G. M. Tamás https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/19012/all cached version 12/06/2018 09:55:12 en From Afrin to Ghouta https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/gmtamas/from-afrin-to-ghouta <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The egalitarian, feminist and socialist enclaves created by the Kurdish left are attacked with particular ferocity by Mr Erdoğan’s army. <a href="https://a2larm.cz/2018/03/z-afrinu-do-ghuty/">Czech.</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26273983.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26273983.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Then French Economy and Industry Minister Emmanuel Macron during the official tribute to Jeanne D'Arc (Joan of Arc) at the Johannique celebrations in Orléans, Central France on May 8, 2016. Liewig Christian/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Yes, of course, we are all indignant and horrified and incredulous and ashamed: the death and decomposition of the international state system causes mayhem and suffering that defies reason and imagination. Everybody has seen the wordless statement of UNICEF: they could not find words to express what they have seen and what they have felt.</p> <p>Various ethnic and political groups in Syria are killing each other and they are also killed by the states of Turkey, Iran, Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia, Israel and others with weapons sold by EU members. The egalitarian, feminist and socialist enclaves created by the Kurdish left are attacked with particular ferocity by Mr Erdoğan’s army. </p> <p>It is the logic of media reporting (by no fault of the press: people cannot digest too many atrocities, it’s just human nature) that the new massacre makes us forget the massacre begun yesterday. </p> <p>The unimaginable horror of Syria where you really cannot single out the worst butcher among so many will create a smokescreen behind which the different kind of horror of the Turkish dictatorship is conveniently hiding. The Rohingya of Myanmar are barely mentioned any longer. Yemen is forgotten. The new dangers in the Congo are retreating into near-invisibility.</p> <h2><strong>Everybody else</strong></h2> <p>And everybody else is complaining, too, even in relatively peaceful and rich countries where the last vestiges of bourgeois democracy are vanishing and where racism and xenophobia and ethnicism are taking over. These latter are régimes of fear and hatred.</p> <p>But who is feared and who is hated in this Europe where it is my fate – you might say, my good fortune – to live?</p> <p>It is precisely the few who manage to escape from various locations of hell, yesterday called Aleppo, now called Afrin and Ghouta, tomorrow who knows. It is not victorious armies or fearsome insurgents, but terrified refugees driven insane by pain and mourning and by the cruelty of armed men. It is not the cruel armed men who are hated, but their victims.</p> <p>It is not the torturers but the tortured.</p> <p>In my country, Hungary, there are no refugees from the Near East, but the nation waxes hysterical over the danger of Islam. At the same time, the leaders of my country are befriending Arab and Turkish billionaires. One of them, Mr Adnan Polat, an ally of Mr Erdoğan, is an informal adviser to our prime minister. <span class="mag-quote-center">In my country, Hungary, there are no refugees from the Near East, but the nation waxes hysterical over the danger of Islam. At the same time, the leaders of my country are befriending Arab and Turkish billionaires.</span></p> <p>Money is always welcome. There are a few internet journals financed by our government which show constantly how in the despised, soft, decadent ‛West’ the Muslims, the Asians, the blacks are taking over, that the French, the Germans and the Belgians already live in a caliphate. </p> <p>At the Serbian border, at an entry point in the famous anti-migrant fence, the Hungarian authorities will examine the credentials of two (not two thousand, but two) immigrants a day to see whether they would qualify for refugee status and they are usually rejected and sent back. Yet the population trembles. </p> <p>In April, we’ll have parliamentary elections here. All parties reject the modest immigration quotas proposed by the European Commission and all are in favour of the infamous border fence, but still, the number one topic in the so-called election campaign is the ‛migrant problem’. </p> <p>The few of us who try to resist the xenophobic madness are called, what else, traitors to the nation and we are called by some of our leftist brethren like my old friend Slavoj Žižek, frightened by public opinion, sentimentalists (‛beautiful souls’) who are forgetting the class struggle in order to weep at the sight of innocent suffering – hardly a heroic stance, surely.</p> <p>While the massacre of Ghouta is raging on, President Emmanuel Macron of France plans to ‛clamp down’ on ‛illegal’ immigration and tries, in the Napoleonic manner, to reform and ‛regularise’ the Islamic religion in France to make it into one of the demure state religions recognised and chastened by the state. Meanwhile, the French right is up in arms because in some boring patriotic ritual the role of Joan of Arc is played by a young woman whose father is black. </p> <p>These are the preoccupations of the pre-eminent civilisation on earth (because that’s what it is, we know on best authority). It is not sufficient that fire and brimstone are visited upon the unfortunate in Syria and elsewhere, but those few who might escape, are greeted with rejection, suspicion, hatred and contempt. All white (not only European) countries are vowing to fight gallantly against immigration, that is, against help to the needy and to the suffering.</p> <p>This is the moral stance that the heirs to the Renaissance, to Reformation, to the Enlightenment are now evincing.</p> <p>And what about our famous ‛democracy’? Is anybody doing anything about Erdoğan’s Turkey?</p> <p>We all know what is going on there, what happens to leftists, to democrats, to Kurds, to critical journalists, to opposition politicians, to dutiful civil servants, police officers and army personnel. Mass demonstrations? Departing ambassadors? Severed military ties? Sanctions? Solemn condemnations? Special sessions of the UN Assembly? Exclusion from NATO? </p> <p>None of this, only using Erdoğan to beat Turks in Germany and Austria on their heads. Conflicts between Kurdish leftists and Turkish nationalists in European towns are cited against all immigrants of Islamic or ‛coloured’ background, while peaceful demonstrations for democracy and the rule of law in Turkey in western cities are disrupted by Erdoğan’s thugs.</p> <p>A few days ago, a peacefully traveling Syrian Kurd, Mr Saleh Muslim, a leader of the PYD party, invited to an international conference, has been <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43189719">arrested in Prague</a>. This was at the behest of the Turkish government. He is supposed to be extradited to Turkey – although he is not a Turkish citizen – on terrorism charges. He had a valid Czech visa that entitles him to some protection there; and we know what terrorism charges mean in Turkey. Anything – but chiefly nothing.</p> <p>We all know that thousands are in Turkish prisons on trumped-up or anti-constitutional charges; various real and imagined opponents of the régime; from opposition politicians, journalists, intellectuals and students to leftist workers, women activists or, simply, </p> <p>Kurds. One of the largest nations in the region, the Kurds – divided between Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran etc. – live and struggle for survival amid various circumstances and political situations, but they are denied (less so in Iraq) autonomy, embroiled in diverse alliances with sometimes opposed forces, but they are everywhere in danger. In these incredibly difficult conditions, some of them have managed to create enclaves of liberty and equality that should (but don’t) enjoy the full support of the European left.</p> <p>The spirit of international solidarity, once the pride of the left, appears to be moribund.</p> <p>It is rather odd that human tragedy and intolerable oppression are today exclusively the preoccupation of professional humanitarian organisations or professionalised NGOs. They are doing heroic work, but their activity is apolitical and severely limited in other respects, too. The UNHRC and the UNHCR (formerly UNRRA, once well known in Eastern and Central Europe for having helped the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps), perfectly respectable, official international institutions which are trying to help the refugees but are powerless in peace-making and starved of money, are declared&nbsp;<em>The Enemy</em>&nbsp;in my country, for supposedly implementing the non-existent ‛Soros Plan’ (for settling Muslims in Europe in order to dilute our racial stock and to destroy our ‛Christian’ culture)…<span class="mag-quote-center">All this is of course the result of the political disintegration of late capitalism where rational plans and strategies are practically non-existent. </span></p> <p>All this is of course the result of the political disintegration of late capitalism where rational plans and strategies are practically non-existent. It is&nbsp;<em>bellum omnium contra omnes</em>, and even the little reason that in the past anti-establishment forces could inject into the senseless struggle has disappeared. </p> <p>An uprising of bad conscience is not to be expected. Tyrannies like that of Mr Erdoğan are tolerated by ‛the West’ as ‛democracy’ is not even an empty slogan where poor nations of the periphery are concerned.</p> <p>Small demonstrations before Turkish embassies are not worth much, nevertheless they should be held. For the moment we cannot do much more than shaming ‛our’ governments and ‛our’ European Union, but if this is the best we can do, we should do it, insufficient as it is.</p> <p>They are swine.</p><p><em>This piece was originally published i<a href="http://demokrasi68.com/2018/03/01/efrinden-gutaya-gaspar-miklos-tamas-yazdi/">n Turkish</a> by <a href="http://yeniozgurpolitika.org/index.php?rupel=nuce&amp;id=83904">various outlets</a> on March 1, and disseminated <a href="https://anfenglish.com/features/from-afrin-to-ghouta-25221">in English by ANF News</a>. </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/people-newright/article_306.jsp">What is Post-fascism?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> Hungary </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Hungary Turkey G. M. Tamás Sat, 03 Mar 2018 15:37:11 +0000 G. M. Tamás 116440 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The mystery of ‘populism’ finally unveiled https://www.opendemocracy.net/wfd/can-europe-make-it/g-m-tam-s/mystery-of-populism-finally-unveiled <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The philosopher of post-Fascism enters the populism fray with his own candidate for post-truth – Left betrayal. <a href="http://a2larm.cz/2017/03/odhaleni-mysteria-populismu/">Czech</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-25732801.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-25732801.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hungarian Prime Minister Orban looking at the Bavarian and the Hungarian flag in front of the parliament building in Budapest, Hungary, March 2016. Peter Kneffel DPA/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>There is nothing new in consecrated terms being used in an entirely novel sense without announcing the change, and thereby misleading readers. It happens every day. It is no surprise if, being unable to explain a new phenomenon, people give it a resounding name instead of a theory or at least a description. This is what is happening with ‘populism’ or ‘right populism’ – or even ‘left populism’ – words used to depict states of affairs old as the hills at the same time as surprisingly new ones. ‘Populism’ has become a synonym of ‘I don’t understand it, but I was asked to talk about it’. </p> <h2><strong>Take the example of Hungary</strong></h2> <p>Take the example of Hungary. The prime minister, Viktor Orbán is called <em>the</em> ‘right populist’ <em>par excellence</em>. What does he do?</p> <p>After some hesitant but repellent experimentation with a totalitarian-style mobilization he later wisely abandoned, he and his régime invent a technique whereby corruption, in the legal sense, is avoided, but state assets are used nevertheless to enrich the friends and retainers of the ruling family. The leadership is not bribed by outsiders, nor is theft committed: companies, lands, buildings, profitable entreprises, rents and, especially, money from European funds are simply <em>donated</em> to courtiers and flunkeys and to their bogus firms. State functions are outsourced to the leader’s allies (but still controlled by him, informally), private companies nationalized and then re-privatized to such allies. Tenders offered for catering to national and regional needs are invariably won by the same people and the same pro-Orbán and sub-Orbán companies. <span class="mag-quote-center">State banks are offering credits to these companies to buy up previously independent media.</span></p> <p>State banks are offering credits to these companies to buy up previously independent media. All public institutions are treated as the personal property of the leader. From elementary school headmasters to village post office chiefs to directorships at funny dolls collections to university chairs to police captaincies every public official or anybody who is asked to do something for the community must belong to the governing Right in one capacity or another. </p> <p>The prime minister’s office is moved into the former royal palace and the National Gallery and the National Library are thrown out from the building to make place for him and his personal state administration which is more and more distinct from, and placed over, government proper. (And local, more exactly, regional, government has all but disappeared. There is nothing between central government and the local boss or headman in the village.) State institutions such as the National Heritage Office are suppressed and taken over by shadowy private outfits with some financial and professional interest in the matter, invariably connected to the supra-government.