June 2, 2010 Leave a comment
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.