tennis together!

Football is nice to play: team work, quite complete exercise, rather simple rules, you can play almost anywhere (twist the rules as needed). But watching it is like any other sport: boring. That's my opinion anyhow.