</p> <p>As in the times of patrimonial kingdoms, the property of the Crown is not divided by a clear line from the personal property of the head of state. It is used in a discretionary, arbitrary and peremptory manner by the supreme power in the land. The beneficiaries of this system are organized into a tightly knit order or ‘corporation’ in the old sense, who are supplanting the formal state and are shaping the latter’s laws and constitutional norms. </p> <p>This is an ingenious old-new form of a flexible and non-murderous dictatorship, but why is it ‘populist’?</p> <h2><strong>Ethnicist demagoguery </strong></h2> <p>Ethnicist demagoguery is not particularly populist, as it is and was practiced by various élites in the past who were vehemently and, sometimes, violently opposed to the popular classes, such as authoritarian military dictatorships. The routine of making occasional concessions to the masses in the form of wage rises, alms, tax reforms are also universal procedures, and nobody would call Prince Otto von Bismarck and Emperors Wilhelm I and II ‘populist’. Is there any régime that has not blamed The Foreigner for the ills that befell the country it has dominated? <span class="mag-quote-center">This is the way of the Pyramids. Was the Pharaoh a ‘populist’?</span></p> <p>And look at Donald Trump, the arch-populist menace. Of his being a menace there is no doubt. But ‘populist’? </p> <p>He proposes to alleviate unemployment by building roads and bridges. This is the way of the Pyramids. Was the Pharaoh a ‘populist’? Levying punitive taxes on foreign traders is an ancient custom. Were the Doges of Venice or the <em>stadhouders</em> of the Netherlands, the Dukes of Burgundy, ‘populists’? </p> <p>In 1935, Karl Mannheim, in his <em>Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction</em>, established that there is a cyclical rhythm to economic policies from free-trade eras to periods of protectionism. (A similar logic was discovered by Karl Polanyi in his theory of the ‘double movement’ in <em>The Great Transformation</em>, 1944.) Sharpened competition is &nbsp;driving prices down which will force employers to reduce real wages, prolong working hours and enforce a stricter work discipline together with repressive labour legislation – but especially to save money by developing technology and downsizing the workforce. </p> <p>Mass unemployment will be detrimental to competitive demand, and so on. Sooner or later, the leaders of the capitalist states will have to take measures if they wish to forestall crisis, and the method is mainly to limit competition somewhat.</p> <p>Protectionism limits competition in two respects: first, it moderates the competition between capitalists by excluding some competitors, mostly ‘foreign’ ones and forcing the state, that is, the taxpayer to shoulder the burden of some redistributive tasks the market can no longer look after. And, second, by reducing the competition <em>between workers</em>. Competition between workers is particularly dangerous for the stability of a bourgeois state. When jobs are scarce, a potent workers’ movement has, in the past, asked for the state to nationalize, to restructure, to regulate and, typically, to pay unemployment benefit of one sort or another and to enlarge the state welfare systems and to invest in new projects (e. g., railways, roads, social housing) in need of new employees, to delay (by education) the age at which people enter the workforce, to lower the retirement age together with other expensive expedients. Another such expedient regularly advocated by the ruling classes was war or colonial conquest or both which created new demand and depleted the surplus populations. Both were deemed destabilizing and barbarous. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/554px-BismarckDogs_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/554px-BismarckDogs_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="399" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Otto von Bismarck and his dogs, 1891. Wikicommons/ Immanuel Giel. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>A combination of some of these elements was to create some welfare systems but exclude part of their beneficiaries on various grounds or, at least, offer up some beneficiaries as objects of hatred, counterbalancing the generous impulse inherent in redistributive and egalitarian state regulation. Welfare for ‘hard-working’ (read: white) men only, exclusion of ‘spongers’ and ‘welfare queens’ (read: the coloured or the foreign or the female, such as the dread ‘single mothers’ in the orchestrated scare of the 1980s and 1990s) has sometimes successfully replaced the politics of class struggle with ethnic strife and cross-class, race and gender (white male) alliances and coalitions. <span class="mag-quote-center">What is relatively new, is the combination of anti-welfarism with business protectionism.</span></p> <p>A contemporary variation on these themes has been deployed by the Trump campaign where the forgotten, the left-behind white working class plays a symbolic rôle in the usual anti-welfarist conservative slandering of the unemployed with the traditional bogeyman of the black criminal. What is relatively new, is the combination of anti-welfarism with business protectionism with public works promised to increase employment. Protectionism usually went hand in hand with welfarism (even the fascist version with its ethnic and nativist limitations; but this is not true of all fascisms: Mussolini was a free trader and budget balancer), but now it doesn’t. Here <em>the immigrant</em> will synthesize the features of this new reactionary politics.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Egypt.Giza_.Sphinx.01.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Egypt.Giza_.Sphinx.01.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Sphinx of Giza on the Giza Plateau, Cairo, Egypt.Wikicommons/ Hajor. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>The immigrants</strong></h2> <p>‘Commercial wars’ against, say, China and a frank enmity towards the European Union – against the foreigner – is now concomitant with a struggle against a competing workers’ group, the immigrants. By saving the native working populations from cheap foreign competition and saving domestic capital from the hardships of the global market (this latter is barely possible, if at all) it is hoped to create a cross-class coalition between the haves and the have-nots on an ethnic and cultural basis, a coalition which might be sufficient to win elections but which won’t long survive the hard-working ‘little man’ having noticed that he has been stiffed. Except, of course, if the Trump régime and similar governments descend into straightforward fascism... But what we see for the moment is more chaos than goose-stepping; although the ill-mannered ill-will is there, together with the crazies who would congregate in the neigbourhood of such a leadership in any situation of this kind. <span class="mag-quote-center">The ill-mannered ill-will is there, together with the crazies who would congregate in the neigbourhood of such a leadership in any situation of this kind. </span></p> <h2><strong>Hardly populist</strong></h2> <p>Again, nothing really new. Protectionism, isolationism, nativism have been colours and nuances of American politics for a long time. But it has never been the case that the disadvantaged have not been offered anything of substance – after all, that is what should be at the centre of any populist politics. In ‘populist’ Hungary there is no unemployment benefit, no dole, at all. </p> <p>Populism without a dollop of egalitarianism is nonsense. Populism is, or was, naturally, anti-élitism. With its nineteenth-century origins, the élites it particularly disliked were royal courts, the landed aristocracy and its cosmopolitan ramifications, the Papacy and the higher clergy, the higher officer corps (and the professional army and navy in general), members of the exclusive gentlemen’s clubs, the higher echelons of the colonial service, merchant banks and bankers. To this, pre-fascist and fascist propaganda has added hidden, ‘occult’ élites like freemasons, The Elders of Zion, the press lords and, again, the Vatican, as the ‘real’ masters of the universe. (Even the silly myths about the Illuminati are about two hundred years old and they were aleady idiotic then.)</p> <p>But it would be quite unprecedented if the distinguishing mark of the élites were to be their egalitarianism, that is, their ideological and political closeness to the disadvantaged. The fake anti-élitism of today (and this may be the origin of this mind-boggling verbiage about ‘populism’ that clearly doesn’t exist) is directed at the egalitarians, especially at that odd species we might call ‘liberal egalitarians’ some of whom are just modest social democrats. <span class="mag-quote-center">The fake anti-élitism of today is directed at the egalitarians.</span></p> <p>This was made possible by the propensity of the ‘liberal egalitarians’ with their human rights rhetoric to defend and to protect with the greatest force minorities who are at the receiving end of capitalist inequality and of state repression, race and gender minorities particularly and, internationally, nations and other populations fallen victim to horrible tyrannies. Even among those defeated in the class struggle, they would emphasize the unemployed and people who are not covered, let alone appreciated, by the various systems of social assistance. In other words, ‘egalitarian liberals’ tried to represent those who suffer most from the lack or misapplication of distributive justice in bourgeois society without, of course, wanting to subvert said society – they are not, after all, communists. They are not representing the ‘deserving poor’ only, but also the troublesome, obnoxious, exhausting poor, the mad, the recalcitrant, the angry, and even those who don’t speak English. </p> <p>They are obviously also in favour of trade unions and fair wages – but this is not what seems dangerous to neo-conservatives of both the free-trading-globalist and the protectionist-isolationist ilk. What is believed to be truly intolerable is the spread of <em>egalitarian culture:</em> manners, habits of speech, convictions, beliefs, solidarities, sympathies and the like. <span class="mag-quote-center">What is believed to be truly intolerable is the spread of <em>egalitarian culture.</em></span></p> <h2><strong>Political correctness </strong></h2> <p>This is why so-called political correctness is so hated, even in east European and South Asian countries where it was never in use. The demise of ‘political correctness’ is experienced as liberation by the Right, our world being freed from hypocrisy and from imposed artificiality – after all, contempt for women, for gays, for persons of colour, for foreigners, for people in poor health etc. is <em>natural</em> – they say – so an egalitarian reform of grammar and usage is <em>euphemistic:</em> it gives utopian names to realities ‘we’ (the real people) know and admire as being impressive, that is, scary and horrible. One shouldn’t speak of ‘partners’ while ‘we’ know that the man is boss and the wife obeys. Withdrawal of recognition from inequality is presented – again! – as something both impious and unreal. Also, using ‘euphemisms’ instead of changing social realities is a sign of weakness, therefore despicable like every weakness. Studying the social, cultural and political constructions of ‘gender’ means – or the Right is pretending that it means for it – the withdrawal of recognition from the distinction of the sexes. Another sign of remoteness from what modern reactionaries mean by ‘nature’, that is, predetermined power relationships. Rank and force are already features of the animal kingdom and, for example, female submission is a fact of life among vertebrates. </p> <p>Apart from these sort of ‘social Darwinist’ or eugenic ideologies of inequality between races and genders (sorry, ‘sexes’) traditionalism plays a part, too. Giulio Evola – an inspiration not only for Steve Bannon, US President Trump’s strategic adviser, but also for the Hungarian Jobbik party, very much in love with the differential metaphysical calling of different castes or ‘orders’ <em>(Stände)</em> – is the saint of ‘traditionalism’. Equality means only the mixing of castes where everybody in modernity becomes a <em>Chandala</em>, that is, a person without <em>Varna</em>, without caste, in other words: an untouchable, an unlovely synonym for anybody on the Left.</p> <p>Another Trump adviser, one Sebastian Gorka, a fellow Hungarian of mine, proudly sports the knightly title <em>‘vitéz’</em>, a new ‘nobility’ created and endowed by the erstwhile Regent, Imperial and Royal Rear Admiral von Horthy (ruled 1919-1944) and now just a club of far-right crazies bestowing aristocratic titles on one another, who are staunch believers in hierarchy, blue blood and Aryan brotherhood. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Sebastian_Gorka_at_SOCOM.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Sebastian_Gorka_at_SOCOM.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="341" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dr. Sebastian Gorka briefing at SOCOM Wargame Center,2015.Wikicommons/Sk-gorka.Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Protectionism, autarky, conspiracy theories, phoney aristocratism, racial contempt, white supremacism, misogyny, hatred of science, invention of imaginary enemies – all this has absolutely nothing to do with populism by any stretch of the imagination. </p><p>Speaking of imaginary enemies: the term ‘cultural Marxists’ in America – which closely parallels Goebbels’s <em>‘Kulturbolschewismus’</em> – mirrors, again, ideas to be found among representatives of the east European extreme Right where hatred of the Frankfurt School – and its rather tenuous links, through the late work of Jürgen Habermas, with the so-called European ‘idea’, another old reactionary, but non-ethnicist concoction – unlike the perusal of their books, is endemic, too. </p> <p>It is almost moving to hear <em>Breitbart</em> alumni accusing Adorno – would you believe it? – &nbsp;of all people, of poisoning western youth with rock music. Precisely Adorno, for whom even Igor Stravinsky’s music was <em>kitsch</em> and who despised jazz which appears élitist and rarefied today and whom I do not suspect of having ever heard rock music. Still, Adorno being on the Left, is accused of being a lover of lower-class music (he was the exact opposite of this, of course) and the ‘populist’ Right considers popular music the opium of the rabble.</p> <p>It would be quite interesting to discover why people do use this term, ‘populism’ for the breakthrough of this rather old-fashioned, very traditional Right (so thirties…) – and even more interesting to know why some are tarring a few versions of the Left with the same brush. According to that nice and invariably true French saying, whoever says that there is no real difference between Left and Right, is of the Right. (<em>‘Ni droite, ni gauche’ </em>was a fascist slogan and the Nazis announced in the Horst-Wessel-Lied that <em>‘Kam’raden, die Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen’</em>, that they’ve shot the communist Red Front <em>and</em> the conservatives. Again: what is new?) <span class="mag-quote-center">Whoever says that there is no real difference between Left and Right, is of the Right.</span></p> <h2><strong>For what is happening?</strong></h2> <p>The fact that people on the Left are making cowardly compromises is no news either. Yes, you hear people like Jeremy Corbyn or Sahra Wagenknecht (the top candidate of Die Linke in the coming elections, former secretary of the <em>Kommunistische Plattform </em>still monitored officially by the special services) or the Socialist chancellor of Austria, Christian Kern or quondam French leftist leaders now making anti-immigrant speeches. But this is betrayal, not ‘populism’. </p> <p>True populists may have uttered idiocies, but certainly on behalf of the common people, of the majority, of the <em>profanum vulgus</em>, of the great unwashed and of what you will. Nothing could be more bourgeois than nationalism, but the nationalist cry for ‘unity’ appealed to the imagination of those democrats who wanted to fund an egalitarian community based on a shared cultural heritage (by no means a silly idea). Populism very often was nothing more than democratic nationalism – something that does not exist nowadays. (See my ‘Ethnicism After Nationalism: The Roots of the European Right’, <em>Socialist Register 2016</em>.) Nationalism was a sort of Messianic self-affirmation, for example that of imaginary Poland, ‘the Christ of nations’ (Adam Mickiewicz, 1832) struggling for liberation against the three great empires of the nineteenth century: Russia, Germany and Austria. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Adam_Mickiewicz_według_dagerotypu_paryskiego_z_1842_roku.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Adam_Mickiewicz_według_dagerotypu_paryskiego_z_1842_roku.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="562" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Adam Mickiewicz around 1890. Wikicommons/Unknown. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Not for the deportation of the Jews or for the eviction of refugees – it was against coerced foreign domination, not for domination over others or even for the exclusion of others. It can be criticised (what cannot?) but nationalism’s focus was freedom: self-determination, self-expression, authentically liberated community. (In my book, <em>Les Idoles de la tribu</em>,1989, I have shown the Kantian origins of liberal nationalism in the idea of ‘autonomy’ or ‘self-rule’, literally: giving laws to oneself.) </p><p>Calling racism and ethnicism ‘nationalism’ or ‘populism’ does not help. No one is justified in erasing the difference between oppression and emancipation – the Russian <em>narodniki</em>, the Populists were fighting heroically for the emancipation of the serfs, after all – this is why we ought to stop this nonsense. <span class="mag-quote-center">No one is justified in erasing the difference between oppression and emancipation.</span></p> <h2><strong>Chaos</strong></h2> <p>This is not to say that there is no great chaos in politics. Take the example of the <a href="http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/romanian-protests/">anti-corruption demonstrations</a> in <a href="http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/romanias-protests-and-hungary/">Romania</a> – so much celebrated by the western and central European press. I shall not recount the story, more or less known to everybody, how the governing, allegedly ‘social democratic’ PSD party in a <em>Nacht-und-Nebel-Aktion</em> passed a law which, among other things, would have excused corrupt politicians, and how gigantic demonstrations forced them to withdraw. There is absolutely no doubt that the PSD politicians are corrupt, nationalist and conservative (like their opponents), in spite of quite a few welfarist measures, and that huge shadowy networks linked to them are sucking out tax revenue from the state coffers in a country that, for all its undeniable economic success, is still very poor and unequal. </p> <p>But the conflict in Romania is not between nice civil libertarians and nasty, thieving, anti-democratic nationalists, but something else altogether. It is the protest of a caste: young, educated, middle-class, urban, pro-European and pro-western, sweet-smelling, well dressed, with a withering contempt for the country bumpkins, the old-age pensioners, the ‘post-Stalinist’ workers – youngsters calling themselves and being called by the adoring media ‘the beautiful people’. <span class="mag-quote-center">The trouble is that the protests are clearly authoritarian, calling for punishment.</span></p> <p>The trouble is that the protests are clearly authoritarian, calling for punishment, prison, expulsion for the political adversary and are also clearly situated in favour of one party in the power conflict: president Klaus Johannis, plus the special prosecutor’s office bringing files into court put together by the proportionally largest secret service anywhere (30,444 collaborators, larger than the German service and twice the size of Ceauşescu’s infamous Securitate) that seems to have taken over the entire state and large chunks of the media. It is like under the Austrian version of enlightened absolutism: modernity and development are linked not to the public sphere and not to political deliberation, but to the secret state, unaccountable and impenetrable. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29975613.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29975613.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Several thousand protest on Victory square in front of the Romanian government headquarters against proposals to ease anti-graft legislation,February, 2017. NurPhoto SIPA USA /Press Association. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>This is the kind of modernization – together with the demand of a severe punitive justice and of purges – that ‘the beautiful people’ want with a ‘rule of law’ which does not, in this case, imply popular participation, political pluralism and an autonomous <em>Öffentlichkeit</em>, only ‘transparency’: the transparency of the Panopticon, where everybody is watched and kept morally sound by the round-the-clock gaze of the spy. And like everywhere in eastern Europe, paranoias abound: the hidebound nationalists suspect the symbol George Soros <em>(‘the Jew’)</em> of being behind everything, while according to ‘the beautiful people’, it is the symbol Vladimir Putin <em>(‘the Communist’)</em> who is the ghost in this machine. </p><h2><strong>Elite uprisings and unpleasant opinions </strong></h2> <p>While class conflict and its cultural expression is at the basis of the confrontation – the élite’s uprising against The People, and not vice versa – exploited and oppressed classes are everywhere turning against other oppressed people: nowadays mostly against the refugees or against minorities or gays or even against the young pro-western middle class who are not themselves the exploiters, but the dupes and the unwitting agents of the exploiters. </p> <p>Their xenophobia, however, is only an opinion (unpleasant to be sure, yet still only an opinion). But the refugees are turned back by the great capitalist states. While the European press thunders against Donald Trump, the kind German government and its liberal allies are doing exactly what he so far just talks about. The European frontier police, Frontex is already more brutal with refugees than its US counterpart is intended to be. Viktor Orbán’s fence of shame at the Serbian border is now guarded by the Austrian army also, the army of a neutral country that has just elected itself an impeccable Green-liberal president, lovely, friendly Herr Van der Bellen. (By the way, the Hungarian law that gives police powers to the army, unprecedented in peacetime, has now been emulated by the Austrian powers-that-be.) Meanwhile, the decision of the socialist-led Austrian government to reward those entrepreneurs willing to employ more people, has recently been amended – by the social democrats! – so that employing immigrants would not count; a few days ago, the home secretary in Vienna proposed a bill according to which ‘anti-state activity’ and ‘non-recognition of the state authority of the Republic of Austria’ will merit two years in prison. It has a nice Stalinist sound to it, does it not? <span class="mag-quote-center">Class conflict and its cultural expression is at the basis of the confrontation – the élite’s uprising against The People, and not vice versa. </span></p> <h2><strong>Déjà vu while Rome burns<br /></strong></h2> <p>The Right is winning everywhere, the Left is being betrayed everywhere, and people are quarrelling about silly definitions. </p> <p>The reactionary counter-revolution using (but not helping) the traditional proletariat and the lower middle class against the underclass, against the precariat – especially if it is ‘ethnic’ – and against the immigrant, creating a cross-class political alliance never seen since the days of colonial conquest, is destroying the Left. </p> <p>The turning of the most important Anglophone countries (Britain and the US) against the European Union might parallel the break-up of the League of Nations which ends the longest peace on the European continent – the Yugoslav and Ukrainian conflicts being classified as skirmishes – and the peril of disorder or of conflagration usually stops progress, particularly towards greater liberty and co-operation.</p> <p>Socialist treason is not new, either. As everybody knows, European socialists (infinitely stronger than today) capitulated in the summer of 1914 to the forces of imperialism and joined the ‘war effort’ by voting for the war credits and by mobilising the notionally ‘internationalist’ working class. Intellectuals of Jewish origin like Henri Bergson, Max Scheler, Georg Simmel, supposed to be cosmopolitan and wary of the anti-Semitic imperialist-nationalist forces, were writing pæans about rebirth by battle and about their ‘host’ nation’s superlative virtues. Anarcho-syndicalists – previously radical pacifists – marched to the right, many becoming fascists later, with one ending up a minister in Pétain’s and Laval’s collaborationist, criminal government during the second world war. </p> <p>The socialist idea was to prevent war by an international general strike. But instead, ethnicity defeated class, and the investment of the working class in the welfare state and in colonialism was continued in the hope of social dividends, with the results we know. <span class="mag-quote-center">Let’s call things by their rightful names.</span></p> <p>Let’s call things by their rightful names. Giving in to racism and xenophobia instead of dealing with the seemingly intractable problem of millions becoming ‘superfluous populations’ because of technological development (digitalization, robotization, automation) and of financial crisis and of the retrenchment of global demand; putting up fences to stop these millions trying to escape starvation and war instead of spreading the benefits universally; making deals with tyrants such as Erdogan, Modi or al-Sisi; being silent about the predicament of groups like the Rohingya; becoming more and more similar to the enemy – this is what the official Left are doing, and the name for this is treason. </p> <p>It isn’t true that there is no difference between Left and Right, but it is true that the Left is disappearing fast, like it did in 1914. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>This article benefited from the insights of <strong>Veronica Lazăr</strong> but she is not, of course, responsible for anything that I have written here. </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/wfd"><img style="padding-top: 10px;" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u548777/edu2.png" /></a>openDemocracy was at the World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between inequality, education and democracy. </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/g-m-tam%C3%A1s/meaning-of-refugee-crisis">The meaning of the refugee crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/g-m-tam%C3%A1s/on-solidarity">On Solidarity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/people-newright/article_306.jsp">What is Post-fascism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/philippe-marli-re-antonis-galanopoulos/strange-death-of-social-democracy-in-europ">The strange death of social democracy in Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/etienne-balibar/populism-and-counter-populism-in-atlantic-mirror"> &#039;Populism&#039; and &#039;counter-populism&#039; in the Atlantic mirror</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/etienne-balibar/in-war">In war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kerem-oktem/zombie-politics-europe-turkey-and-disposable-human">Zombie politics: Europe, Turkey and the disposable human</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hungary </div> <div class="field-item even"> Romania </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? India Egypt United States Turkey EU Romania Hungary Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Brexit2016 World Forum for Democracy 2016 G. M. Tamás Populism: what is it? Fri, 24 Feb 2017 16:38:15 +0000 G. M. Tamás 109070 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Anti-Immigration Referendum Sunday in Hungary https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/g-m-tam-s/anti-immigration-referendum-sunday-in-hungary <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our first major interview on openDemocracy was on the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/people-newright/article_306.jsp">‘Post-Fascism’</a> thesis recently expounded by the Hungarian philosopher in the year 2000. Here, Tamás regretfully revisits concept and reality. LeftEast interview. <a href="http://www.masina.rs/?p=3364"><em>Serbo-Croat.