[By Zhai Haijun/China.org.cn]
With the election of Francois Hollande as President of France and the collapse in the vote of the conventional parties of power in Greece, the European economic crisis has now also assumed a political form. Sharp polarization toward the left and the right is becoming the norm and this will now impact on the mainstream political order. The Marxist theory of a fundamental antagonism between the interests of the main conflicting social classes is an essential tool if one is to understand these processes.
Behind the chimera of Europe's long established and entrenched capitalist democracies lies the crude and simple battle over which classes own and control the decisive levers of economic power. The main news outlets – owned by media magnates who possess influence that Orson Welles' fictional character, Citizen Kane, could only dream of – warn of dire consequences if the Greeks create a government that does not obey the rules of the market. They also prophecy doom if France's new president does after election day what he promised to do the day before!
The voters of Europe must submit to an endless imposition of miseries in the name of salvation for private banks – and Europe's children must sacrifice their future at the altar of this pagan God. Anyone who fails to understand this must be from some marginal, plebian or uneducated group. Meanwhile, each day brings news of the unstoppable enrichment of the wealthiest few, despite their apparent inability to invest enough money to generate economic growth!
Politics, bureaucracy, and state and class relations gelled into encrusted and fossilized structures over the course of decades. Stabilization and continuity were anchored in institutional and ideological norms, justified by a rhetorical toolbox of phrase mongering that endowed established political parties with fixed pathways of actions, thoughts and behavior. The game is based around one simple and fundamental principle: Never challenge the wealth and power of the owners of big capital.
The imposition of the cost of this economic crisis on workers, the poor and their families means that anger is growing at this political theatre. The conservative parties are coming under pressure to find scapegoats using nationalism and semi-fascist ideology, dredged from the gutters of history. Likewise, the conventional social-democratic parties are coming under pressure from an enraged constituency of supporters who believe that reformism means a gradual and general advance in the living standards of the majority. The result of all this is the polarization we witness in France, Greece and elsewhere in Europe, with radical left and extreme right – or even semi-fascist parties – all gaining ground.
The insecurity of the bourgeoisie is revealed by a spike in demand for property in London, driven by wealthy French investors. They accept neither political defeat nor laws that might encroach on their affluence.
When social tension reaches a point where the existing political and organizational means of control no longer work, what is to become of the old order? It seems most likely that pressure from the left on the reformist social democratic, socialist and labor parties will generate internal upheaval in these organizations. The rapidity or otherwise of such change will be dependent on the level of their bureaucratic degeneration. But even from the standpoint of self-preservation, party bureaucrats may be compelled to face left.
Thus, in France, external pressure from the Communist-backed presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon drove the victorious Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande to face to the left. Now the French and international bourgeoisie are demanding that Hollande betray the voters in exchange for their patronage and collaboration, and they threaten sabotage and disaster if ignored. As the German Marxist playwright Bertolt Brecht asked with heavy irony: "Why don't the rulers dissolve the people and elect another?"
Hollande calls for growth and the abandonment of austerity in Europe.This is a message which resonates in Europe. Since 2008, China has been the main driver of world economic growth based on its fundamental bedrock of public ownership of the banks and the commanding heights of the economy. It has grown about 40%, whilst Europe has remained stagnant. Indeed, some of the same ‘experts’ who failed to predict the global economic crisis swore blindly that China would be dragged down by the collapse in export demand from the USA and Europe. The growth drive in China - through massive state investment in infrastructure, housing for the workers, green technologies and expanding welfare - provides concrete evidence to refute the dominant neo-liberal mythology.
Surely this cannot be lost on the workers' movement in Europe? The struggle to overturn the incessant attacks on the living standards of the European masses must be linked to a clear program to nationalize the banks and lay the foundation for a socialist economic plan for growth.
The author is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:
Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn