Monday, September 29, 2008

From Wall Street follies to Austria's fears

The Wall Street crisis should mark the beginning of the end of an economic and social model that has dominated the world economy since at least 1981 with the rise of the Reagan conservative revolution and the rule of Thatcherism in the United Kingdom.
The Anglo-Saxon model of “free markets and unfettered capitalism”, as Inter Press Service John Lobe writes, has reached its limits.Which model will replace it? That is the really key question, as it was “the” question after the 1929 crash and the fall of the world into the Great Depression. Three options were opened at the time: communism, fascism or a radical renewal of the democratic model.

Franklin Roosevelt provided the best way to avoid the ominous trap of the choice between Communism and Fascism. The New Deal was the most decent and enlightened model that, as former editor in chief of Le Monde diplomatique famously said, “saved capitalism against the will of capitalists”. FDR much more importantly saved tens of millions of people from poverty and saved its country from the temptations of totalitarianism.
Thinking of this historical context, what could we expect from the current crisis? A return of Marxism? Some point to the renewed popularity of Marxism as well as to the rise of Die Linke, a gathering of former East German Stalinists and disgruntled West German trade unionists, in Germany, or of the leftist Socialist Party in the Netherlands?
But the trend might be as well as new popularity for fascism. Sunday’s election results in Austria, with 30% for the extreme right, might be an indicator of how voters might react to financial uncertainties and popular fears.

More than ever liberals and progressives in Europe and the U.S. have to mobilize to provide a reasonable and enlightened way out of the mess created by a system based on reckless greed and irresponsibility.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Un peu de sérieux/ Be serious

Summary: the U.S. media and politicians should talk about real issues and stop distracting voters. Progressives take the lead in pleading for serious discussions of serious issues.

L’espace public américain est pollué depuis longtemps déjà par des commentateurs qui exploitent les erreurs les plus minuscules, les lapsus les plus insignifiants, des candidats. Cette pratique résulte d’un système médiatique de masse qui privilégie la futilité mais aussi de stratégies très professionnellement mises en place pour éviter que le public s’interroge sur les enjeux les plus sérieux et les plus importants.

Cette tendance lourde de la scène politico-médiatique américaine s’est aggravée lors des campagnes électorales de 2000 et 2004, en grande partie sous l’influence de Karl Rove, chef de file des pitbulls du Parti républicain.
La campagne 2008, qui aurait dû se caractériser par une plus grande décence, plonge elle aussi dans le « négativisme », l’illusionnisme, le mensonge et l’insignifiance.
Le risque de cette dégradation du débat public est bien plus grand pour Obama que pour McCain et c’est en grande partie pour ramener l’attention du public sur les vrais enjeux que les progressistes et « libéraux » américains font un appel en faveur d’un minimum de sérieux et de décence.
Dans un éditorial, la directrice de l’hebdomadaire The Nation, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, parle de ‘l’insupportable légèreté de l’élection 2008 et propose les questions essentielles qui devraient être adressées aux candidats
Elle fait aussi référence à une campagne publicitaire menée par l’Institute for America’s future, dirigé par Robert Borosage, afin de ramener le débat électoral à la réalité.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sarah Palin, the American scarecrow

The U.S. does not need enemies to shoot into its own leg. It just needs Sarah Palin. The selection of the extremist Alaska governor makes a joke of John McCain’s claims to be a more reliable, more experienced, leader for America than Barack Obama.
Who in Europe even in conservative circles would not be scared of having to confront the terrible idea that Sara Palin might one day become the President of the U.S?

If in the current context of the U.S. political scene Sarah Palin might appear just “right wing”, by European standards she can only be described as extreme right. In Belgium she would belong to the far right Vlaams Belang, in Italy to the Northern League, in France to the ultra-Catholic wing of the National Front.
Sarah Palin is an insult to America. John McCain seems to bet on the stupidity and the bigotry of U.S. citizens. His choice is a fingers up at the rest of the world. As Jonathan Freedland writes in The Guardian now that we know the Republican ticket "the world’s verdict will be harsh if the US rejects the man it yearns for".
The U.S. public diplomacy service is already spending millions of dollars to repair the damage of the Bush administration on the image of the United States in the rest of the world. It will go bankrupt if it has to try to offset the world’s reaction to Palin’s moving into the vice-presidential mansion.
John McCain should have read Richard Holbrooke’s piece in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs. “Restoring respect for American values and leadership is essential – not because it is nice to be popular but because respect is a precondition for legitimate leadership and enduring influence”.