</em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28798001_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28798001_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest against Orban's policies regarding asylum seekers in Budapest, Hungary, September 30, 2016. Vadim Ghirda / Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>The Hungarian government <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/hungary-referendum-eu-migrant-quotas-fails-low-turnout-a7342071.html">failed to achieve</a> a referendum result on Sunday. While voters overwhelmingly supported&nbsp;opposing any mandatory European Union quotas for accepting relocated asylum seekers, the ballot was invalid due to low voter turnout.</strong></p><blockquote><p>referendum postscript</p><p>" The Hungarian referendum is invalid, only about 40 percent has bothered to vote. The prime minister seems to have gone stark raving mad as he is announcing victory. ‘Opposition’ leaders who did nothing and ‘public intellectuals’ who not even dared whisper a critical word during these awful months, are coming out of their woodshed and are also claiming a resounding triumph. Theirs.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>This is nothing of the sort. The majority of Hungarians may be conservative and suspicious of foreigners, especially if they are dark-skinned and dressed funny. But most Hungarians are not fascists. They have found this racist campaign disgusting. Mr Orbán’s charismatic days are over. He may still win elections, but his way henceforth is all downhill. He is not any longer the leader of his nation, only a more or less successful, lying politician like the rest.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>But very few people think of Aleppo where there is no electricity and running water, where the population is bleeding and starving, where most buildings have been bombed to smithereens by Russian and American flying fortresses, by the Assad government, the Islamic State and everybody else. And if they try to flee, they will be held up at our borders as terrorist suspects, like before. Let us think of them rather than of ourselves." </p><p>( Monday, October 3, 2016. – G. M. Tamás) </p></blockquote><p><em><strong> L</strong><strong>eftEast (LE):</strong><strong> </strong>On October 2 in Hungary there is a referendum on the European migrant quotas. What work does this referendum do on the level of the Hungarian nation-state? How do you see the relationship of the referendum to processes on the international stage?</em></p> <p><strong>G. M. Tamás (Tamás)</strong>: The October 2 referendum is important, first of all, because of the campaign that preceded it: such a gigantic wave of racist state propaganda has never been seen in Europe since the end of the second world war. It is everywhere: from giant billboards to new elementary school textbooks, from the internet to hundreds of thousands of personal phone calls civil servants were forced to make to mobilise for the ‘no’ vote. </p> <p>The outcome in terms of opinion is not in doubt, the ‘no’s’ will probably be over 80 per cent; but in order to have the required quorum, beyond brain-washing, large-scale vote-rigging is expected, as the ‘opposition’ parties failed to avail themselves of the right to send observers to the electoral commissions which will count the ballot. Intimidation, threats, slander, conspiracy theories, racial stereotypes, downright lies are being spread by the government propaganda machine on a scale never seen before. <span class="mag-quote-center">Downright lies are being spread by the government propaganda machine on a scale never seen before.</span> Even the official far right (the Jobbik party) is shocked. All this is having an effect: I have heard on the train a village labourer talking to some old ladies about the Jewish plot led by the aged billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, supposed to bring Arabs to Europe to avenge themselves on Christendom and offering them $20,000 a head to attack Hungary and other white countries. </p> <p>So the main import is the change in the political climate – towards xenophobia and racism – and the acceptance of dictatorial and authoritarian measures and practices by an exhausted, frightened and puzzled population. </p> <p>The adroit government propaganda does not do anything else, just shifts the blame for the general dissatisfaction with the disastrous results of ‘transition’ or ‘régime change’ after 1989, with the ravages of de-industrialisation, with the galloping inequality and with the collapse of the welfare systems to ‘the foreigner’, in this case to the European Union. </p> <p>The amalgam of the rule of the market, of social and cultural decay, corruption, poverty and uncertainty together with the rhetoric of human rights, constitutionalism, minority rights, pluralism and toleration, the empty ‘European’ platitudes and pseudo-cosmopolitan proclivities of the vanishing liberal élites (‘pseudo’ because Budapest liberals are exhibiting symptoms of nationalist hostility towards Orthodox nations such as the Russians, Greeks, Romanians and Serbs) have combined to form a formidable target for this ethnicist and authoritarian discourse. </p> <p>Massive purges in state institutions (including higher education, the arts, research and so on) have made the intelligentsia extremely vulnerable and little inclined to resistance and protest. </p> <p>Large parts of civil society, among others trade unions and churches, have abandoned their critical stance, more and more opposition figures are in the habit of announcing their support for the Orbán régime, maybe with a few formal caveats. The most popular opposition party is of the extreme right, now outdistanced in xenophobia, homophobia, sexism and racism by the notionally ‘moderate’ government and thus losing its influence. Nevertheless, the likely Orbán triumph at the referendum (I am writing this a day before the actual voting) in all probability will mean the peak of right-wing ideological hegemony – which of course might mean the strengthening of police methods and the further undermining of legality, accountability and transparency, in the absence of real opposition and of free media, not to speak of the rampant corruption that goes hand in hand with the replacement of a professional and politically neutral public administration with the incompetent and rapacious oligarchic groups which are already in control of local government. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">At the same time, the Hungarian state is careful to have good relations with transnational corporations... so it is a model pupil of western neoliberalism.</p> <p>At the same time, the Hungarian state is careful to have good relations with transnational corporations, keeps the deficit and the debt low, has introduced the single tax, has practically suppressed almost every kind of social assistance (except to some carefully selected sectors of the middle class), so it is a model pupil of western neoliberalism – against which its leaders are wont to thunder on state television. </p> <p>As long as this régime presents no challenge to the economic and the military system influenced by the western powers (and it does not), it is quite safe. After all, its anti-Islamic hate campaign – in the absence of any Muslim minority and with zero immigration – is not so dissimilar from what we hear from ever more influential western political forces and leading politicians, albeit it sounds much more radical. It is rare for western politicians to agree in public with Oriana Fallaci and Thilo Sarrazin – popularised here by the state press and state media – but many agree with them <em>in petto</em>. Nevertheless, it would appear that the popularity of the ethnicist régime has peaked and now what we’ll see is a slow and ugly dissolution. As it is going to be concomitant with a similar dissolution of the European Union (and much else), Orbán’s approaching local defeat (not in electoral terms, but in terms of hegemony) may not be noticed at all.</p> <p><em>LE: Regarding the launch of the campaign period for the 2018 election year in Hungary,&nbsp;you&nbsp;and&nbsp;other&nbsp;commentators have pointed to the significance of 1) the lack of major opposition press and 2) the&nbsp;accommodation&nbsp;opposition parties and politicians are making to the Orbán regime. Can you tell us more ?</em></p> <p><strong>Tamás: </strong>It is true that the opposition media are extremely weak, especially the still dominant television and radio (private stations have been robbed of advertising revenue as businesses don’t dare to be associated with the ‘foreign-hearted’, ‘unpatriotic’ Left – which is, in fact, centre-right – and then were bought up by right-wing oligarchs close to or simply created by the government). </p> <p><span class="mag-quote-center">Opposition talk – with the exception of a small number of near-invisible micro-parties – is ever softer and more ‘patriotic’ or stops altogether. </span>The printed press and the internet are somewhat freer but similar tactics have begun to deplete their numbers, too. Similarly, some opposition parties had been either intimidated or partially bought, former Socialist and Green politicians are given plush diplomatic jobs, people close to the opposition parties have cozy deals with shady half-state agencies and state-instigated business ventures and investments. Opposition talk – with the exception of a small number of near-invisible micro-parties – is ever softer and more ‘patriotic’ or stops altogether. </p> <p>Leaders of NGOs and of social movements are busy announcing that they are not of the Left, that they want only technical and professional improvements in some areas, and so on. Fear also plays a part as purges in the cultural and academic realm, scandalous appointments of far right militants and ignoramuses in leading positions, plus the mass firing of civil servants (especially in the provinces) are threatening the job security of the middle class. </p> <p>Foreign support for various institutions of civil society, especially for human rights groups are under constant attack by the state and the right-wing media and by officials including ministers. ‘Soros-financed NGOs’ are a prime target. All this is is quite similar to the Putin and Erdogan régimes but without arrests and assassinations. Intellectuals are cowed. More people protested openly in Hungary in 1977 and 1979 (that is, under a system called by everybody, even by itself, a dictatorship) against the arrest of Václav Havel than against the persecution of the refugees at our borders in 2015 and 2016 – although this is as much of a contravention of international rights covenants and treaties as that case was, only the victims are more numerous now. <span class="mag-quote-center">Another part is genuine fear of the unknown personified by the Muslim migrant, by the terror threat.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Even such left liberal world celebrities as the writer György Konrád have announced their support for Mr Orbán’s barbed-wire fence at the Hungarian frontier. But fear and bribery would not be sufficient there. And Mr Konrád is neither a coward, nor is he corrupt. He is a brave and honest person. But like him, more and more people, formerly in opposition, are convinced that the régime is right. Part of this is, of course, conformism: some people like to be of one mind with what they perceive as their community. The pressure of public opinion is enormous. Another part is genuine fear of the unknown personified by the Muslim migrant, by the terror threat, and the old European fear of the Orient strengthened by the 1989 identification of liberty with ‘the West’. Westernising late liberalism was not universalist and authentic enough to be able to offer intellectual and moral weapons against the new wave of racism and ethnicism. And the proper Left is too weak. It should be said that figures of the small independent Left were very economical with <em>Zivilcourage</em>, too. There is a general shift to the right, independent of Mr Orbán and his crew and which will survive him politically.</p> <p><em>LE: You have coined the term&nbsp;post-fascism, referring to a degradation of the idea of universal citizenship within the present crisis of global capitalism. Can you address how this term applies to Hungary, and what are its wider repercussions regarding present-day European and global politics?&nbsp;</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><strong>Tamás: </strong>It refers to Hungary, too, where – like in other places – citizenship is clearly a privilege, no ‘birthright’. I wrote that essay in 2000, and it has been proved right, alas, by the refugee and immigation crisis in the clearest fashion. </p> <p>Citizenship – even in the stunted form of a permitted presence and minimum chance of survival in a given territory, at a given point of inhabited social space – is denied to masses whose salvation is only this. Racial, ethnic, denominational (religious) and gender discrimination is worse everywhere than it was in 2000. When Jeremy Corbyn still affirms his belief in such a banal principle as the free movement of persons within Europe, even after England’s departure from the EU, he is criticised by <em>The Guardian</em> as a naïve tyro who doesn’t get it, yet. <span class="mag-quote-center">Jeremy Corbyn...