Europe’s media warn of global social unrest

By Chris Marsden

When Karl Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto that “a spectre is haunting Europe,” he did so on the eve of the revolutionary eruptions that began in Italy and France in 1848 and engulfed much of the European continent.

In recent days, a number of media commentaries have predicted a similar eruption of social unrest of revolutionary dimensions as a direct result of the worsening economic crisis. These warnings are accompanied by dire predictions that Europe will suffer the return of nationalist tensions, the emergence of fascist movements and even war.

Writing in the Financial Times May 24, for example, historian Simon Schama stated, “Far be it for me to make a dicey situation dicier but you can’t smell the sulphur in the air right now and not think we might be on the threshold of an age of rage.… in Europe and America there is a distinct possibility of a long hot summer of social umbrage.”

Schama notes that there is often a “time-lag between the onset of economic disaster and the accumulation of social fury,” but after an initial period of “fearful disorientation,” there comes the danger of the “organised mobilisation of outrage.”

This outrage will be directed against the super-rich and those seen to be responsible for the crisis, he writes, comparing “our own plutocrats” with the financiers so memorably targeted during the French Revolution of 1789 as “rich egoists.”

In the Observer of May 30, Will Hutton, its former editor and now an advisor to the British Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government on cutting public sector pay, declares, “The future of Europe is in the balance. The potential disintegration of the euro will be a first-order economic and political disaster. Economically, it will plunge Europe into competitive devaluations, debt defaults, bank bailouts, frozen credit flows, trade protection and prolonged stagnation. Politically, whatever resolve there is to hold our disparate continent together, where the old enmities and suspicions are never far from the surface, will evaporate.… What will emerge will be a Europe closer to the 1930s. Fearful, stagnant and prey to vicious racist and nationalist ideologies.”

By far, the most apocalyptic warning of what is to come was made by Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, on May 26. Its article begins by returning to the warnings made in 2008 of the impact of the global economic collapse by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Robert Zoellick, head of the World Bank. Strauss-Kahn had, for example, warned that “social unrest may happen in many countries—including advanced economies.”

Deutsche Welle writes that these warnings are “closer today than at any other time since this current financial crisis—the worst since 1929—began.”

Citing the demonstrations by hundreds of thousands in Greece, it warns that the same fate can engulf “financially fragile European governments like Spain, Portugal and Italy” and that “nations all around the world are concerned about rising social discontent.”

“There is a feeling among experts that the deep anger brewing in these countries is fermenting worldwide against the same institutions, the same people, and the failure of global capitalism,” the report continues.

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Swimming against the current

This week TEHELKA meets some peoples from across the nation. They — like Richard Wilbur’s prophet — are “madeyed from stating the obvious” but refuse to blink. And someday in the future someone will ask: did they really exist? Were they as tall as they seem? And we can answer, yes.

MAGLINE PETER, 41, leads a massive movement of fishworkers that is learning to fight everything from climate change to superstition

SATINATH SARANGI, 55, had planned to stay for a week. Decades later, he is still fighting on behalf of those affected by the gas tragedy

ALOK AGARWAL, 43, was destined for the soft life of an IIT boy. Instead, he courted arrests and broken bones to stop the Maheshwar dam

BHAGABAN MAJHI, 32, lost his faith in the law’s sincerity of purpose. But he still believes that one day Orissa’s adivasis will be a powerful force

ROMA, 44, lobbied in favour of the Forest Rights Act against a State impervious to the possibility of a civil war

ANJALI DAIMARY, 45, has waged war to control the excesses of the armed forces in the North-East

VASU HV, 34, has been working for the rights of the urban poor for a decade and scorns the class bias that thinks of his life as sacrifice

LAHA GOPALAN, 58, has been leading adivasis and dalit agricultural labourers in Kerala to stake claim to land that is theirs

DAYAMANI BARLA, 44, is Jharkhand’s first adivasi journalist. She fights India’s largest steel plant with a mass movement and a tireless stride

AKHIL GOGOI, 34, uses the Right to Information Act and non-violence to unearth corruption in Assam’s rural development schemes

As Tehelka stated that “We have hard work ahead, warned Nehru in the midnight hour. Sure, most of us responded, and went off whistling and thinking of lunch. But luckily, in the place of the giants who are gone, others have sprung, prepared to sleep on railway platforms and footpaths, to have their young bodies broken from lathis, their voices hoarse from shouting — all to preserve democracy, to protect us from ourselves.”



Inspiring stories about them here



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GDP and Beyond…

By Parag Gacche

At the end of every quarter, there is a great amount of speculation among policymakers, financial institutions, private companies etc about what the GDP numbers will be. This number is eagerly awaited by the governments as well. Why? Because it’s considered as the Nation’s report card on economic progress. So if it is seen that this particular number has increased, then obviously it is assumed that we are on the right path i.e. path towards progress. So if it is such an ‘important’ figure, then let us look at what exactly it is and more importantly what it is not.

Well, it is merely gross tally of products and services manufactured or provided in given financial term. Here is the gambit. There is clearly no distinction between whether they really add value to well being of the planet and whether they actually diminish it. There is inherent flawed assumption in calculating GDP that any monetary transaction leads to human well being.

“Marry your cleaning person, and you will make GDP fall”, this hilarious remark by one of the French Economist aptly sums up the inherent shortcoming of using GDP as a tool in gauging economic development of the Nation. It simply points to the fact that any activity which is outside the purview of monetary transactions will not be considered in this measure. If tomorrow my bike doesn’t work and if I take it to the nearby mechanic, then this will be termed as economic transaction but if I take my bike to one of my friends then such activity will not be considered as adding significantly to Nation’s GDP.

Thus even voluntary work does not get recognized in this method.

GDP treats depletion of natural resources as income. If something is destroyed and built then GDP will only take into account the process of rebuilding and not of destruction. It does not take any account of income distribution. So if the income level of top 5% of people in the country increases, GDP will eventually be termed as significant economic progress to all.

Well, I am not against calculating GDP, for that matter. What I am against is the importance given to it in the policy making decisions. It is made as a pivot around which entire decisions are made. But well beings of individuals depend upon plenty of other factors such as leisure time, environment conditions, health and distributive issues etc.

At last, any economic system should be judged based on whether it provides life enabling things to its participants e.g. food, clothes, shelter, adequate health facilities etc. or not and without any doubt that should be the benchmark.

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