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Friday, March 15, 2013


Magpie writes a comment [see comments to Addendum] about a troubling piece by Yanis Veroufakis concerning the direction Europe is currently taking.  The burden of the piece is that between the two world wars, Europe descended into the hell of fascism, at least in part because of the effects of the depression, and there is reason to fear that Europe will again take that path.  Veroufakis has assembled a collection of statements that sound very much like what is now being said by supposedly sensible people in Europe, but turn out all to have actually been said by Nazis or Italian Fascists in the 30's and early 40's.  The effect is very chilling.

I am not knowledgeable enough to make any sort of reasoned guess about the degree of the danger of another descent into European fascism.  America's dark side is different from Europe's [not better or worse, just different], as we are seeing at this time.  I have some small confidence in my ability to read the American scene, but no confidence at all in my ability to read the European scene.  The one European country whose politics I have some familiarity with is France.  I am encouraged by the fact that France recently elected a progressive socialist government, at the same time that I am deeply troubled by the growth there of "fascism with a human face" in the person of Marine LePen.

It is so hard to have any impact on the direction of the American economy and society -- I cannot even imagine what I and others of like mind could do to affect what is happening in Europe.  However, this is a matter of the first importance, and I welcome comments from those with more knowledge than I.


Michael Rutter said...

There are certainly some worrying developments on the continent. The rise of neo-nazi groups in Greece of all places, and some resurgence of fascist groups in Italy and France. Most worrying of all is Hungary which has transformed from a pluralist liberal democracy into a one party state lead by a fascist government, which is making radical changes to the constitution and justice system to entrench its rule permanently, restrict basic liberties of its citizens, and introduce punitive changes to it criminal code including making homelessness a criminal offence.

See this guest post on Krugman's blog:

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I guess I should say Thank you for this comment, but it is really depressing. I confess I was not aware of what has been happening in Hungary. Seriously, thank you. At least we need to keep informed, even if there is precious little we can do.

Magpie said...

Thank you, Prof. Wolff.

I am really very worried about Europe in general.

In their effort to hold on to power, the current European elites are appealing to the same kind of games their forefathers used in their own time.

In Barcelona, Spain, for instance, the otherwise legitimate Catalonian independence movement is being used by the so-called Catalonian centre-right UiC (in power in Catalonia) to divert discontent. The image they sell is that Catalonia would be problem-free outside of Spain.

Back in Madrid, the deeply unpopular so-called centre-right PP, originally founded by former Fascists, uses the fear the Catalonian movement creates to consolidate its own power, being careful, however, not to precipitate an open confrontation.

But the federal government's caution does not sit well with some elements in the military, who are talking, now openly, of a coup and military intervention against the Catalonian separatists.

Meanwhile, what passes for the Spanish left is unable to adopt a unified stance, let alone articulate what that stance should be.

NotHobbes said...

Michael, you are right to identify Hungary in particular as a frightening example..

NotHobbes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Rutter said...

Fortunately in the UK, in part thanks to the unified efforts of both the left and right mainstream parties, the highest profile fascist and racist political parties have been thoroughly discredited in the public. A couple of years ago we were talking quite worryingly about the rise of the British National Party (successor of the National Front) and the English Defence League. Now the closest thing we have to a significant far right party is UKIP, but they are fairly tame in comparison to the aforementioned and are largely a single issue pressure group for the Tory party. Fortunately something about our politics here helps keep us immune to far right politics.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I have a sense, quite unformed and mostly intuitive, that the sheer size of the United States, and its regional, racial, ethnic, and religious diversity make it difficult for European-style fascism to get a hold here. God knows, it is not for any lack of crazies.

Will said...

"I am encouraged by the fact that France recently elected a progressive socialist government, at the same time that I am deeply troubled by the growth there of "fascism with a human face" in the person of Marine LePen."

OK, can we talk about that? (Disclaimer: I've lived in France and see it as a second home). I'm struggling to be brief.

What has the Hollande victory really achieved? Isn't the PS really just "good cop" for the eurocrats who are trying to destroy social democracy?

Rhetoric aside, which of Marine LePen's policy proposals were worrisome? I have hated the FN my entire adult life, but I must say that she seems to be a rising force, and that she doesn't seem nearly as retrograde as her father Jean-Marie was. Can her brand of right-wing populism really be classed with fascism? (To me, it looks much like the Republican platform from 1896 to 1950).

If currency union with Germany were to be destroyed, and France's autonomy in economic policy restored (and the hope created that Greece and the other countries might do the same), I would care little who had done it, so long as democracy and the republic survived. (For what it's worth, were I French, I would vote for the Left Front, and would have voted PCF through the 90s).

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Will, I freely confess that I do not have anything like your obvious familiarity with the French political scene, so I will happily defer to your expertise. We shall have to see whether Hollande can accomplish anything in France [or indeed whether he is really committed to anything worthwhile.] Again and again I am remined how deep is my knowledge of America, comparatively, and ho shallow my knowledge even of France.

Michael Rutter said...

The sense I have from this side of the channel is that almost immediately after taking office Hollande capitulated to the Germans on spending and has been legislatively incompetent in the implementation of his tax changes to the top marginal rate. I don't read much about French politics though.