&nbsp; is criticised by The Guardian as a naïve tyro who doesn’t get it.</span> The inequality between rich and poor states, between states and stateless populations and between established and marginal groups within nation-states is a classical cause of and reason for war. This is not the ‘European civil war’ of the past (to wit, between socialism and capitalism or, if you wish, between communism and ‘European civilisation’, to quote Goebbels), it is the terminal decay of the modern international state system where there is no unifying common enemy for ‘liberal capitalism’ as was the case from 1945 to 1989. True citizenship (that is, full rights, civic ‘empowerment’) is sold not by states but by capitalist corporations. Citizenship-as-privilege will probably end as no citizenship for anybody. Political subjecthood is becoming blurred, vague, unfathomable. Silly tags such as ‘populism’ and such won’t do it justice, the parallel disintegration of the political state and of civil society, foretold by Marx, will end in regressive matrices, with many revivals of archaic forms. </p> <p>The quasi-universal onslaught on women’s freedoms and dignity, the hatred of female sexuality from India to the Islamic world to Poland is a case in point. When you hear the Pope being called a communist (and, of course, in the pay of the Jews) you can realise the extent of the chaos. And all this can, and will, coexist peacefully with neoliberal global capitalism, as the concept of post-fascism allows.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>LE: Regarding Hungary's right-wing government and its treatment of migration, commentators tend to refer alternately to "Hungarian government" and "Hungarians". How do you see the relationship between "Hungarians" and the regime in the present context?</em></p> <p><strong>Tamás:</strong> No nation can be identified with a system of government. Governments are institutions ruled by certain ideas and, historically, identical with them. The majority of Germans once made their peace with Nazism, and Germany today is the model country of an authentic liberalism, albeit on the defensive. <span class="mag-quote-center">Political subjecthood is becoming blurred, vague, unfathomable. Silly tags such as ‘populism’ and such won’t do it justice.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The majority of Hungarians today do support Mr Orbán’s semi-dictatorial, authoritarian, chauvinist, ethnicist and sexist régime based on clear-cut class politics favouring the middle strata, although that majority is yellowing at the edges. Mr Orbán will remain Mr Orbán, but the Hungarians will change. Post-fascism is no fatality, as no government and no state ideology is eternal. The question is only how long will it last.</p><p><em>Our thanks go to the author and to Mary Taylor and Agnes Gagyi of <a href="http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/">LeftEast, </a>for permission to cross-publish <a href="http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/g-m-tamas-on-the-anti-immigration-referendum-in-hungary/">their interview</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/people-newright/article_306.jsp">What is Post-fascism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/g-m-tam-s-jaroslav-fiala/majority-of-hungarians-are-apathetic-indifferent-and-dev">&quot;The majority of Hungarians are apathetic, indifferent, and devoid of hope.&quot; An interview with Gaspár M. Tamás</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/g-m-tam%C3%A1s/meaning-of-refugee-crisis">The meaning of the refugee crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/g-m-tam%C3%A1s/on-solidarity">On Solidarity</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hungary </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Hungary Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics International politics G. M. Tamás Sun, 02 Oct 2016 09:06:00 +0000 G. M. Tamás 105701 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "The majority of Hungarians are apathetic, indifferent, and devoid of hope." An interview with Gaspár M. Tamás https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/g-m-tam-s-jaroslav-fiala/majority-of-hungarians-are-apathetic-indifferent-and-dev <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jaroslav Fiala speaks to Gaspár M. Tamás about the brutality of capitalism, Orbán’s Hungary, and the failure of the European system.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/maxresdefault[1].jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/maxresdefault[1].jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gaspar Tamas. PD.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>Recently, Europe has been experiencing dangerous times: the crisis of the Eurozone, terrorist attacks, the rise of the far right, Brexit, and so on. Is liberal democracy in peril?</strong></p> <p>Nobody can say that liberal democracy has not liberated some people and that some kinds of servitude have not been obliterated. But the current system has run into a number of contradictions. We are experiencing a serious crisis of liberal democracy, which coincides with the 'death' of socialism. The necessary condition of liberal democracy was the existence of the workers’ movement. It was the result of a compromise in which, in exchange for inner peace and stability, social democracy had given up some of its revolutionary demands and had become part of the bourgeois state. </p><p>As a result, the lower classes were represented. The inner balance between classes within western welfare states, with privileges for the proletariat, its trade unions, social democratic and communist parties and the international equilibrium between reformed and limited capitalism and the Soviet bloc led to what we today call 'liberal democracy', which existed between 1945 and 1989. Western European labour legislation has followed Soviet and socialist legal patterns from the 1920s, so have legal measures concerning gender equality and family law. This is proven by recent legal-historical scholarship.</p> <p><span>Paradoxically, what is lacking from liberal democracy today, is socialism. This is the reason why there is no countervailing force that keeps liberal democracy democratic. Today´s ruling classes are not threatened from within. Thus, they can do what even fascists wouldn’t dare to do. They are smashing real wages, pensions, welfare systems, public schools, free healthcare, cheap public transport, cheap social housing and so on. Who will stop the ruling class?</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>Is it possible to save liberal democracy?</strong></p> <p>I don’t think so. Liberal democracy was an extremely complicated system. The ruling classes in liberal democracy were limited from the left by the workers’ movement and, from the right, by the forces of the past – by the remnants of the aristocracy, of the church and of monarchy. Liberal democracy on its own is unlikely to survive. In spite of what the liberals think, the far right is no danger for capitalism. Danger for life and limb, but not for capital and not for the state. </p><p>Don’t forget that Adolf Hitler was considered to be the saviour of western civilization from communism. Even people who despised him, such as Friedrich-August von Hayek – the free market zealot, who was after all an anti-Nazi émigré – claimed that Hitler might have been a monster but that he had saved Europe from communism. For people like Hayek, fascism was a preventive anti-communist counterrevolution. Which it was. That it ruined and exterminated half of Europe? Pity. Do you think the bourgeoisie would hesitate now? I don’t think so.</p> <p><strong>You live in Hungary. Many from the outside world are horrified by the government of Viktor Orbán, who is annihilating liberal democracy. On the other hand, some people see a certain alternative or an 'interesting choice' in Orbán. What would you say to them?</strong></p> <p>Orbán is doing exactly what you dislike in your own country but since he is doing it without resistance, he seems to be more coherent and successful. There are some admirers of Viktor Orbán in eastern Europe who wouldn’t put up with his system in Hungary for a single day. They admire his talk about national pride, they find it funny that he would 'brutally attack' America, the EU, and so on. </p><p>In reality, Hungary is sustained by western European, mostly German capital. We have low taxes for big business, there are 'sweetheart deals' for Mercedes and Audi, which aren’t exactly anti-western or anti-capitalist forces. Orbán destroyed the social system. The hospitals are empty because there are no doctors and nurses. People are dying on the corridors. My little daughter goes to an elementary school in the centre of Budapest, and there is no toilet paper and no chalk to write on the blackboard. Orbán is a miserable failure in all respects. And a neoliberal failure at that. The budget is balanced, the debt is down, and the lower forty per cent are starving. Problems are solved just by silencing criticism.</p> <p><strong>Why has Orbán been so successful as a politician then?</strong></p> <p>The majority of Hungarians are apathetic, indifferent, and devoid of hope. My country is a very sad place where people say that they can’t do anything in order to forward their aspirations or to change anything. Mr Orbán knows that the secret of success is to support this passivity and apathy. He realized that he should put a stop to the quasi-totalitarian mobilization of society. The first phase of his rule was to mobilize crowds with xenophobic and ethnicist slogans and use extreme militant groups. </p><p>Now all the mobilization networks have been disbanded, as they could become a voice of social discontent. Orbán has destroyed functional bureaucracy, too. Public administration hardly exists, regional administration is officially and openly and completely terminated. Experts, intellectuals – 'enlightened&nbsp;<span>bureaucrats' – are fired in their thousands. Inner controls don’t exist anymore. Cultural institutions, publishing, periodicals, research, higher education, quality press, good museums and theatres, art, cinematography have been destroyed. So have independent media. The result is a dysfunctional state. </span></p><p><span>So, when someone tells you that dictatorship means 'law and order', you should laugh. It means corruption, disorder, total chaos. And it also means the bitter hopelessness of the body politic, which is the true secret of Orbán’s power.</span></p> <p><strong>There has been a lot of criticism of east-central European countries because of their refusal of solidarity with refugees from the Middle East and Africa. But if we look to the west, there is a lot of racism and resistance towards the refugees as well. What has happened in Europe?</strong></p> <p>The same causes that explain western racism appeared overnight in eastern Europe and have caused identical phenomena. First, the multinational states of East-Central Europe, like Masaryk’s and Havel’s Czechoslovakia and Tito’s Yugoslavia, had vanished. We have created small, ethnic, monocultural, monolingual non-republics, in which we are supposed to live.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Orbán is a miserable failure in all respects. And a neoliberal failure at that.</p><p><span></span><span>After 1989, it seemed to us that in this part of the world, the normal shape of a state is one that is inhabited by a single ethnic group. Still, Prague and Budapest are full of rich but non-white people. Tourists and business people settle here, and nobody is objecting. They are not beaten up as racial inferiors. There is no racial antipathy. Rich people don’t count as aliens, as Muslims, as blacks, as migrants…</span></p> <p><strong>You mean there is also class hatred…</strong></p> <p>For the European poor, refugees are competitors on the labour market. They are considered 'welfare rivals', and the result is social and moral panic. But the anti-refugee hysteria is not totally crazy. The mass influx of refugees would be a great burden on the welfare system, especially in central-eastern Europe. These are poor countries. </p><p>Of course, the problem could be solved. But when you see that our welfare system as it is now cannot take care of our own populations, can you imagine what will happen? The current Hungarian government is not able to sustain railways, post offices, elementary schools that have existed for two hundred years. People know perfectly well that their states are not functioning. The panic is explained by the conservative intelligentsia in culturalist or openly racist terms, although the real problem is the depletion of the welfare state, of social solidarity and a rigid, anti-popular class politics. </p><p>Racializing and ethnicizing social inequalities is the oldest tactic of the bourgeoisie. In America, “unemployed” has been made to mean “black”, in eastern Europe, “unemployed” means “Roma” or “Gypsy”. Recipients of&nbsp; “welfare”, of unemployment benefit, of social assistance of any kind are classified as “criminal elements”, “single mothers” (i. e., “immoral women”) and, again, coloured people. Even indigents, members of the underclass are tolerant of the destruction of the welfare structure which is clearly advantageous to them, because it hurts racial aliens.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>What should be the reaction of the left to this state of panic?