Tariq Ali: The Rotten Heart Of Europe

Tariq Ali: The Rotten Heart Of Europe



really good to be in Zagreb again and what is especially good is to see that there is now a young generation which is questioning and which is challenging the so-called truths that have been established over the last 15 20 years because I am one of those old-fashioned people who believe that history is very important and you can't run away from it for too long it always comes up on you and so it's better to talk a bit about history otherwise you don't understand anything that's going on which is why it's it's important always to understand and learn from the past its mistakes and also some of its good sides now it's become almost unnecessary to speak about Europe today because all the mythologies that were created about Europe have disappeared very quickly and are disappearing even as we speak the last news we had from Athens is that the old decaying president of that Republic has failed to get a pro euro government going in that country so there will be new elections in Greece in June and the opinion polls from the latest I spoke to people in Athens today the opinion polls from Greece are very interesting at the moment syriza the new Left Party is at the top getting more votes than new democracy the fascists of the new dawn are down pisaq is further down new democracy is down so the development since the last elections in Greece has been very interesting and so we shall see and I will return to this subject but before that I want to talk a bit about the European idea what it how it developed and how its reached the stage it has now and I think it's important to stress that there were two visions of Europe almost from the beginning one was expressed by the conservative economist Hayek who didn't write who wasn't a important figure at the time but wrote that the only Europe that should be created as an economic Union the rest was pure fantasy and this should be a union of the free market that was not the dominant idea when Europe was created the dominant idea was that put forward by your money accepted by shall Tegel later on defended at that time by many within the European ruling elites and that was essentially a core Europe if a federal Europe a political Europe which could be an independent entity in the world that existed at that time the world of the Cold War and what they were very specific about especially the French but surprisingly to a certain extent even the Germans that diss Europe should not be engaged directly in the battles of the Cold War and it should not be aligned and tied to the United States of America being aligned to the Soviet Union was not even an issue but it should not be in other words the model they had of Europe was not unlike the Yugoslav model that existed in this region at the time of a non-aligned country a country which refused to take part in the Cold War or support one bloc against the other but which carved out a different space an independent space in the world and that was not exactly in the same way but in a similar analogous way the desire of the early founders of the European movement and the European idea so shall de Gaulle who of course was intelligent French nationalist but also a European in that sense so that this would be the only way to move forward with an independent Europe but the Europe which ultimately we got was not the go least idea of Europe or Mona's idea of Europe but the idea which finally gained currency was Margaret Thatcher's Europe an idea of Europe of the bankers Europe of the markets and this idea became extremely dominant in the 80s and of course reached fruition in the 90s and the result we can see you know till 2000 all the ideologues of Europe were essentially boasting if you read the stuff they write now it appears very shallow they were not in favor of too much democracy within the European institutions many of these ideologues went crazy when the French the Irish and the Dutch rejected the European Constitution and the main reason it was rejected by the French was because inscribed in the Constitution was a sentence which made neoliberal capitalist economic policies the dominant and the only acceptable systemic policy and the French government made a mistake in sending a copy of this constitution to every single household in France not that many people could read it or wanted to read it because it's a very boring document but people campaigning against it made sure they explained it to the French that was the most interesting debate in Europe the debate that took place in France because it involved large numbers of people which is why the referendum in France in the European Constitution the the people voting no one the Irish voted no the Dutch voted no at this point the European elite panicked and cancelled all other referendums the Germans weren't allowed to referendum the British weren't allowed to referendum because they were fearful that exactly the same thing would happen again so much for democracy and what was the result of these referendums the result was that the the will of the people if you like on this particular issue was ignored and they pushed through a new document which was more or less exactly the same so there has been in this type of European Union expanded essentially a union of markets from the beginning a very conscious attempt to keep the democracy in the Democratic side of it very limited all the key decisions are not made by the elected European Parliament which is why so few few people vote for it it's a joke you know a minority of the electorate votes for European Parliament elections and because people know it doesn't matter like many countries which vote to join the Union like you did not so long ago only 43% of the electorate came out and voted because they knew that the elites would push it through whatever happened didn't much matter there were no alternatives what to do but a majority