The Voice of Europe: Political Radicalization in Europe
This edition of Voice of Europe looks at the changes in the voting patterns of European citizens. Paul Mason joins in an insightful discussion of the disappointment and discontent of European voters.
CHRISTOS NTATSIOS: Hello friends, this is the Voice of Europe coming to you from the PressProject via the RealNewsNetwork. I am Christos Ntatsios.
Today we are going to try and shed some light to a phenomenon which is becoming increasingly apparent in Europe. After several years of economic crisis, topped by the recent explosive rise of the refugee influx from Africa, there are clear signs that the European voters have started to make more and more radical political choices.
For decades Europe was enjoying a healthy rate of financial growth and the overall feeling was that its countries, particularly those belonging to the Eurozone, were part of a financially strong and secure conglomeration. It may, or may not, have been the truth, but this feeling was making voters chose moderate political representatives who were moving around the centre of the political spectrum.
In 2009 all this changed and the issue of the international debt became central in the political discourse of Europe. The vulnerable countries had to undertake dire measures, leading to austerity. In some cases, like that of Greece, Portugal and Ireland , financial hardship hit large portions of the population, inflating unemployment, reducing the value of home ownership and causing severe cutbacks in the funding, by the state, of services which the average citizen enjoyed.
Countries with less financial weaknesses have not suffered that kind of shock, but wages have stopped rising at previous rates while youth unemployment, or the lack of quality jobs for the young is a problem everywhere around Europe.
Besides the financial troubles, the numbers of migrants trying to come into Europe from several poverty stricken countries of Africa and Asia have been inflated by millions of war refugees fleeing from Syria, where a three year war has led to the accumulation of millions of desperate souls running away from the barbaric Isis. It is not the goal of this particular show to go into the actual reasons behind the rise of ISIS and other fundamentalist Muslim groups, but it can be said that from its part, Europe has done too little too slow and is now faced with an unprecedented wave of migrants trying to enter.
These two aspects seem to have greatly affected the feeling of Eurozone citizens towards the E.U. In France, in the recent regional elections just three weeks after the Paris attacks,, the far right/nationalistic party of Mary Lepen, the Front Nationalle reached percentages around 30% in the first round. The numbers cannot be ignored and they do show a turn of the French people towards a euro-sceptical, if not downright euro-negative, nationalistic, Christian party. In Portugal, after a long turmoil, the government has been given to a coalition of parties ranging from centre left to communism. In Greece, the winner of the last two elections was Syriza, a party who’s name includes the words Radical Left. In the UK, Jeremy Corbin, a man who draws his ideology from the most traditional parts of the European left has become the leader of the Labour party. And we shouldn’t overlook the existence of the Nationalist Nigel Farange and UCIP. In Spain the Podemos, a movement that started from the dismayed citizens who were demonstrating at the streets has become an increasingly influential political party. Even in countries where those two crises have hit mildly, Germany, Austria, Holland, the rates of far-right, xenophobic, eurosceptical parties have risen to numbers which where were unthinkable a decade earlier. The countries of Eastern Europe also show an alarming empowerment of the extreme right while their reaction to the waves of desperate migrants is downright shameful.
Today, we are going ask Paul Mason about this radicalization of European politics. Paul
Paul has written several books, his latest being Post Capitalism: A Guide to our future. He was now completed his documentary; this is a coup which investigates what really happened in the negotiations between Greece’s left government of Syriza and the country’s creditors; the other members of the Eurozone and the IMF
NTATSIOS: Hello Paul, thank you for joining us. My first question concerns the political radicalization of Europe voters choosing either left or far right governments and in any case supporting parties which are far from moderate. Why do you think this is happening?
PAUL MASON: Well look, it’s no mystery that after five years of economic stagnation you’re gonna get political radicalization we have to remember that the Eurozone and the euro currency has become quite manifestly a machine for creating stagnation and for destroying jobs this is the this is the kind of soil this is the surface which economic conditions are creating for the political radicalization. We also have to see the French results I don’t think just in the light of the Paris bombing the French result was always going to be close to mid twenty percent for the Front National because the Front National has cleaned up its act everybody outside France sees this remnant of this hard right you know ultra racist fascist originating organization but what you don’t see on the ground is the way the Front National completely mirrors old social democracy that is what it campaigns about on the ground are things that social democracy used to campaign about.
NTATSIOS: Paul sorry but are you saying that they’re using the rhetoric of the left?
