Europe’s Political Class Under Fire
All over Europe not only religious and national holidays are observed, but also a socialist holiday, which we always thought was a bit strange – and in a way quite telling (as far as we know, there is no holiday celebrating the free market). Traditionally the rank and file comrades tend to gather around their leaders on May Day, waving their party-approved banners and dutifully applauding at the appropriate moments. Not anymeure, as Clouseau would say.
The sign says: “Lying press, system of lies, scandal” – in Germany these demonstrators are somewhat condescendingly referred to as “Wutbürger” in the mainstream press (i.e., “angry citizens”). The term essentially implies that while they’re momentarily irate, they have no plan anyway, and can be expected to calm down again soon enough. This seems to have succeeded in making them even more angry.
Photo credit: IMAGO
In several European countries the political situation is deteriorating at warp speed lately. We say “deteriorating” not because we commiserate with the establishment figures that have come under pressure, but because the alternatives are usually not exactly appealing either (more on developments on this front in a follow-up post).
Here is a scene from May Day celebrations in Austria, that must surely have shocked the country’s political elite. Socialist chancellor Werner Faymann and the bigwigs of his fast-shrinking party found themselves confronted with a rather unusual May Day crowd. This was actually the second shock for the establishment in a very short time – the first was delivered on occasion of the recent presidential election.
The video shows Faymann delivering his traditional May Day address, which is essentially a sequence of socialist platitudes like every year – only garnished with occasional references to “difficult times” this time around. The mood of the crowd is nasty, the party apparatchiks are petrified – in a way the scene actually reminds us a bit of Ceausescu’s famous last speech:
May Day speech by Austrian chancellor Faymann – it seems about 75% of the rank and file comrades wanted him to resign – not right away, but the day before if possible. The man the camera focuses on at about 1:14 is shouting: “A**hole! Shut your trap!” – unheard of behavior at this type of normally well-scripted gathering. The party VIPs sharing the podium with Faymann certainly seem uncomfortable.
Heiko Maas, Germany’s minister of justice, faced an even more enraged audience while trying to deliver a May Day address in Zwickau, Saxonia (the German Federation of Trade Unions had invited him). Shouted down with chants of “Volksverräter” (traitor to the people), “leftist rat” and “get out”, he eventually flees, slinking away in his limousine.
Heiko Maas is chased out of Zwickau in Saxony after barely getting a word in edge-wise
The new men from one the paradises of “real socialism” waving flowers and making nice are evidently a thing of the past.
Image via pinterest
Centrifugal Forces Growing Stronger
In light of the upcoming “Brexit” referendum this accelerating downward spiral in social mood on the continent suggests that the EU centralizers may have been a tad too overconfident when they thought they would be able to hold the bloc together (for a previous discussion of this phenomenon – which is actually a global one – see e.g. “Incumbents Swept from Office Around the World”. Mr. Trump’s success is obviously part of the same trend).
The consensus used to be that once Brussels provided David Cameron with a fig leaf in the form of a few grudging concessions ostensibly strengthening subsidiarity, he would have little problem ensuring the referendum outcome desired by the EU establishment. We’re not so sure about that.
Consider e.g. that in a recent referendum in the Netherlands, a rather overwhelming 64% majority rejected the adoption of the association agreement between the Ukraine and the EU. If we’re not mistaken, this is the very agreement that originally triggered the coup against Yanukovich, which is quite ironic.
“Dutch voters have overwhelmingly rejected a Ukraine-European Union treaty on closer political and economic ties, in a rebuke to their government and to the bloc’s establishment. The broad political, trade and defense treaty, which had already been signed by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government and approved by all other EU nations as well as Ukraine, took effect provisionally in January. But that didn’t stop Dutch voters on Wednesday rejecting it by a 64-36 margin in a referendum that drew only 32 percent of voters to the polls – barely enough for the result to be considered valid. Voters said they were voicing their opposition not only to the treaty itself but also to European policymakers on matters ranging from the migrant crisis to economic policy, not long before Britain’s June vote on whether to stay in the EU. Although the referendum was non-binding, Rutte acknowledged late on Wednesday it was politically impossible for his unpopular government to ratify the treaty in its current form.
We have little doubt that the recent outbreaks of May Day rage (even the traditional May Day battles between the police and leftist radicals in Germany were reportedly especially heavy this year) were essentially anti-EU protests as well, even if the targets were representatives of national governments.
If a referendum or election result went against the super-state bureaucracy’s wishes in the past, it was usually simply ignored, resp. circumvented. Sometimes votes were repeated until the desired outcome was achieved (Lisbon treaty), or elected politicians who were considered a threat were pushed out in coup-like fashion (Berlusconi, Papadopoulos), resp blackmailed into compliance (Tsipras).
Here is Nigel Farage, delivering a succinct summary of the situation:
Nigel Farage in Strasbourg, telling it like it is. Regardless of what one thinks of Farage and UKIP, every word he utters here is demonstrably true.
Let us just say that the EU establishment is used to getting its way and has become quite tone-deaf and arrogant as a result. However, soon there may be too many leaks in the dam. If the anti-EU vote carries the day in the Brexit referendum, it cannot be ignored or retroactively undermined – and other anti-EU movements in Europe will be greatly emboldened.
In the meantime, yet another Greek default is threatening this summer as well – just in time for the UK referendum. Once again an impasse has been reached, as the “troika” lenders are demanding an additional €4 bn. in budget cuts from the Greek government. Imagine that, to everyone’s surprise, the Greek economy is doing “worse than expected” and tax revenues are accordingly not what they were supposed to be.
The Greek government on the other hand knows it cannot possibly get parliamentary approval for these budget cuts, so it isn’t even trying. A renewed flare-up of this gift that keeps on giving (how can it be otherwise? Greece is broke and will never be able to pay its debt – anyone with an abacus knows it) is liable to give Brexit supporters quite a shot in the arm.
The EU’s political establishment has apparently underestimated how much anger has built up in the population over its policies in recent years. We actually don’t believe that the refugee problem is the main issue – it has merely been a trigger that has caused said anger to boil over.
A recent example for the insufferable arrogance of the EU’s political and bureaucratic elites is the withdrawal of the 500 euro note (which we btw. believe could end up doing considerable damage to the euro). The governments of Germany and Austria are said to be against it, but European papers are reporting that it is “a done deal” anyway.
From what we could see so far, reader comments on this piece of news on the web sites of European papers are almost unanimously negative – across the political spectrum. People are in fact incensed over this move. This is not because the 500 euro note is widely used (except perhaps for storage purposes), but because they know that the official justification for the move is a load of hokum.
They realize full well what the real goals are and they resent being taken for morons. In the past we would never have expected to see such an outpouring of indignation over something like this – most people would have regarded it as a mere technicality. There would have been a little bit of grumbling, and ultimately acquiescence. It seems quite obvious that the quality of resistance to such impositions has changed.
The sign is evidently addresses the political class directly. It reads: “You won’t get rid of us – we’ll get rid of you though”.
Photo via blog.pilotprojekt.de/