didn't vote if if one looks at it in that particular form but this European Union then boosted itself and boasted it was incredibly narcissistic this is the way to the Future Europe is showing the future to the world very arrogant even towards the Americans in the sense that we can show a better capitalist future to the world than the United States can do and that has now come to an end that particular period I don't want to bore you I could quote to you statements from British ideologues from German philosophers like Jurgen Habermas the most distinguished of Germany's philosophers completely tied to the European elites and defending them to the hilt and boasting about them so that was the the and where is a new look even before the crisis you know there's a pre crisis Europe in a post crisis Europe even before the crisis the figures are very interesting had 2000 at the Lisbon summit they promised to create within 10 years the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world it was a post they couldn't do it and the growth rate of the EU lagged well behind that of the United States and China it's quite an interesting figure this that two fifths of all American scientists two fifths that is four hundred thousands scientists were born in the in Europe why do they go there if Europe is so dynamic the labor cheap labor in China of course you know that you can't blame Europe for that's just a fact at the moment that the average wage in China is twenty times lower than the average wage in most of Europe they're also clearly affected the capacity of the European economies and then the German economy recovered incidentally not so much by export oriented by producing an export-oriented economy which played its part but by repressing wage levels in Germany for seven or eight years much more than France and Britain and other countries and that repression of the German wage level was actually carried out by threatening them with cheap Eastern European labor saying we can get Slovaks to do the same thing for half the price you want us to go there threatening we can get all our clothes washed and hotel clothes washed and medical sheets washed in Poland just across the border for half the price you charge you want us to do that so this constant fear in blackmail got the union's scared and they repressed wages German wages were very serious severely repressed and that is also a basis of the the development of the Germany economy not just exports it's important to remember this and then you look at what was the foreign policy of this European Union how was it different from that of the United States that this had been their boast we will create a new European policy which will appeal to the whole world when it came to the crunch at key moments in world history over the last 25 years the European Union capitulated time and time again the only time it acted independently of the United States unilaterally it made a huge error in my opinion that was when Helmut Kohl unilaterally recognized Slovene independence without consulting anyone else in Europe level on the other parts of Yugoslavia and effectively triggered in my opinion the main external factor of the breakup there were internal factors there were economic factors the IMF but the main external factor was German unilateralism in relation to breaking up Yugoslavia had they not done that had they thought discussed with others discussed with people within you got the former Yugoslavia there were other alternatives open to what finally happened a bitter conflict the emergence of small nationalist in the worst possible sense of the word balkanization that was not necessary it was not genetic it was not preordained it was the result of concrete political and economic decisions which then impacted internally and created horrors you know we know these horrors we don't need to talk about them especially to an audience such as this but it wasn't automatic and the breakup in my opinion has been a disaster story it's not been a good thing and as the crisis deepens it will be felt more so that was the only time that the big state in the European Union made a unilateral decision after that they never tried again this blackmailing of Greece not to quit the eurozone is a common it's not just the Germans who are saying it it's the Sarkozy was certainly saying it while he was in power backed by the British government all the three big powers of the European Union were trying to put pressure on Greece don't do it and it was foolish as we will see in a very short space of time now after the new elections it's very interesting that the debate in Germany is within the official media is more advanced than the debate on Greece in in the Greek media in which there's an atmosphere of fear created by the Greek media warning Greeks what will happen to you if you quit the hallowed eurozone as if the euro is existed forever or as if take nothing they can do interestingly last week's to Spiegel had a long text telling the Greek people it's in your interest to quit the eurozone don't listen to our politicians and the IMF which is hardly a radical organization has said that there will be two years of turmoil but after that the Greek economy will be stronger than it is now if it quits the euro that's the IMF position so this you know sacred status given to do to to the euro is ridiculous because what Greece needs desperately at the moment is devaluation like Spain like Portugal and you can't do it with this present system in force where the European Central Bank is less flexible than the Federal Reserve in the United States less flexible in what it permits and what it doesn't permit if you look at European Union's foreign policy in relation to the recent Wars it has completely backed the United States with the exception of Iraq where they didn't support the war but the minute Iraq had been occupied the Germans and the French voted for the UN resolution in