</strong></p> <p>If we had a compassionate and egalitarian welfare system, we could enlarge it, and accept refugees. But at the same time, let’s be fair to ourselves. Am I or are you responsible for the dismantling of the welfare system? The responsibility rests with the ruling classes and political elites of the last thirty years. And if someone says, “You cannot just open the frontiers because you will destroy the fabric of society”, you can reply, “The fabric of society has already been destroyed, and this is why it is so difficult to welcome refugees. And this is the fault of the establishment”. </p><p>Unfortunately, it is my generation that created this 100% capitalist utopia in east-central Europe that does not exist anywhere in this radical form, certainly not in the west. The Czech Republic is more of a market society than Austria or Britain. Unlike what the liberals say, the rule of the market in&nbsp; east-central Europe is absolute and complete. If we are so-called serious intellectuals, we have to be objective, and recognize that our societies are facing insoluble problems. How can people show solidarity in a system which is not solidary at all, which is selfishness itself? Many politicians in today’s Europe, especially on the far right, promise some sort of welfare state, but only for 'hard-working', home-grown, respectful white people.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">Racializing and ethnicizing social inequalities is the oldest tactic of the bourgeoisie.</span></p> <p>But the point is that they won’t do it. This is just talk. These are middle class movements that fear and despise the lower classes and the poor. They are open partisans of the class society – class warriors from above. They aren’t proposing anything new, they are just defending the repression, the exploitation and the injustice of today. Look at the situation in Poland or in Hungary. Have these societies had become more generous, more cohesive, and more collectivist at least within the white middle class? Of&nbsp;<span>course not. This is just rhetoric.</span></p> <p><strong>Why do the people still believe in their promises?</strong></p> <p>There is no real left. A famous quote says: every extreme right victory shows the failure of the left. And the remnants of the traditional working class have changed as well. 90% of the Austrian industrial working class voted for Norbert Hofer, the far-right candidate. But this is only 10% of the whole working population in Austria. </p><p>This has become a relatively privileged group, which is defending its own class position against competitors on the labour market – against refugees, against the unemployed, against migrants and against women who’d work for less. Voters are blaming women, ethnic minorities and migrants, instead of demanding to be integrated into a higher wage/dole/pensions system. But for being integrated into a higher wage system, you need a strong left social democracy, which does not exist.</p> <p><strong>Could a strong left-wing social democracy be created again?</strong></p> <p>Hardly. If a new left of any kind will come into existence, it will have to represent and to mobilize not only the remnants of the old industrial working class, but a much larger mass of people, the complete proletariat-precariat without capital property. If not, these people will become something like the ancient Roman proletariat. They will be kept alive by gifts, state donations, and spectator sports. They might become a reactionary force serving the interests of tyrants. That was the role of the 'proletariat' in the late Roman republic and the early Roman Empire. We may end up in a society torn apart by competing class egotisms that will be uglier than what we have now. </p><p>We are sitting here in the beautiful sunshine of Prague, it is quiet, pretty, and still there is peace. But so it was in June 1914. It was also very peaceful. The crash of whatever nature may not come today, it may come in ten years. But the system is highly unstable. That is the lesson of all of this.</p> <p><strong>Who are the main enemies of Europe today?</strong></p> <p>All governments of Europe, without exception. The riders of the apocalypse. They don’t know what they are doing. The conservative leaders of the past, however nasty they might have been otherwise, had some traditional sense of what you 'don’t play with'. You do not play with your country, however defined, just for the hell of it. Look at people like David Cameron, François Hollande, Miloš Zeman. These people have no idea, they’re just blundering around. This is really serious. Then look at all the decadence around us – the falling intellectual level of most institutions, the general cultural crisis and illiteracy of the middle class, including so-called professionals and so-called intellectuals. </p><p>We need a countervailing power to present-day capitalism in order to ensure, simply, the survival of humankind. Capitalism left on its own obviously cannot and will not do it. This is not the old and bad bourgeois system. It is much worse. </p><p>We must create new political structures, if there is still time for it. I am not at all certain that there is.</p><p><em>This article was originally published at <a href="http://politicalcritique.org/cee/hungary/2016/the-rule-of-the-market-in-east-central-europe-is-absolute-interview/">Political Critique</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/slavoj-zizek-benjamin-ramm/slavoj-i-ek-on-brexit-crisis-of-left-and-future-of-eur">Slavoj Žižek on Brexit, the crisis of the Left, and the future of Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/g-m-tam%C3%A1s/meaning-of-refugee-crisis">The meaning of the refugee crisis</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hungary </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Hungary Jaroslav Fiala G. M. Tamás Fri, 29 Jul 2016 13:17:49 +0000 G. M. Tamás and Jaroslav Fiala 104383 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The meaning of the refugee crisis https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/g-m-tam%C3%A1s/meaning-of-refugee-crisis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"One is reminded of the beautiful summer days of 1944, when tens of thousands of Jews were forcibly marched to their deaths through the streets of Budapest." <em><a href="http://kettosmerce.blog.hu/2015/09/22/tgm_a_menekultvalsag_jelentese">Hungarian</a>, <a href="http://www.criticatac.ro/28281/28281/">Romanian</a>, <a href="http://www.masina.rs/?p=1752">Serbian</a> and <a href="http://a2larm.cz/2015/09/co-znamena-uprchlicka-krize/">Czech</a>.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/unnamed.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/unnamed.jpg" alt="Graffiti from Serbia or possibly Croatia" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Graffiti (from Serbia or Croatia). Dragana Obradovic/The Balkanist. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>I am not qualified to write about the crisis which sends Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis, Eritreans and others to Europe. I know only what I read in the newspapers and in a few <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/world/middle-east/2015/09/syrian-tragedy-and-crumbling-world-order">specialist books</a>. But I have something to say about the crisis in which central and eastern Europe is plunged all of a sudden. </p> <p>This is not going to be especially entertaining. The situation is too serious for that. I am not in a mood to be wittily sardonic or particularly original about it. </p> <p>Brutal openness is called for. </p> <h2><strong>‘Real socialism’</strong></h2> <p>The story begins, of course, in 1989. ‘Real socialism’ – of which I was an opponent – imploded. What seemed a triumph for my generation of dissidents, was something else for the majority of the population. </p> <p>With the benefit of hindsight, it seems that not many people bothered to understand – except in constitutional terms: civil liberties and such – the system which we were so happy to see collapsing. </p> <p>Eastern Europe needed a revolution and a revolutionary tyranny in order to create – at an exorbitant price – an urban and industrial civilization in order to end a millennium or so of agrarian backwardness and personal servitude. Regarded from a Tocquevillean vantage point, ‘real socialism’ has merely finished the job of Habsburg and Romanov absolutism that started a modernist – that is, capitalist – development based on two sources: state investment and foreign (western) loans. Vienna, Hamburg and Paris banks had been behind the spread of manufacturing and the state supplied the infrastructure (railways, harbours, postal services, a modicum of elementary education, policing, a semblance of public order). This has not changed since the eighteenth century. After a prolonged period of autarky under Stalin, this formula has reasserted itself. The East European countries, under the cloak of the ‘cold war’ had been, from the 1960s, deeply indebted to the west. The régime had become profoundly conservative and increasingly nationalistic. You might believe that the main enemy was – at least ideologically – western capitalism, but no. The main enemy was (and remained) 1968 and the New Left which might have reminded people of socialism, buried by then under a second-rate consumerism. The official press ridiculed the civil rights movement in the United States. In the popular comedy programme of the state radio the phrase ‘…and over there, they beat the Negroes’, was greeted by loud audience guffaws.</p> <p>The idol of the state intelligentsia was not Marx, but Max Weber. </p> <p>Any objection to scepticism and relativism – such as asserting the value of revolt – was considered (not only by officialdom, but by middle-class opinion) ‘Bolshevik fanaticism’. Modern conservatism is not dogmatic, but sceptical. Prejudice was (and is) celebrated as tradition and spontaneity, theory was rejected as the weapon of dictatorship, hostile to a plurality of views and of genuine expressions of the national soul. A conservatism that was not different from <em>fin-de-siècle</em> Vienna’s individualistic pessimism, was (and still is) dominant. </p> <p>Until the 1970s, the supremacy of the state, propped up by foreign capital, resulted in profound changes, made possible by the obliteration of a very small capitalist sector between 1920 and 1925 in the Soviet Union and between 1945 and 1948 in the newly acquired territories and mostly by a newly built, huge modern economy.</p> <h2><strong>Urban societies </strong></h2> <p>The main social reality of old Eastern Europe – the large landed estates still owned by the aristocracy and by the Church, together with the abject misery of peasants – has disappeared without trace. These are urban societies, where most people, former peasants, later industrial workers, now ‘just people’, live in the enormous high-rise settlements constructed from the same blueprint everywhere from Shanghai to Ljubljana and Prague. They live there still, only the factories are closed down, and people are mostly unemployed or pensioners. The whiff of defeat is unmistakable.</p> <p>The remaining lucrative chunks of the state economy have been ‘privatised’, that is, simply handed over to politically well-connected oligarchs. The present prime minister of Hungary, a penniless student in 1989, is now the head of a vast mining, constructions and agrarian conglomerate, run by family members and political flunkeys. His predecessor and arch-rival, a poor young man at the time, too, is also a billionaire many times over. They have no business experience or business acumen, their fortune is a donation from a grateful nation.</p> <p>But most of the erstwhile state economy is a ruin, a rusting hulk of vast nothingness. Apart from the oligarchs, indistinguishable from the state, whatever activity can be noticed in these countries at all, is funded by foreign capital, foreign loans and foreign aid. Like a hundred years ago, the fierce nationalistic desire for independence is used by forces that would not dream of realising it, as they would not survive a single week without being totally dependent. A combination of resentment and hypocrisy&nbsp;<span>motivates the policies the results of which you can see on your screens.</span></p> <h2>Bangladesh with snow</h2> <p>How can such a society be held together?</p> <p>There are here, too, large cities where urban sophisticates have the same concerns as people in London, New York, Boston, Paris or Oslo. And rural pockets where 4 of our 9 million inhabitants live in utter dejection.</p> <p>A Bangladesh with snowstorms.</p> <p>Once upon a time it was illiteracy, nationalism, anti-Semitism, militarism and repressive pseudo-Christian religion. Later, under ‘real socialism’, a mixture of the welfare state and of the police state. (In spite of that, there was also a sense of equality and of a certain dignity of the working man – the gendered expression is no accident – and also a sense of gradual improvement, of progress.)