By Roberto Savio*
ROME, 29 October 2015 – The last elections of Switzerland and Poland, are good indicators of what will happen elsewhere in Europe, with an irresistible growing wave of refugees.
But for those who look for a holistic reading of the international mess, let us first make some crucial considerations, on whom there is a growing consensus. Let us put events in a larger framework.
The first, is that the present system of international relations and national governance is not functioning any longer. We are in a period of transition, but nobody knows to where. The left is without a manifesto, and the right is just riding the status quo.
The second, is that we are in a “ new economy”, based on the supremacy of finance over man’s production. Unelected officials, like governors of central banks, have increasingly more power than before.
This “new economy” considers precarious jobs as natural, social inequality as a legitimate reality, the market as the sole basis for societal development, and the state as inefficient and a brake to the private sector.
The third, is that political institutions have lost their gloss. No political party has any longer a youth movement. They are perceived more and more as self referent, consider ing citizens just as an electorate, and they are seen as more part of the system in power than spokesman of their citizens.
The cost of politics ( and corruption) is growing year by year, The coming american elections will cost over 4 billion dollars, and until now just 145 donors have paid more than 50% of the of the electoral campaign.
According to the London School of Economics, the cost of electoral campaign in Europe has increased by 47% in the last decade. In other words, many considers that we live now in a democracy that is turning into a plutocracy.
The fourth is that multilateralism is in crisis. United States has stopped to ratify any international treaty, from the Right of the Children , to the Law of the Sea. United Nations has been marginalized.
The regional organizations, like the African Union, Asean, or the Organization of American States, are notoriously toothless. And the European Union is going from an existential crisis on the euro ( Greece), into a more serious one, the refugees. The UK is leading a charge for devolution of powers from Bruxelles, that will create a precedent that others will invoke.
If those considerations ( among many others), are considered valid, then it is not difficult to understand that the european electorates are voting on the basis of political nostalgia, and lack of security. In front of an uncertain future, the dream to go back to a better past is strong.
Both the Swiss and Polish elections rewarded the party which wanted to defend the national identity against foreigners, especially Muslim, and the national religious traditions against the European values of sexual liberty, gays marriage, free abortion and decaying lifestyles.
The polish case is emblematic. Poland has been one of the greatest recipient of EU aid. East Europe did join the EU to get funds and support, but without any intention to give anything in exchange, as the refusal to accept any immigrant has made clear…
It is worth of remembering that until the financial crisis of 2007, xenophobic and rightwing partieswere marginal political entities in almost all of Europe.
In a short time, they have become important players all over Europe, even in countries known for their civic sense ands tolerance, like Nederland and the Nordic Countries.
It is puzzling to see workers and low income people voting for the National Front in France, in Cinquestelle in Italy, or UKIP in Great Britain., and now Peace and Justice in Poland.
What bring them to a xenophobic, right wing and antieurope party, is the dream to go back to a secure and orderly past. They do not want to vote for an uncertain future: they find more reassuring to vote for a time in which politics were national, there was not a faceless bureaucracy in Bruxelles dictating how to pack tomatoes , and a super national currency, the euro, maneuvered by unelected powerful bankers in the BCE in Frankfurt, with an hegemonic Germany dictating other countries.
It is also worth remembering that a large part of European citizens has yet to recover the quality of life it has before 2007. And that young people pay a disproportionate cost for a crisis originated by the finance, which has received for rescue much more money that any policy for employment, or for social recovery.
The dream of returning to the past is also the reason of the creation of the radical republican wing, the Tea Party, in United States, and the victory of Justin Trudeau in Canada.
Differences between United States and Canada have been strongly reduced by the outgoing Prime Minster Harper, and Canadians wanted to go back to the good old days of Pierre Trudeau.
And while the West has a golden recent age on which to dream, in the South of the world, nationalism, a twin of political nostalgia, is on the rise. This is the case of the countries with a glorious past, like Japan, with Abe, and China with Xi, but also of Thailand, India and Sri Lanka.
But for the West, there is a problem. There are now 60 million refugees, and in this figure there are not those who escape sex persecutions, like gays in Africa, or woman from Boko Haram in Nigeria; those who are forced by climate change ( an other 15 millions by 2025 according the UN); and those who escape hunger and dictatorships. Migrants is a term much more representative of the reality than refugees, which are for Europe those who escape from clearly recognized conflicts.
And the West is behind many of those conflicts. It is calculated that since Russia has intervened in Syria, there are now an additional 150.000 Syrians escaping the war. Demography is clear. Africa is going to become one billion people by 2030, and Europe would loose at least 15 millions people by then.
The law of physics teaches us what happens when an excess of liquid finds an empty space. The Europe we know, homogenous, white, Christian and tolerant is going to disappear. But it will not be without lot of suffering.
United States become a multicultural and multietnic country in over one hundred years. According to the records of the most important entry point, the isle of Ellis, 9 millions of Irish,Germans,Austrian and Scandinavian, did enter in the steamboat times, with more than 8 millions of Poles Bulgarians,Rumanian,Hungarian,Russians, and Baltics, and more than five millions of Italians and Greeks.
In a few decades, a total of 22.5 millions europeans become americans. Europe is not ready even to a tenth of this…
*Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.