which you know accepting the occupation regime and collaborating with it fully so even that was a very short-lived affair and in Afghanistan you know there are many countries and many soldiers involved in trying to win a war which is completely unwinnable but let's leave the wars in these countries aside for a minute we can return to it if you want what in my view has been utterly appalling and atrocious is the way in which the European elites accepted to and were dragooned into very quickly without any opposition of participating in the imprisonment in the rest of citizens and sending them to torture chambers that happened in Germany under the you know brilliant foreign minister ship of Yosuke Fischer who is worshipped as a great European statesman he presided over that in Germany and there were German citizens of Lebanese and Turkish origin picked up in different parts of the world sent to Guantanamo who later on had to be released not just because there was no evidence against them but they had arrested the wrong people and tortured them and they were tortured on planes coming from Asia and then sent back to be tortured in other places the Polish at least said no no we won't send them anywhere else we'll build our own torture chambers to torture them they're always original the poles in some way or the other the Croatian government collaborated with that as Giri ins were taken out of Tuzla no one knows whether they were innocent or guilty no one knows was no one cares handed over sent either to be tortured in Afghanistan or the other countries where they used to be sent to be tortured was Egypt Jordan Pakistan torture centers where the people were experts in torturing they had been after all doing it for 30 years to their own people so a few guests who are sent by the United States to be tortured it's not a problem at all and one of the people being tortured in Egypt just let me remind you of this he was being tortured and he suddenly you know came to consciousness again and the guy who was torturing him was the vice president of the country who later became vice president Suleiman the head of the secret police and who loved torture himself he said why should ordinary people do it I will show them how to do it this is the guy the United States wanted to replace Mubarak with and who what who wanted to be a presidential candidate but it became too much of a scandal the generals had to say it would be a scandal if a torturer even the generals in Egypt recognized that and the Europeans collaborated with this so where is all this talk of human rights and norms when there is full and complete collaboration with a crazy policy which was called the war on terror a war on terror can never be fought precisely because terrorists are not us not state actors there are groups of individual groups of people who decide to carry out dramatic acts to shape public consciousness they're wrong in my opinion I don't agree with them tactically at all but it's foolish to invade and occupy countries to defeat them and now we know they can't defeat them Osama bin Laden who wasn't on top of the most wanted terrorist list was living happily in Pakistan in a safe house provided by Pakistani intelligence just near the military academy 10 years he was living there took finally they found him and then instead of crying him they executed him and America saw this on the screens and kids ran out onto the street saying we got him we got him as if they were extras in a bad Hollywood movie and there is a Hollywood movie being prepared which will probably be shown in November or December to aid the re-election of the President this is a world we live in there are no norms in this world despite all the talk of norms and the talk of human rights and to Europe's eternal shame it collaborated with all this some were worse collaborators than others but mostly all of Europe collaborated the elites of course the citizens didn't even know about it because citizens in Europe are by and large regarded as children who should stay at home do their duty come out and vote once every five years for will agreed parties and then go back home watch television go shopping even if they can't now afford to buy anything at least go and look at the shops from the outside and foreign policy and domestic policies conducted behind closed doors by and large not in front of the children we don't want to get them too upset but that system now is breaking down and what has broken it down has been the crisis of 2008 what was this a crisis off it was a crisis of the economic system which we call neoliberal but which as jiseok and i were discussing a few days ago is capitalism it's the current phase of capitalism and this system collapsed in 2008 and with it should have collapsed the entire set of policies that flow from it privatizations deregulation which your croatian government is still going ahead with as if it's fast asleep it did it to some factories here in broch not so long ago doesn't realize that that system is finished you can't carry on functioning like that anymore but those who make policy in Europe and the United States haven't woken up and one reason they hadn't woken up up till now because there had been very few upheavals from below but now with new movements developing and new movements arising they are forced to take notice they can't totally ignore that the changes the sort of dramatic explosion of the center in Greece is a result of general strikes you know Quattro for 300,000 people marching in laying siege to Parliament in Athens in a country of 10 million people demonstrations in Greek cities large and small demonstrations in villages that is what has created the mood and the atmosphere in which syriza can rise in topple the two main parties because what this particular model capitalist model has encouraged in my opinion is an institutionalized depoliticization of the masses and this has been carried out with a