</p> <p>Now it is, naturally, racism. </p> <p>How could you otherwise make people vote for the dismantling of the few remaining elements of social services and social assistance? How could cross-class solidarity (if you wish: ‘national unity’) be fostered? How would it be possible to convince the poor that an unprecedented inequality is in their own interest? Obviously, by presenting unemployment and social assistance as something pertaining to ethnic minorities – in eastern Europe the Roma, in central and western Europe the Turkish, Kurdish, Arab and African immigrants, in North America blacks and Hispanics – so, in the popular imagination, wealth redistribution appears as a favour to ‘foreign’ people. Liberals, unwittingly, contribute to this major political fraud by conceiving of the social question as a problem of ethnic or racial discrimination (which, of course, exists) and a problem of <em>rights</em>. Human rights groups and NGOs are the most hated ‘institutions’ in eastern Europe, according to opinion polls, especially among workers, because they are believed to have a bias against ‘us’ (and are financed by who else but ‘world Jewry’, called in the conservative Hungarian press, politely, ‘the global shadow power’). </p> <h2><strong>Class</strong></h2> <p>Hiding the reality and the importance of <em>class</em> in capitalism has always been the central element of all establishment ideology. (I wonder how many of the readers of <em><a href="http://www.klassekampen.no">Klassekampen</a></em> take the class struggle in its title seriously.) In the recent past, the primary political community supposed to transcend and supersede class was the civic nation bound in loyalty to the King and to the legitimate institutions of the state, with a peculiar stress on the Army and on the State Church. Now it is not the nation of all loyal subjects or citizens which is the focus, but the ethnic, racial and cultural or language majority in a given state (this is what I call ‘ethnicism’ – in contrast to the nationalism of the past – in my theoretical writings). The main political identity is white, ‘Aryan’, male and heterosexual. In spite of what liberals and socialists might think or say. The only great historical competitor of both nationalism and racism has been class, as defined by the international workers’ movement – in this respect (and no other) the world historical heir to Christianity. </p> <p>In the absence of international socialism as the decisive political challenger to the present order and with the hollowing out of any effective idea of a civic nation and of a ‘constitutional patriotism’ propped up by the welfare state in the first two thirds of the twentieth century, the strongest political feeling is that of ethnicity and its defense. Both the threat from below (the ‘coloured’ of one kind or another) and from above (international finance, the American Empire or what have you), both from outside (migrants) and from inside (disloyal minorities bent on destroying ‘us’ or on destroying our ‘normal’ sexuality like the LGBTQ people) are felt to endanger identities that were once thought to be sub-political if that. </p> <p>In Hungary, the right-wing régime is meant to protect ‘us’ from the twin perils of Muslim jihadism and of the ‘New York-Tel Aviv axis’ (it is widely believed here that the latter is ‘sending’ the former into Europe in order to weaken and subjugate it), not to mention ‘Gipsy criminality’, a favourite term of the Right. (‘The Roma are the <em>biological weapon</em> of global Jewry’ and so on. But now quite a number of Jewish intellectuals are sharing the panic caused by the ‘Islamic danger’…)</p> <p>Nothing could be farther from the east European mind than the words of Jeremy Corbyn, the new Labour leader on Parliament Square in London calling the refugees ‘people like us’ and applying the basic principles of social justice on dark-skinned aliens also. Non-white and non-Aryan and gay citizens are not parts of the nation here, and maybe anywhere. A Hungarian conservative friend and colleague of mine asserted in a recent article on a popular website that <em>the enemy is Immanuel Kant</em>. (By Kant he probably means Marx, but no matter. You understand.)</p> <p>The massive influx of refugees from the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa to Central and Western Europe has thrown the continent into disarray. Both the incompetent, ignorant and badly paid repressive state apparatuses in Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary and the well-organised, shipshape, rich bureaucracies of Austria and Germany proved unequal to the task. With the exception of Hungary, they are hesitating between ‘Kantian’ egalitarianism and universalism and downright ethnicism, between humanity and cruelty.</p> <h2><strong>Orbán Triumphans</strong></h2> <p>As always, purposefulness and determination wins. The only European statesman to know his own mind is the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, whose ascendancy is one of the greatest disasters of Hungarian history. Mr Orbán is triumphant. His policy of zero immigration and of barbed-wire border fences wins. Border controls are now being imposed by Austria and Germany, where the governments are changing their stance by the hour. You can say that he is hypocritical – the Hungarian government has authorised a mysterious offshore company to officially <em>sell</em> Hungarian citizenship to wealthy foreigners for twenty thousand euros; most flats in my building in central Budapest are owned by foreigners; you are greeted in shops and cafés in my neibourhood in English as ethnic Hungarians are a tiny minority in the streets surrounding the Hungarian Parliament; American, Indian, Scandinavian, Japanese and Italian yuppies are the rule rather than the exception around here; Budapest, Prague and Zagreb are groaning under the weight of unbearable crowds of western tourists – but then nationalism has always been ambiguous and insincere and the new ethnicism is no different. </p> <h2><strong>Competitive immigration</strong></h2> <p>What needs to be understood is that there is such a thing as <em>competitive immigration</em>. East European countries could not survive without the emigration of their superfluous workforce to western Europe. A few years ago, the population of Romania was 23 million, now it is 18 million. In the last two years, 600 thousand Hungarians (of a population of 9 million) have left the country for Britain and Germany, mostly young skilled workers and university graduates. (There is an alarming dearth of doctors and nurses.) If they would be replaced by Muslim (and eastern Christian) refugees, that would mean an economic disaster as the aging east European populations – with a collapsing pensions and health system – cannot hope to make ends meet without remittance money from their grandchildren in the west. </p> <p>It is the vital interest of countries such as Hungary to stop the refugees while we are competing with them for western resources, for the domestic economy of Eastern Europe is a sad joke. Not only are people like Mr Orbán or the Slovak and Czech prime minister, Messrs Robert Fico and Bohuslav Sobotka unwilling to accept refugees – who are fed and clothed only by admirable and exhausted volunteers from their own depleted pockets – but they want to make sure that <em>‘our’</em> emigrants win the contest, easing thereby the burden on our barely existing social budget wherein unemployment benefit is available only to those who would enrol in obligatory public work (the wage is around €150 per month) organised and supervised by the Hungarian national police.</p> <p>That this is explained by wanting to preserve our so-called Western Christian heritage and to save Europe from committing a cultural suicide – and that this is, alas, believed by many people and it helps to mobilise support for the Right even by people whose elementary self-interest runs counter its policies – may sound ridiculous, but it isn’t.</p> <h2><strong>End of Enlightenment </strong></h2> <p>Ever since 1989, interpreted as the definitive end of the Enlightenment project, it is deemed impossible to deploy a moral criticism of politics, such criticism held in our anti-philosophical, romantic-reactionary cultures to be horribly Kantian and Marxist. The assertion of crude self-interest is sufficient to justify the evil legislation (making immigration a crime) and the state of exception <em>(Notstand, état d’urgence) </em>declared by the Hungarian government. (This is <a href="http://www.politico.eu/article/orbans-police-state-hungary-serbia-border-migration-refugees/">ably described</a> by Kim Lane Scheppele in <em>Politico.</em>) Denying the human rights of refugees – this contravenes Hungarian and international law, but no matter – , fencing off the Serbian and Romanian (and possibly the Croatian) border, corrupting the court system by forcing it to issue automatic rejection writs of asylum requests on a conveyor belt, denying explicitly the right of the petitioners to have these decisions translated in any language from the Hungarian has elicited some protests, chiefly from liberal lawyers and a handful of social scientists, but the bulk of public opinion is silent. There is some commiseration for the poor refugees and their small children, but almost nobody is prepared to welcome any of them amongst us. </p> <p>The justified and reasonable indignation of the Serbian and Romanian governments – far more tolerant and democratic than the richer Central Europeans, the so-called Visegrád countries – is ridiculed or, at best, ignored. World-famous luminaries such as Imre Kertész and György Konrád are more or less cautiously supporting the fake anti-Islamic hysteria whipped up by the Right. So do other respected pillars of society. The anti-Semitic and the philo-Semitic Right will finally be able to announce solemnly a merger.The moral atmosphere is irremediably polluted. </p> <p>One is reminded of the beautiful summer days of 1944, when tens of thousands of Jews were forcibly marched to their deaths through the streets of Budapest – and the cinemas were playing musical comedies, theatres staged merry operettas, good, clean fun was had in cabarets and night clubs and people turned to the sports pages, bored with war news. Music wafted from the open-air restaurants and cafés on the bords of the Danube, just like now. Men are admiring pretty young women in their scanty summer dresses and short shorts, there are poetry readings in fashionably run-down beer gardens. </p> <p>The end of the world would be scarcely noticed or it would be shrugged off as of no consequence whatsoever.</p><p><em>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking <em><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong></em> on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/caneuropemakeit">Facebook</a> and following us on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/oD_Europe">@oD_Europe</a></em></p> <p><em>This article was originally published by the Norwegian journal, </em><a href="http://www.klassekampen.no/article/20150919/ARTICLE/150919769">Klassekampen</a><em>, on September 19, 2015.</em></p><p><em>You can also read this article in <a href="http://kettosmerce.blog.hu/2015/09/22/tgm_a_menekultvalsag_jelentese">Hungarian</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.criticatac.ro/28281/">Romanian</a>, <a href="http://www.masina.rs/?p=1752">Serbian</a> and <a href="http://a2larm.cz/2015/09/co-znamena-uprchlicka-krize/">Czech</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/etienne-balibar/borderland-europe-and-challenge-of-migration">Borderland Europe and the challenge of migration</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/michal-simecka-benjamin-tallis/fighting-wrong-battle-central-europe%E2%80%99s-crisis-is-o">Fighting the wrong battle: Central Europe’s crisis is one of liberal democracy, not migration </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/rudolf-ungv%C3%A1ry/hungary-ruling-in-guise-of-democracy"> Hungary: ruling in the guise of democracy </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/eszter-krasznai-kovacs/looking-through-fence-hungarys-refugee-psyche">Looking through the fence: Hungary&#039;s refugee psyche</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/g-m-tam%C3%A1s/on-solidarity">On Solidarity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/people-newright/article_306.jsp">What is Post-fascism?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hungary </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Hungary Border crisis Borderland crisis G. M. Tamás Mon, 21 Sep 2015 06:59:34 +0000 G. M. Tamás 96145 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On Solidarity https://www.opendemocracy.net/g-m-tam%C3%A1s/on-solidarity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The idea of solidarity has its roots in the history of the workers’ movement, and as this is usually excluded from conventional tales of human endeavour, it is seldom understood.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/darian-meacham-francesco-tava/introducing-this-week%E2%80%99s-theme-old-ideas-for-new-europe"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/europe-very-idea_0.jpg" alt="Europe, the Very Idea" width="460" height="76" /></a></p> <p><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/darian-meacham-francesco-tava/introducing-this-week%E2%80%99s-theme-old-ideas-for-new-europe"><em>Europe, the very idea</em></a> is a series on the philosophical notion of Europe and what reflection upon it can lend to the sphere of concrete politics.</strong></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Quarto_Stato.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Quarto_Stato.jpg" alt=""Quarto Stato" di Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo." title="" width="460" height="249" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Quarto Stato" di Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo. Wikicommons. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>On the idea of solidarity many <em>bien-pensant</em> authors have written a great deal. Like ‘fraternity’ and unlike liberty and equality, it is considered soft and fuzzy, a matter of leading articles on national holidays and solemn anniversaries. As if it were not a concept.</p> <p>But it is. </p> <p>In a famous study, Jeremy Waldron has shown how the universalist notion of human dignity has its historical origin in the not very universalist – to wit, feudal – idea of ‘rank’, the dignity attached to status. </p> <p>The idea of solidarity has its roots in the history of the workers’ movement, and as this is usually excluded from conventional tales of human endeavour, it is seldom understood. </p> <p>What has ‘solidarity’ meant for the workers’ movement in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries?