Revista Mensual y Gratuita
Nº106, June 2012
The first political corollary of the financial crisis is the emergence of negative majorities, meaning the advance of extremes over the center. Meanwhile, leaders at the center of the system insist on policies with catastrophic consequences.
This note follows Roberto Mizrahi’s article on the European predicament. While fully agreeing with his economic argumentation, I wish to add the following question. As the current leadership leads entire countries to an abyss, from which only a very small minority of the population will be spared, who might be the historical subject of an alternative, healthier and more inclusive politics? The answer is clear: a massive and organized popular mobilization. Only strong pressure in the streets and ballot boxes will make politicians (or rather new young politicians not committed to the current regime) change the course. However, the speed of the crisis is higher (for the time being) than the speed of protest. ‘The hour of the people’ is yet to come. But it is coming. First in Mediterranean countries (Greece, Spain), then in other peripheral ones (Ireland, Portugal), and finally in countries at the European core (starting with France), the rebellion of the masses is brewing. For the time being it is a simple clamor: ‘The people want to know what it is all about.’ But those who remember May 25th 1810, which started the Latin American independence movement, know that such claim can change history. This is true for all 19th century revolutions and for some of the 20th –century ones as well.
But previous historical crises in both centuries alert us also about the danger lurking in all transitions. For example, the European revolutions of 1848 had an ambiguous and uneven outcome, in some cases with progressive improvements, and in others, with severely authoritarian reactions. In the 20th century the danger was even greater.
What exactly is this danger? The crisis of late capitalism (that is, the hegemony of concentrated financial capital) has produced, politically, the hollowing of the center. In the United States, both parties are so polarized (led, in the case of the Republican Party by its most extreme wing) that any compromise seems impossible, and the executive’s action is blocked in a way never seen before. On the one hand, the populist right, exemplified by the Tea Party (which is quite similar to the old French poujadist movement) exercises strong electoral pressure at all districts. On the other hand, left-wing parties mobilize in street actions under the claim ‘Occupy Wall Street’. The moderate tone of president Obama and the legislative paralysis in Congress make the enthusiasm for the new administration that characterized his campaign in 2008 vanish. In France, the triumph of a moderate socialist camouflages the enormous advance of xenophobe right-wing on one hand, and the resurrection of ancient French communism on the other. In Greece, which is becoming the European political trigger, the situation is the following. The head of the state council Panagiotis Pikrammenos (which in Greek means “embittered’) was appointed by the president to head a government with no mandate, until new elections are carried out on June 17th. In relation to the electoral progress of the left-wing, on one hand, and of the right-wing on the other, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ‘alerted’ Greek people they must ‘act responsibly’ and therefore vote for a Party that will fulfill German demands that condition a financial aid package (similar to the olden IMF packages in Argentina). In this stubborn and fatal requirement, the Chancellor forgets an eighty-year-old German lesson. Mrs. Merkel should remember the elections that occurred in Germany on July 31st 1932. Back then, federal elections took place after the Congress (Reichstag) had been prematurely dissolved. The elections confirmed the strength of the National Socialist Party, that for the first time became the most numerous, but without yet reaching parliamentary majority. For its part, the Communist Party remained strong in Congress. These parties (Nazi and Communist) were anti-parliamentary (that is, anti-system) parties. Together they represented a clear majority but, since they were at opposite ends of the spectrum, the Germans labeled the situation as one of ‘negative majority’. The two parties could never rule together, but they would put a halt on any government from the center at the same time. That is how the Weimar Republic died. We all know the tragedy that followed.
In 2012 in Europe and also in the United States, we are witnessing the emergence of negative majorities. Will this emergence lead to a healthy response or to a stubborn and fatal reaction? For the time being, the reaction of the strongest European country –Germany- is resolutely stubborn. It is expected that pressure by the general public will make it shift. But we must also remember that for now, the pressure is in the hands of negative majorities.
A long time ago, during my own adolescence, jokes of good and bad taste circulated throughout the Buenos Aires National High School, among them a so-called ‘German joke’. It told the story of a scientist of that nationality, serious and systematic, but also shortsighted, that performed an experiment on a frog. First he taught the frog how to jump in response to the scientist’s order. He carefully took note of the distance traveled with the initial leap. Then he cut off one of its legs and ordered it to jump. The leap was shorter, but meticulously measured. And so he kept cutting the frog’s legs until the poor creature could not jump any more. The German scientist’s conclusion was: “once a frog’s legs are all cut off, it becomes deaf.” On June 17th, 2012 the Greek people will have to choose whether or not they want to be frogs.
Opinion Sur Collection
Introducing three new additions to our collection
Getting out of the Crisis towards a sustainable development
STORM: The ways of the crisis and the ways out of it
International Crisis: Adjusting the Course and Improving the Systemic Functioning