decreasing democracy in democratic accountability so what we have had in many parts of the world the United States it's been there for a long time but in Europe it became very systemic to is the political impact of this new capital has to create what I have defined as an extreme Center an extreme Center which encompasses both center left and center right who differ on cultural things but on all the key things of the day they tend to agree as we have seen in Spain as we've seen in Greece as we've seen in France we will see what Hollande will do I have to be honest I'm glad Sarkozy was defeated I'm not totally optimistic unless they are huge mass movements which push and push and push and push so this extreme center has existed in European countries why do I call it extreme it breaches austerity it punishes its own people it breaches civil liberties it locks up people without trying them and it is in favor in most cases of occupying countries that's what it does what else is extremism and this extreme center has cracked open in Greece that's the first break and there are possibilities in other countries too if people mobilize mean the campaign of the Left Front in France was very effective I thought they worried they should have got more votes but people were scared of letting Sarkozy in and many many good people voted suck voted Hollande in the first round but 4 million votes is not a bad score it's not a bad score and in other parts of Europe two new movements new groups are developing arising to challenge this the Occupy movement which started in the Arab world spread to the United States and is very strong in Spain not so much in other European countries is an interesting phenomenon it's interesting because people are deciding that they can take their future in their own hands but unless this public space which is occupied which is after all can only be symbolic unless they move from this to occupying political space and coming up with political alternatives there will be a decline in my view of the movement already in Spain the crowds are not so great as they were a year ago because people also know that immediately after the big in dog not occupations in Spain there was the election of a very right-wing government and you can't just think about one and not the other you have to think about how to use the strength of the movement they have to think in order to defeat the right and create a new space without that it's very difficult very difficult to move forward now what is the outcome likely to be what is the alternative in my opinion and the alternative has to be some form of socialism which actually challenges the system can't be done without that you know you can't have alternatives which constantly work within the within the dominant system no one's going to allow you to and the biggest problem here and this is you know something we have to face and discuss and we do it all the time but we have to we have to do it more and more publicly that there is a direct relationship between the socialism that once existed actually existing socialism as the German thinker Rudolf Barrow once called it which he didn't like we didn't describe as socialism as he wanted but what existed there is a direct link between that and the weakness of a socialist alternative today people don't want to return to that system for obvious reasons economically it was austere and backward largely because of where it happened the total output of those societies was constrained by scarcity there was a low productivity of labour politically most of those countries were dominated by authoritarian State apparatuses which took away civic liberties expropriated the rights of association and organization culturally you had an official monopoly of the means of communication a repressive regulation of ideas and exultation of the nation and the bureaucracy became the master of all social life now no one wants a return to that however there were other sites and aspects of these societies which many people today all over Eastern Europe and Russia you encounter who have memories of it that however faulty and defective the system was for the reasons I pointed out you also had a crude equality of sorts in which people had the right to a free education people had the right to a free health service to some very very extensively subsidized housing subsidized electricity subsidized gas water etc now if you look at today's world these are not small things so in a way you can describe those societies that existed nor as democracy but his social dictatorships and the dictatorial sides of that was rejected by everyone but the social sites we now miss it can be much much better than that and I've you know never even at the 80s and 90s when many people were falling like sort of moving away from anything radical like cotton floating in the air after a thunderstorm it was always wrong in my opinion to ascribe all the faults of the old socialist countries and these systems as flowing from the ideas of Marx how did they flow from the ideas of Marx this became such a dominant theme to create the new societies that everything associated of the past was considered unacceptable you know what Marx argued in his writings he never had a fully fledged plan for socialist societies but what he argued for his expectation was that socialist societies would be based on the economics of abundance not scarcity which is why he taught that countries like Germany in Britain and France were the obvious candidates for socialism that the political order of these societies would be based on a radical popular sovereignty that the producers of wealth the actual people who produced wealth would for the first time ever have the means of democratic self-government in factories fields municipalities and assemblies that culture would be diverse and variegated moving beyond all existing boundaries beyond capital and beyond nation that was the vision of