&nbsp; </p> <p>Looked at from the outside, the workers’ movement was a set of organizations for and of an exploited, oppressed and politically unrepresented class which was trying to improve its lot. </p> <p>It was, in particular, an attempt to introduce politics into an area from which it was legally banished. Modern, that is, bourgeois society is based on a series of separations. One of the most important separations – on which the social equilibrium, the balance of social forces depends – is the distinction between public and private. The public – the realm of the common good – is identified with the affairs of the state, the only realm in modern society where legal coercion is accepted and where obedience and deference to authority is obligatory. </p> <p>In the sphere of the private, in ‘civil society’, it is contractual, that is, free and voluntary acts that are the rule (private citizens normally don’t have the right to coerce fellow citizens into obedience). Such is the case, according to official doctrine, of labour contracts and, in general, of labour that is seen legally and jurisprudentially as a private affair between two contracting parties, the employer and employee, where money will usually change hands, going from employer to employee, for the performance of voluntarily assumed duties prescribed by contract, custom, technology and the like. </p> <p>The law is there only to ensure that the implied promise of performance is kept and that the agreed salary is faithfully paid. But the substantive and material content of the labour contract remains a private affair in which no ‘third party’ is allowed to interfere, as such an interference would hurt the freedom of contract, one of the fundamental prerequisites of any civilized, that is, commercial society. </p> <p>It is good to remember that once upon a time strikes were considered illegal precisely because they constitute a breach of contract. Moreover, they use violence – by closing down machinery or other technological devices etc. – to force one of the contracting parties, the employers, under the threat of financial loss, to change the terms of contract previously accepted. This is, of course, a disloyal and unfaithful breach of promise, a promise that people are supposed to observe under penalty of law.</p> <p>Why did the striking workers – apart from the wish to improve their economic and social position, e. g. to increase their wages, shorten their working day and improve their working conditions, including various social advantages, such as unemployment benefit, old-age pensions, paid holidays, social housing, free healthcare and the like – think that they were justified in changing the terms of a fundamental, perhaps constitutional arrangement essential for the inner peace and for the existing system of liberties? For it is undeniable that for secular bourgeois societies the system of separations is necessary for upholding individual autonomy, by making private life, private affairs and their framework, civil society, inviolable by political authority, in other words, by the state. </p> <p>Why did the workers’ organizations believe that it was morally permissible to use coercion, sometimes physical violence to force the employers (or the employers in general, the ruling class) to give up some of their privileges and advantages guaranteed by another fundamental right, the right of property? (This is why socialism was and sometimes still is seen as an enemy of freedom, a tendency to make politics, that is, the state, absolute and one which is bent on destroying the autonomy of civil society and of the individual.)</p> <p>Plainly, albeit discourteously formulated, they obviously thought that they were in some sense <em>morally superior</em> to their adversaries, which would justify coercive, sometimes violent, but in any case illegal tactics which have questioned the constitutional order, even one of its foundations, the customary distinction between public and private or, if you prefer, between politics and the economy (and the ‘social’). </p> <h2><strong>Moral superiority</strong></h2> <p>Let us examine this idea of moral superiority, which is of course alien to Marxism, but which has influenced the followers of Proudhon, Lassalle and Bakunin, in many respects more influential than Marx in the practical movements of the nineteenth century, and an idea revived in the anti-war movement after 1914, in the Russian revolution in October 1917, in the anti-colonial or ‘national liberation’ movements, and which has indeed coloured the Bolshevik version of Marxism for nearly a century. </p> <p>This fight for seemingly humdrum and mundane goals may appear as a rather poor reason for the kind of sinful pride affirming moral superiority.</p> <p>How could be such a feeling sustained?</p> <p>Bourgeois society was regarded by olden-time proletarian revolutionaries as a régime of selfishness. After all, liberal capitalism, especially its early version, was constructed as a régime of <em>self-representation</em>. Built as a clash of wills, a clash of interests, regulated, tempered and moderated by an overarching constitutional order ensuring that conflicts of interests would be conducted in a peaceable manner, decided by elections and court trials, where everybody’s rights will be respected, but otherwise the (peaceful) battlefield is open for all. </p> <p>Quite apart from the traditional advantages of the wealthy, of the well-educated and of the well-connected, this was held by the proletarians – even if it was not a sham or a fraud – to be quite contemptible, as it was governed by self-interest and decided by force, both damned by Christian morality. But what then was the difference? Were the workers not fighting for their own advantage or interest, just like the bourgeois?</p> <p>But the proletarians – an identification that was tantamount to being called a socialist, a communist or an anarchist – did not regard the class struggle as a zero-sum game or merely the aspiration for the lowly material advancement of a group of people united by their similar economic and social condition. They did not believe that they represented only themselves and their narrowly defined interest. Their own authentic aspiration could be told apart from the aspirations of the rest by the principle of <em>solidarity</em>.</p> <h2><strong>Solidarity</strong></h2> <p>This had many features. </p> <p>First, they did not recognize the uncoerced, voluntary character of the labour contract, the alternative of which, if you were unwilling to sign, was starvation. Hence, they did not recognize that labour was in the private realm and that as such it was not political. (This is the intuitive foundation of <em>every</em> version of anti-capitalism, even today.) So the fight for higher wages and for a shorter working day and working week had the dignity of politics, formerly the preserve of the upper classes, barring revolutions.</p> <p>Second, they did not recognize the absoluteness or exclusiveness of property rights as, in accordance with natural right, they regarded wealth as a source of obligation for the promotion of the common good (or of public interest) and thus subordinated to the superior claims of the quest for a better human society. (This is obviously also the claim of the ecological movements.) </p> <p>Third, in agreement with the young Marx, they believed that the working class heralded the dissolution of all classes, that it was the quintessential non-class, defined as an aspect of the human condition in which the self-interest of some would mean the end of all sectional interests and so, the emancipation of the human race. By opposing property and power, they did not want to acquire property and power for themselves, but to destroy property and power for ever and in all respects. This was not supposed to be reduced to a political interference in civil society, on the contrary: it was supposed to mean the obliteration of the duality civil society/state by putting an end to class/state coercion and to its law. </p> <p>Hence, this was <em>not self-representation</em> (this would be a miscontrual of old social democracy, in a way that has become familiar from current historiography, which has always been so wary of ideas) but a battle fought on behalf of humankind as such. </p> <p>And as this fight was always understood as unselfish, generous and heroic, as the fight of the weak against the strong, the virtues that went with it were similarly generous and heroic: they were essentially virtues of <em>self-sacrifice</em>. During and after strikes and rebellions, workers were laid off and thrown into jail: this was a badge of honour and a mark of the highest moral pride, always construed as suffering for a noble goal at the hands of the flunkeys of the ruling class – gendarmes, gaolers, professional soldiers, spies, scabs, snitches, prosecutors, judges, priests, bourgeois politicians, kings and journalists. Voluntary suffering for the noble goal is naturally also Christian in origin: it is the secular version of the idea of martyrdom. Also similar to Christian moral theology: this was the <em>proof </em>of the essential justice of the noble cause. </p> <p>And the highest proof was solidarity with other workers, especially that which took the form of <em>internationalism</em>.</p> <p>One of the main instruments of bourgeois society, then as now, is the cross-class solidarity of the nation – the main moral competitor to the workers’ movement. National interest was supposed (this is the bourgeois standpoint) to supersede ‘selfish’ and material class interest (the bourgeois interpretation of the proletarian stance) particularly in the way this supercession was demanded and expected in wartime. The proletariat had (or should have had) the effrontery to doubt the legitimacy of this claim, through three natural right-style principles, typically forgotten: </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; • equality between nations,</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; • friendship between peoples,</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; • world peace.</p> <p>In this, the workers’ movement was the true heir of Immanuel Kant, despised as an ‘idealist’ not only by the General Staff, but also by most political theorists, in the first place by Carl Schmitt, so much admired these days by the baddies. Kant’s assumption of ‘publicness’ as the sole guarantor of an international law conducive to perpetual peace is parallel to the demand of ‘publicness’ by socialists as regards labour and property. Perpetual world peace through ‘hospitality’ (not philanthropy, but right, says Kant) means the extension of regular democratic politics to a territory from which it was banished earlier. In exactly the same manner, socialism extends politics to civil society. </p> <h2><strong>The end of peace</strong></h2> <p>In his influential book about the crisis of the European Union, Jürgen Habermas acknowledges the changes in the official international doctrine of a universal rule of law after 1945 – in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the UN Charter and a number of national and regional constitutions, conspicuous among them that of the Free State of Saxony, which was accepted and enacted after 1989 – where it appears that the recognition of universal and equal dignity plays a role previously unknown. He does not spell this out in precisely these terms, but it is glaringly obvious that this development took place thanks to the influence of socialism, as it enjoyed its brief moment of international legitimacy immediately after the victory over the Third Reich. </p> <p>One of the institutions dreamed up to ensure peace at least in Europe – which is of course unthinkable without the cognate principles of ‘equality between nations’ and ‘friendship between peoples’ – was the European Union, or ‘Europe’ for short. </p> <p>There is no need for extraordinary acuity to discover that the most recent European crisis, not caused by but only made visible by the Syriza government in Greece, presents us not with a banal instance of the difference between theory and practice, principles and interests, but with a deeper and more worrying malfunction: this appears to be the renunciation of egalitarian principles on the international level, where once the idea of solidarity was injected into an exceptional historic moment. Now the ejection of solidarity heralds the end of international or, in this instance, European peace. Such a peace, already broken in the former Yugoslavia and now in the former Soviet Union (Ukraine/Russia) is nearing its conceptual and moral end, also within the narrower confines of the European Union.</p> <p>The disappearance of socialism from the political mix – and with it, of solidarity, acted upon as a principle, and not merely an empty emotional phrase in May Day speechifying – demonstrates the close of an epoch. It is the first time in European history that capitalism is alone, unresisted by socialism or, for that matter, by Christianity. The international solidarity evinced in anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism seems also defunct. </p> <p>There is no question, that the proud faith in the moral superiority of the solidary proletariat has become obsolete. Contemporary anti-capitalist protesters – sons and daughters of the middle class and of the intelligentsia or rootless bohemians of working-class ‘backgrounds’ kept alive by the bourgeois welfare system – do not advocate and practice <em>self-representation</em>, they are rebelling on other people’s behalf. But those people are strangely silent. </p> <p>Solidarity is a social ideal that always tries to become a politics. Its chances are slim.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://www1.uwe.ac.uk/hls/research"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/UWESocialScience.jpg" alt="" /></a></p> <p><em><span>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking </span><em><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong></em><span> on </span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/caneuropemakeit">Facebook</a><span> and following us on Twitter </span><a href="https://twitter.com/oD_Europe">@oD_Europe</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/people-newright/article_306.jsp">What is Post-fascism?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? EU Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics Europe the very idea G. M. Tamás Thu, 26 Mar 2015 09:23:08 +0000 G. M. Tamás 91531 at https://www.opendemocracy.net G. M.Tamás https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/g-m-tam%C3%A1s <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> G. M. Tamás </div> </div> </div> <p>G. M. Tamás is a Visiting Fellow at the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen in Vienna.</p> G. M. Tamás Wed, 25 Mar 2015 18:53:34 +0000 G. M. Tamás 91532 at https://www.opendemocracy.net