MASON: Well they’re not just using the rhetoric of the left, using the issues that left built itself upon and, if you were opposed to globalization and to to Europe you, know, the European Union in the way the Front National is you can actually offer people concrete answers you can say look we do this we close the borders we end the Euro we ultimately we leave Europe and we can pursue a national interest that they believe, and large numbers of French people obviously believe could deliver results. The challenge, let’s think about the challenge for the far left in the minute, the challenge for social democracy is to answer this question it just not wanna answer; how does globalization how does the eurozone deliver social justice, and until you can, until you can answer that question all kinds of rhetorical attacks on the far right are not going to be able to defeat it, cause the far right is moving into the territory that social democracy has vacated cause social democracy believes that the Euro, the Eurozone, the European institutions can be, quote-unquote, democratized well until they are, until they begin to deliver to ordinary people, you know, people in small French towns and lets remember it is not the majority but it’s a large minority 28%, people in these towns of thinking I don’t have time to wait for the eurozone to democratize I don’t have time to… you know, for the problems that the Front National play upon in people’s minds, to be solved long term by the reform of Europe. I would rather they were reformed resolved in the short term the floor national is offering them a short-term answer which of course, like all radical right politics is a chimera I think that’s a Greek word its chimeric, it doesn’t even have existence but people will vote for something that that is impossible that sounds plausible rather than something that they know is impossible which is the democratization of Europe.
NTATSIOS: Paul we’ve seen that in the cases where people voted for the left like Syriza in Greece the government then tried to play in the field of the Eurozone, within the euro, and it lost.
MASON: Yes well look personally I don’t think it was a mistake to try to play within the field of the eurozone as you put it especially if Hollande, Rentzi and Obama are telling you privately as they told Varoufakis and Tsipras, we will make sure you can never be thrown out of the Euro you have a solid negotiating position. If this if the Chinese come to you and say we’ll lend you money, if the Russians come to you and say we’ll lend you money what nobody realized was how which political capital Germany was prepared to burn to destroy Syriza, that’s what nobody realized, so I don’t think that we have this kind of fixed thing, this fixed thing forever historically the euro which which which must always impose utter catastrophe on Greece, it was a negotiation and it was a fight but the fight is over, well its kind of over, round one of the fight is over and round one of the fight was lost, but you know what I think, people all over Europe are drawing conclusions from that they’re drawing conclusions from the way the European Commission intervened into the referendum those of us who lived through it, you lived through it, I live through it you know it’s easy to forget as you live through it the detail but when you stand back as I’m doing in the documentary that comes out next week I see now that intervention by the commission is a crucial moment when people all over Europe said hey hold on a minute, you know, who elected you? who gave you, Juncker; Prime Minister of the biggest tax haven, the right to tell us which way to vote? We filmed outside the Commission HQ in central Athens where people tried to storm it, we see, you know, I think that anger that was in people’s eyes then it’s been kind of picture like a little burning flame in a lot of European countries and then when they see Portugal, the left government you know albeit a broad let they see, they see the extrajudicial extra judicial power i.e. the presidency brought to try and stop that explicitly because it endangers austerity! Amazing admission from the Portuguese president again this drip feeds through. People are you know people are not idiots they watch the news and they see evidence week-by-week accumulated as to the un-democratic nature of the entire project. That’s what… if you ask me what is new, what is new over the summer and winter and autumn of 2015 it’s not reflected very well in the mainstream media this renewed skepticism and realization by broad masses of people that the euro, project, but not just the Euro project the European Union may be driving itself towards a much more critical moment than many of the elite actually expect to happen.
NTATSIOS: Paul you are releasing the first part of your documentary next week and I know that you have strived to publish it before the Spanish elections. There are many upcoming elections all over, there is Spain the English referendum, even the USA, why did you want to publish it now?
MASON: Yes look there are two things that I think everybody can learn from the first Syriza government and in the interviews both in the documentary and in the big articles I’m gonna be writing around that documentary, I think those two lessons are fairly clear. One is, that Europe, not just the Eurozone but the European Union is rapidly becoming an arena where the rule of law does not, I wouldn’t say it doesn’t exist, but it doesn’t exist at the critical level, ok? Varoufakis tells us he told us in a public meeting in London that, you know when he challenged the Eurogroup and asked them for a legal opinion at a certain point during the negotiation the opinion came back that the Eurogroup has no status in law it doesn’t exist legally. Now if you add that to the fact that you know we are now seeing Schengen ripped up, we see the Dublin treaties effectively ignored, we are seeing Greece told to allow Frontex to run the Greek border what it what European people are seeing is, in a way you don’t even see in America they’re beginning to see an executive acting only where it can only where you know people are making reality and it doesn’t matter what the law and the rules are. The Germans on July 12-13th with regards to Greece said for five years Greece cant leave the eurozone and then on the back of an envelope they arrived with the proposal Greece must leave the eurozone. This is this is like the Holy Roman Empire this like you know the Holy Roman Empire worked because a force, force was applied for the top and it trickled down through, effectively, non democratic structures which were the local what they were called electorate you know small Dutchies, small kingdoms. That’s what is becoming can we change that? yes. And I think it has to be at two levels, one, the level of Europe you have to insist that if treaties exist that if treaties are there, then they apply. It’s no good the Germans say let’s rip up Dublin 3 but then lets rip up Schengen and then lets rip up the rules of the Eurozone, you can’t have that because the people of Europe didn’t vote to join a kind of, a kind of European Kingdom based on power, they voted to join one based on the so-called aqui the rules which up to now everybody thought were inviolable.