Marx limited because he never developed it but very very clear in his writings that is a vision worth fighting for because we need it now and you know people say ah but we tried it and it failed there are two responses to that what you tried wasn't exactly that it was something very different but nonetheless it was an attempt and that attempt failed so it failed once how many times is capitalism failed in its history 6070 times over the last 500 years and people carry on and this last failure is now proving expensive because it takes place at a time when you have had massive deindustrialization preceding it where you have had financialization of a sort that could barely be predicted and where mass unemployment now stares a majority of young people in most European countries in the face each day and unless the left comes up with a vision which challenges this and which is prepared to take tough decisions what happens a vacuum is created in this vacuum people do all sorts of things some move to the extreme right I mean there are cases in Germany by the way of some of my friends from the old German SDS who are now ideologues for the ultra German nationalists right like Bernd Rebelle so it's not just you know you can't just blame ordinary people for moving in that direction many intellectuals have moved in that direction and this right which it now exists in most of Europe in Hungary it takes a very peculiar shape in a very vicious shape because it's in power or virtually in power but in it exists in many other European countries and you know while it's of course we attack it and we fight it and Melancon did this rather well in France recently when no other political parties were doing it but you have to understand that the right appeals to workers and to unemployed not primarily because of its racism it does that of course at which the extreme right is always done the problem is the enemies within in the 20s and 30s they were Jews today they are Muslims or immigrants from other parts of the world as the Greek fascists are today saying let's cleanse Athens of all immigrants they do all that but the more serious right-wing extreme right-wing parties also present a social and economic vision which is attractive to people because they attack the system they attack the elites they attack the way in which the system is organized to favor the rich and that is a message which people haven't been getting till now from the center-left because what happened in Europe in the 90s we know all about the collapse of communism but with the collapse of communism was the collapse of social democracy which was heavily dependent on communism in the existence of the Soviet Union in order to push through the reforms they did after the Second World War and the collapse of social democracy has meant that no other mass parties have emerged which defend even a social democratic program leave alone something more radical where this has happened is not being in Europe but in South America where parties have grown linked to large social movements come to power and then push through anti-capitalist reforms they may not have gone far enough but they have attempted to do something and they have managed to maintain popular support with this program which is why they have been denounced in the mainstream financial press the Financial Times The Economist The Wall Street Journal etc etc they have done it and what they have done there is absolutely no reason why this cannot be be be done in Europe but for that people have to be active people have to fight socialism as defined by Marx is going to be a long historical process you know disasters have taken place repressions deformations we don't need to rehearse the millions of victims of the purges in the Soviet Union the role of the secret police we know all that we have to say that this is nothing to do with socialism these are huge tragedies which were man-made in the case of the purges in the Soviet Union or the unintended consequences of crazy policies in China under Mao which led to huge famines that is something which one cannot accept has to be denounced but if you just stop it denunciation you never get anywhere else and that is all that happens ideologically within the domain of capitalist social relations and cultural relations today a constant attack on an enemy which has already been defeated they want to crush it and kill it forever but that can't happen because as long as capitalism exists as long as capitalism exists there will be attempts by people to fight for a better system whatever it's called how can people give up when a system that is based largely on preserving the rights of the rich and this has now become so clear that one doesn't need to stress it anymore I mean if you look coming back to the crisis of 2008 the entire ideological trust of this form of capitalism was the state is redundant can't be allowed to do anything certainly can't be allowed to help the poor can't be allowed to intervene in the economy mustn't own anything everything should be privatized and when their banks collapsed the state what did it do they went to the state please help us and the elites went to the states and trillions of dollars were poured in to sustain those very banks that had caused and created the crisis with the help of politicians the politicians and bankers you know Lennon once said let me shock you by mentioning his name Lennon once said and we used to think this was a very exaggerated phrase that in the ultimate analysis bushwa politics is little more than concentrated economics it was not true when he said it to be fair it hasn't been exactly true for some time but these days it feels very true that the symbiosis between the politics of the extreme center and big money and big corporations and big banks is so huge that democracy itself is under threat today this notion that capitalism and democracy are happy bedfellows it's not the case there