Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Interesting times

They have their 'Fiscal Compact' now, imposing and enforcing strict budgetary disciplines on the signatories, though Britain and the Czech Republic have stayed out. Mind you, the ratification process has yet to begin and I doubt whether it will be plain sailing as events continue to threaten storms.

The whole Euro crisis has prompted a debate about there being a democratic deficit within the European Union. The usual talking points are around the unelected technocrats leading the Greek and Italian governments and the issue of national sovereignty. But this treaty shows where the main threat to democratic government lies. Democracy is more than a process of swapping the people or parties in power. It is about changing public policy and priorities and, above all, about alternative political economies. The response to the Euro crisis is not just a question of dealing with the technicalities of trade imbalances, sovereign debt and the institutional architecture of monetary union; it is ideological, in the sense that the attempts to resolve the crisis are informed by a particular model of political economy. And a single model is now to be legally embedded as the only one permissible. Where then is the possibility of democratic change?

You hear the cry everywhere, 'they are all the same'. This treaty means that they have to be. A blanket of orthodoxy has been thrown over the continent of Europe and, even if it is smothering the people, international institutions are doing their best to fasten it in place. The trouble with sameness when people are crying out for difference, is that it opens the door to those that really are different, if eerily familiar to anyone who knows about the dark corners of the 20th Century.

And in that way, the real European crisis is not taking place in Greece, Ireland, Spain or Portugal - yet. It is in Hungary. And if you need to be convinced of the ugliness of the events there, watch this video, think back to those earlier, faded photographs of people dressed in black shirts, wearing those same thuggish smiles, and remember what they brought to an earlier Europe, one that was also facing an economic crisis.

Thanks to George for the Hungarian links, keep an eye his blog for more links and updates.

1 comment:

Anton Deque said...

Thanks for your thoughts Peter. I do not think as yet many people I discuss these matters with show any understanding of what is happening. It is as though the velvet plush and low lights deceive one; this is a theatre is it not? No, it's a bit more worrying than that actually - a funeral parlour.

It was never going to be 'just' about economics, never was and cannot be. In train with 'austerity' and fiscal restraint, comes unemployment, social discontent; comes too inevitable social ills, prejudice and victimisation leading the way. The 30s are coming back.