The ever greater audience of extreme right – or downright fascist – movements in the very heart of “Old Europe”, the victory of the Brexit in the United Kingdom and the election of Donald Trump in the United States are troubling developments.
And rightly so. Even if, in the United Kingdom, those voting for withdrawal wanted, above all, to signal their rejection of a European Union in the service of multinational corporations and high finance, the campaign for a YES stank of xenophobia. And a considerable portion of the United States electorate was apparently at ease with Trump’s particularly nauseating diatribes. Wall Street promptly deciphered the message of the future administration: share prices, especially for the banks, have been vigorously climbing since December!
Shouldn’t these signs – nationalist, chauvinistic, reactionary, racist, xenophobic, sexist, bellicose – parading before the public without the slightest compunction, inspire fear, especially in Europe, while a significant number of youth appear to be unaware of what happened in the 1930s?
Most certainly. It is all the more disturbing that elsewhere the ascendance of fascist Hindu nationalism and the effervescence in many places of identity crises among salafist organizations, Whabists, jihadists, fundamentalists (however the media label them – this is not the place to analyze them), all of them as much murderous and reactionary as manipulated and instrumentalized, are all still very much with us.
Do they not bode ill for the immediate future? Is it not reasonable to be disappointed, indeed discouraged?
Yet the millennium seemed finally to be opening unto a new era of change: progressive advances in Latin America; the prodigious progression of Podemos in Spain or of Syriza in Greece; the courageous refusal of the Greeks, on 27 June 2015, to give in to the financial oligarchies and decrees of the Troika; uprisings in Tunisia then in Egypt…
Was all that just a flash in the pan? The treason of Tsipras, a government called “leftist”, a few days after the referendum; the regression, indeed the overthrow, of progressive Latin American governments through the battering by the neoliberal right and its powerful North American ally; broken promises of the “Arab spring”; the explosions, most often without results, of African anger, devoid of a coherent and positive alternative… Isn’t there more than enough to dampen enthusiasm?
Yes and no, for one can also cite the surprisingly good electoral results of a Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom or of a Bernie Sanders in the United States, the monster demonstrations, women in the lead, against the inauguration of Trump and his first discriminatory and reactionary measures.
And, more to the point, initiatives are being born almost everywhere. Proposals for alternatives, often very practical and concrete, are flourishing. They open the way to other promising possibilities… Will they increase, coalesce into more general movements and into strategies for change? The future will tell.
What is sure is that all these movements are taking place in the same general context – that of an insurmountable crisis of the dominant system. It is a crisis which, in successive waves since the 1970s (the last in 2008), has continued to deepen: financial, political, economic, social, environmental, cultural… It is a system incapable of reform, ready to lurch into generalized chaos to maintain itself through endless wars, farcical elections, limitless pillage of natural resources, land grabbing, unemployment as the only perspective for the planet’s majority, ever greater inequality, constant hammering by advertising and concomitant unbridled consuming, eco-professions fast mutating into “green business”, financial and fiscal manipulations, commercial instrumentalization of internet, a culture more and more commercial and simplistic, disregard of international law, and so on ad nauseam.
Antonio Gramsci in his Prison Notebooks wrote: “The crisis consists precisely in that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interval a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”
That the cynical and arrogant determination of imperialist capitalism to perpetuate its domination should trigger reactions in all directions should surprise nobody. That, in the face of oligarchies with eyes riveted on the horizon of their profits, “responses” become, here, progressive, international, humanistic, there, confused, troubled, anxiety-provoking, or even reactionary and murderous, is unfortunately nothing new. That, against a neoliberal globalization imposed for the sole advantage of a minority, national sovereignty be invoked as a defensive principle might appear logical: sometimes for the worse, it is true, but also sometimes for the better, as exemplified by the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America or by territorial prohibitions on GMOs and fracking. The struggle for a progressive alternative, inclusive, social, feminist, environmentally friendly will not be won before it begins.
Listening to the sounds coming the world, should one not keep in mind this other call launched by Gramsci from the depths of his prison on the island of Ventotene to be “a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will”?
The CETIM has been at work for almost a half a century, endeavoring in particular to supply the struggles for a better world with new instruments for their combat.
There was the initiative of two guidebooks, several years apart, for a citizen audit of debt; several other publications on the implacable lever that debt, in the hands of the powerful, constitutes for subjecting and robbing peoples; and others on structural adjustment programs in particular. There were also numerous interventions in the sane vein at the Palais des Nations.
There has been, since 2008 at the United Nations and in collaboration with La Vía Campesina, a vast campaign, still under way, for the adoption of a declaration on the rights of peasants; several publications denouncing the systematic destruction of peasant agriculture by neo-liberal globalization; others on the combats of peasant families and indigenous peoples, on GMOs and on trusts for seeds, animals and their genetic heritage.
One can cite the resolute defense of United Nations international law, at the base of peace-keeping and the defense of equal sovereignty of nations, the criticism of its subversion by business law and “free trade” treaties that reinforce the inequality of development and transnational corporate domination.
There have been repeated calls for the respect of asylum law and the rights of migrants. In 1997, the CETIM, with Fuir le chaos [Flee the Chaos] by Raymond Joly, was one of the publishers to produce eloquent testimony of minor asylum seekers, following three other publications, in 1986, 1991 and 1993, denouncing prevailing attitudes towards asylum, Fortress Europe and Schengen.
One might further cite the exposure of “aide” that, far from deriving from an authentic international cooperation, has become, through its multiple conditions, an instrument of colonial reconquest.
Then there has been advocacy against generalized destructive development and for the multiplication of experiments from the grass roots of “produce – and consume – differently”.
There is arduous, patient and continuing struggle since 1996 within the United Nations to adopt a binding instrument allowing victims of human and environmental rights violations to take to court the guilty transnational corporations.