are things which they don't tolerate hence the fear and the pressure on the Greek people to not to accept the verdict they themselves have made you were wrong hence the refusal to accept the votes in the French Dutch and Irish referendums hence when Papandreou in Greece for the first time the only thing he did in recent years which was sensible he said okay you're putting these conditions on us let me organize a referendum let our people decide he was called to Berlin and Sarkozy and Merkel went for him bullied him how dare you suggest a referendum how dare you do this in times of crisis so the way in which capitalism functions today is actually hollowing out the processes of democracy itself and it's extremely important to recognize and realize this because we have we will soon have to start fighting for democratic rights very very forcefully as we do in the case of civil liberties and we are ignored completely ignored saying that no one should be in prison without a trial you have laws in most European countries where people can be locked up for years without a trial there are people in Britain today who have been in prison for eight years without any trial and in order to justify this you have Islamophobia they're terrorists they're Muslims well ok prove them guilty then in a court of law doesn't happen and people who think this doesn't affect them will soon learn lessons the hard way when it's happened already when young kids were picked up of the streets during student mobilizations in beaten black and blue some were killed some were wounded over the last few years so the growth of the strong state is is visible everywhere and it's a direct outcome of the system it's a systemic it's a result of the capitalist system today which doesn't actually want too much opposition and you know I have heard with my own ears Texan billionaires all billionaires talking about how good the Chinese system is and I I was giving a talk in Iraq at Houston and I heard this off afterwards at a dinner they were all against the war in Iraq which was nice but they said you know the Chinese don't have to bother with trade unions and all this they just get on with their job and you know produce this stuff and look how well they are doing so there are temptations along that route I mention China because it's not just Europe in America now which dominate the world economically the the biggest and most important development of the 21st century has been that the center of the world market has shifted eastwards and China is today the workshop of the world producing enormous amounts of goods and if it carries on without a crash which I'm not sure it's going to be the case I think the Chinese economy according to all the economists is getting overheated according to Chinese economists and there will be crashes though because of heavy state presence in the economy they can always pull some things back so it will probably won't be worse but it can't carry on like this but even if it carries on at half its existing capacity what will be the price of German exports in five years time six years time the Chinese will be doing it all themselves so these are things which need to be said and which need to be discussed in the narcissists who have been running the European Union and the elites which dominate in rule Europe at the time have not been able to do it I mean I it's very difficult to find even within the right you know any single politician of vision Europe interestingly enough was much more independent immediately after the Second World War if you look back to the war in Vietnam not a single Western European country participated in that war some could have they didn't they choose not to in the 70s during an American raid on some Arab country I think it was Libya the British government conservative government refused to allow British bases to be used for planes to take off on that bombing mission the French did that same in the case of another war so curiously enough Western Europe was more independent at the time what about Eastern Europe Eastern Europe the mythology now is as follows the big problem that happened in Eastern Europe was a result of the Second World War and the fact that it became part of the Soviet bloc it's a it's attractive mythology to the new elites in Eastern Europe but there are a few other points which need to be made which is that the differences between Eastern Europe and Western Europe go back to the days of the Roman Empire if you read accounts the west of Europe gained much more for a long long time than the East the East never developed the native feudal order from which Urban development's grew and accrued by and large then you had the nomadic invasions then you had big empires which took the East the parts of these the Romanovs the Austral austro-hungarians later the Germans the Ottomans four or five empires occupied parts of Eastern Europe you can't just say it was linked to the Soviet Union after the Second World War wasn't it's been historic thing so it was a great opportunity to unite Europe I think I like that side of it to equalize to try and equalize Eastern Europe and Western Europe but the state of Eastern Europe has been of the major countries of Eastern Europe that after having been satellites that was the common word of the Soviet Union since 1945 you would have thought that some of them the new rulers would like to be a bit independent of big powers but they moved easily without pausing for breath to becoming uncritical satellites of the United States of America backing its Wars sending troops to fight in them many of the dissidents of the Eastern Europe at the time became the pillars of new society but Slav Havel disturbed watching a wonderful opera in Prague and an aid whispers the Americans have decided to go to war in Iraq what's our view he says we support it and carries on watching the Opera Adam Michnik a whole layer of Polish intellectuals likewise