NTATSIOS: I see, Paul we spoke about several European countries but I would like to grasp the opportunity and ask you to elaborate on Jeremy Corbyn the new leader of labor in England and if he manages to create a new left and come in power what will this mean for Europe given and Britain is not part of the Eurozone
MASON: I think you got… there’s two problems here, the first problem is Corbyn is not a new kind of left; sat in the back bench of British Labour Party voting against everything quite happy to be a “happy rebel” for years, I think its only the fact that a new movement came along and used Corbyn to express itself, you know, we see something like 200.000- 300,000 people join the Labour party in the process of Corbyn’s movement this is bigger than all the Greek parties put together, these are the new members of Labour they’re mainly young, they’re not mainly traditional, Trotskyists or Anarchists, although there are some powerful voices there from Trotskyism or Anarchism, joining but they are…they are the same people that you find…journalists on Avgi or young Journalists at ThePressProject or Popaganda, they’re just young celeriat precarious people. Now, Corbyn, I don’t think yet, really understands what their priorities are, Corbyn is expressing… he kind of expresses them in the way Syriza expressed the 2011 movement it kind of said ok, yeah, fine, we like you…but it never the truth it could draw energy from them and it can drive the way but it can never become the way.
Now the second thing is with Corbin in Britain yes Britain is not in the Eurozone, but remember the Eurozone was just one obstacle that the left government was gonna face in Greece let we all know them; it was going to be the Eurozone, it was going to be the deep state, but ultimately it was going to be the enraged middle classes who we saw on the streets from the 18th of June onwards which I think were a big factor in disorientating many of the traditional Greek Left. Now in Britain we don’t have the Eurozone but we have a… if you think you have a deep state we are the oldest deep state in the world we are only know finding out things that went on in the nineteen seventies I’ve been writing about this recently but we have a State that has journalists under surveillance it openly, you know, declares its right to have journalists under surveillance. We have a state that as recently as five ten years ago send secret policemen into very innocuous moderate campaigns to not only be undercover but to marry and have children with the activists as part of the undercover operation. So you know, Jeremy Corbyn. if he ever takes power, will have a lot of that to put up with, and then, on top of that, we have a massive -you think the yes campaign… the yes campaign is nothing compared to you know the plebeian mass reactionary potential you seen in Britain because go back to the Front National, yeah? we have all kinds of movements in Britain are not overtly fascist and would never be fascist but ultimately are incredibly strong reactionary movements that if Corbyn became Prime Minister, there is no doubt in my mind that a case will be made as they attempted to make against Harold Wilson in the in the mid-nineteen seventies that he is a quote-unquote security risk that cannot be Prime Minister. So, you know, I mean look it’s amazing for me, I studied, you know I studied. the 1930’s in University. It’s amazing to me how like the nineteen thirties-early nineteen thirties, you know I’m not saying this is fascism, I’d say this like the Weimar Republic some of the Weimar conditions are emerging all over Europe and what’s the problem? is not even Eurozone, the problem is the crisis of Neoliberalism it’s a model that’s broken it doesn’t work, it has an elite that will not accept this, and that elite I’m afraid we’ll go to the bitter end fighting for their right to impose austerity and, inequality, and poverty on the masses not just of Europe but of America, yep, you know, Donald Trump who knew that the right in America which is so obsessed with the US constitution would be prepared to violate its most fundamental principle, which is the…which is the right to freely worship whatever sort of religion you wish to worship.
NTATSIOS: Paul I thank you for your help but before we close I would like to ask you to tell us when and where we can watch your documentary.
MASON: The documentary project I’m making is called “This is a coup” and it will start with four episodes on the 15th of December to the 18th of December which the story of the first Syriza government. This will go out, on line, all over the world, at the same time, for free. We’ve done a deal with Laura Poitras Field of Vision website -she’s the award winning- academy award-winning documentary maker behind Citizenfour,we will go on that platform but beyond that, me and the documentary maker, Theopi Scarlatos are going to continue to use this material to create a series of video projects around it. We want to make a longer one-one hour 15 minute documentary that runs everything together and we have a very strong archive of testimony interviews with four key politicians, some of which Greece will have never seen before, Varoufakis, Tsakalotos, Miss Konstantopoulou and Mr. Tsipras who we interviewed very recently. So we are gonna put that material out when the main story has been told so watch out.
NTATSIOS: Paul thank you very much. This was Paul Mason from England and thank you for watching us.
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