so Eastern Europe went in the other direction very quickly and the Germans might be the biggest investors economically in many parts of Eastern Europe which they are but politically the leadership's of Eastern Europe are dominated by American policy wants in policy policies and it is not the case that the bulk of the polish people or the bulk of the Czech people supported these Wars or wanted missile stationed every opinion poll showed that as far as popular opinion was concerned Eastern European citizens were not so different from Western European citizens in opposing these Wars but they were ignored by the elites and were incapable of challenging them and now the challenges are beginning to be seen there have been demonstrations in the Czech Republic there's been a huge student movement in Croatia which was a very important student movement it was one of the first student movements in Europe with very advanced progressive demands which were appreciated and admired in different parts of Europe so a change slow change a perceptible change is visible we can see it taking place and one has to take that further but in order to move further we have to avoid a big problem that has happened under globalization and that has happened especially within the European Union and the way it functions it is that each particular small state which is part of the European Union or even big states have become prevent relized they are far less internationalist far less engaged far less interested in what's happening next door everything is seen through the object of a big power whether it's Germany in Europe or the United States globally and lastly one has to at the very least raise the question of who decides who should be in the European Union the Russians can't be members of the European Union why not the Turks can't be members of the European Union why not given the big decision by the United States to make the European Union so big and push for getting more and more members in from their point of view to make Europe you know make a sort of neutralise it as a potential rival politically they did that but they did it very carefully though to be fair the Americans are in favor of Turkish entry into European Union on this the Germans won't agree but what about the Russians now it could be argued that the new way of people joining the European Union which is being a pattern now since the Yugoslav war is that first you join NATO then we will see how you behave and after you have been in NATO for some time the next phase is membership of the European Union that's what they did with Poland that's what they you know when they expanded NATO to the outside Russia the Russians actually said we want to join NATO too please let us join NATO but they were not allowed to do so why because they're too large a power because they feel they can't be controlled but that would be good if you think about it logically because it would create more space for debate and discussion within these organizations it would not make these organizations like NATO a unilateralis torgan ization which has to do carry out a decision to go to war when the United States and Germany agree or the United States and France and Britain agree that would be good but it's not done so even the way in which the European Union is organized today and who it lets in and who it keeps out is very revealing of the ideas and the thinking of the elites in Europe today now it's not a pleasant picture and the fact that these elites have proved incapable absolutely incapable of coming up with real solutions to the economic crisis by which I mean solutions that benefit ordinary people that benefit the majority of their own citizens they have not been able to do that so these elites clearly have to be replaced they are not good how are they to be replaced this is the Bay again which we started a few days ago in which people have been discussing can they only be replaced through parliamentary methods so far it seems to be the case because one of the lessons we have to learn or relearn is that it is possible to create alternative institutions they have after all existed in history before and I don't just mean during the Russian Revolution I mean in Bolivia in the 70s when people were fighting for democracy at tiny andean country they created a popular assembly where peasant leaders representatives trade unions miners of all the descriptions sent elect and political parties sent delegates to this popular assembly to discuss the future of their country I was really hoping that given the roadblocks in Greece and Spain that this would be a possible direction in which the movements could be taken if they were blocked well in Greece syriza broke through the blocks and moved created a new atmosphere fine in Spain that hasn't happened as yet but one has to rethink now the fight for popular institutions of popular sovereignty which isn't simply the existing parliament in the country I say we have to think this because the way in which the European Union is going is going to make these Parliament's more and more dysfunctional in the way in which real policies are being carried out you know I boarded a plane from Brussels where I was giving a talk to come to – to Zagreb and the plane was packed with young schoolchildren from Croatia and I asked one of the teachers what were you doing why so many of your kids and they said oh we were on official EU tree to Brussels to see the European Parliament and to see the institutions of Europe I said what did you learn I said did you tell the kids that this European Parliament has no power at all and the teacher who said no I didn't tell them that I said well you know it's a reality you should have told them this is a Parliament it looks very nice it has quite a lot of money it's members of parliament are paid quite a lot but they have no power at all all the decisions are made in that little office called the Council of Ministers and the council of ministers of the European governments use this structure sometimes even to circumvent their own Parliament's at home by taking decisions saying this is a European decision there's nothing we can do about it in ramming measures through their Parliament's at home so sending children to learn what the institutions of Europe are in Brussels is much worse than dressing them up it's young pioneers to sing songs on Tito's birthday at least that didn't harm anyone but the model is not so different if you think about it and where is it all going to take us this of course is dependent on all of you on us on citizens on the new generations that are rising and growing up and beginning to ask more and more questions of why this has happened of what existed before it or was everything bad that we argued for before and how in this age we can move forward look there are no certainties one can't predict with certainty what is going to happen except one thing that the capitalist system is not capable of supplying the needs of a majority of people in the world today and this effects everything this affects any policies on the ecological level people say what will happen to our grandchildren great-grandchildren and their great great red children but we don't know it could be bad because the only way policies on the ecological front can be changed and reshaped is if there is some element of planning in society planning within States interstate planning planning on a global scale otherwise how can anything effective be done on the ecological front we're turbocharged capitalism is destroying the ecology at a rapid rate there's been a huge huge increase in it Karl Polanyi in his very great work the the great transformation assumed when he was writing that book in the late 40s that the world could only move forward he was a social socialist a social democrat of Polish origin lived in North America sorry I stand corrected a Hungarian and a very very important figure intellectually and I think it's one of the best books to be written in that period about what would happen to the world unless his future got defined and then unless the world move more and more in that direction well he alive you know leave alone marks were pollyana alive and to see the world today it has regressed from what people like him thought at the time and this is why the new movements that have arisen and the new generations that are coming into activity in times of grave social and economic crises will of course learn through their own experiences and all I can say is that let's hope that the generations to come will avoid the mistakes that have been made by the left in the power we'll learn from those mistakes and we'll develop or to struggle for a form of society which transcends both the existing capitalist order and the so-called socialism's that existed in the 20th century thank you you

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11 thoughts on “Tariq Ali: The Rotten Heart Of Europe

  1. The problem is described quite accurately, elite dominance, infantilisation of the masses etc but the solution is not necessarily socialism, but independence. The Brexit movement is a fight for independence from a totalitarian EU and should be supported by left and right. The left has been conned into thinking that Brexit is a right wing idea. Could not be farther from the truth. Brexit is a resistance movement against globalisation anf fascism

  2. >> if France, Germany, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries had formed the core of Europe with a clear social and economic politics that would not be neoliberal. And then any country that would want to join them, would have meet to these conditions.

    This makes a lot of sense … but I wonder why he left out Britain?

  3. Mr. Ali, I have been following you for almost half a century and always admired your commitment to the leftwing idea. Good work with a passion.

  4. Tariq Ali talks about the necessity of learning from history. Can't he look at the film clips of the WWII extermination camps, the destruction of European cities that were architectural and cultural masterpieces, the deaths of 100m people, men women and children and understand that if we don't get unity across national boundaries history will repeat itself, but this time the contesting parties will be using nuclear weapons. Brexit is a disaster. However, the warnings about Britain's lack of commitment to the European ideal have been there from the outset of membership. British politicians have blamed all their failings on the EU. Therefore, it's no wonder that a majority voted to leave.Moreover, the Remain Camp on both sides of the political spectrum fought a very half hearted campaign and the reaction post Brexit by the Remain Camp has been muted. The Leave campaigners fought for their ideals, the Remain people sat on the fence and did nothing of consequence. Perhaps Europe is better off without Britain, but, is Britain better off without Europe? On Greece. Greece has always been a basket case of imposed monarchies and military dictatorships relying on foreign intervention and support from Britain but largely from the US. Its economy had no chance without proper fiscal controls which were lost with the advent of the EURO. Low interest rates gave foreign buyers a field day in the snapping-up of cut price Greek assets, feeding a bubble boom that couldn't be contained once the collapse came.Similar situations maintained in Ireland, Portugal and Spain, but these economies were in better shape to survive the austerity measures imposed by the ECB.Had Greece opted to not take the EU's offer, it could well be in a similar state to the Venezuela we see today.

  5. So brilliantly clear in this ideas. Thank god such thinkers will always prevail and pierce the mist of hysterical reactionism for those who will listen.

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