STRAWS IN THE WIND: by Max TeichmannNews Weekly
Disillusioned Europeans / Can the Euro last? / Some more unintended consequences for the Greens / Not another oil-for-food scam? / The Year of the Octopus
, June 18, 2005
While our media have been thrashing around on illegal drug-smuggling - not to be confused with the question as to how we might deal
with drug addiction in Australia, a matter not
interesting to our journalists - momentous events have been taking place in Europe.
First the French, then the Dutch voters, have decisively rejected moves by the Brussels elites to further extend their powers. They have served notice on their governments that they expect them to govern
, not endlessly transfer or delegate their rights and sovereignties to a most powerful but inaccessible group, whom more and more Europeans neither like nor trust.
Different European countries are finding that they want different things: things which are turning out to be incompatible. In effect, the 10 new EU members want a redistribution of some of the wealth of the richer states to them - by having Western factories move there, by much cheaper Eastern labour gaining places in the Western European labour markets, and by the newcomers gaining access to superior welfare systems, systems which they had not helped to build up. And so on.
The story told by the EU leaders was that this wealth transfer would not adversely affect Western prosperity and growth, for the whole of Europe was heading higher. This reassuring story had first appeared when the two Germanies were to be reunified.
Europeans no longer believe in this unseen hand smoothing things into place. Jobs are drying up, capital is migrating, and the pressures on domestic welfare resources are forcing states to search for ways to reduce their domestic social spending. To confront, at this time, the prospect in the near future, of major new
demands on their very finite resources and infrastructures, by people from other countries, has stirred up more and more opposition.
In the past, states possessed the right and the means to at least attempt to address the kinds of problems outlined above, and to do what they thought would be in their
best interests. But now they are finding that they cannot act as they see fit; that many of their former potencies are lost and are now in the hands of commissioners who act, the Commission says, in the interest of all the members, not just for one. Whether they really do this or not ... in the absence of any early prospect for economic growth, most Western Europeans do not want to cede any more power to Brussels. Indeed, they might want to claw some back.
Ordinary Europeans notice that their
banks and corporations - although theoretically answerable to Brussels and to their own governments - decide to move offshore, to retrench workers, etc, whenever they feel it is in their
interests, as they now do.
Europeans are seeing these same free-trade and social-rationalistic philosophies at work within the EU as in the global capitalist free-trade elite structures. Governments take notice of these elites; the EU commissioners take notice of them as well; the world organisations (e.g., the World Bank and WTO) are guided
by the mega-rich. Ordinary Europeans are excluded from all this decision-making - although it intimately affects their lives and their futures. Adding insult to injury, even the political expression of the average citizens' relevance is being diluted, while social policies of every kind, including migration, are being filched by Brussels. It is not surprising that the Europeans are reacting in this way - and, we might add, in the nick of time.Can the Euro last?
The Euro has been bad for some countries which have adopted it, e.g., Italy, Germany, France. And Britons must be pleased that they have stuck with sterling. One even wonders whether the Euro has a long-term future, under the present EU rules.
European economic growth projections have just been cut to 1.2 per cent, which is symptomatic of a very serious, long-term decline. I can't help wondering whether the institutional changes earlier imposed by Europe's elites haven't made things worse, and whether some at least of the bigger countries, were they to follow Britain's example of always leaving themselves some space to push their own barrow, wouldn't fare better than they are now doing.Some more unintended consequences for the Greens
The Greens' campaign against global warming is something of which we are all, or should be, cognisant, as we should be of the critiques of the Kyoto Accords: critiques which need not challenge the core
of the global-warming thesis, but rather concentrate upon the pussy-footed approach of its organisers, viz
, the decision to leave out the current great polluters, China, India - and the avaricious environmental destroyers of today, Brazil and Indonesia, with their tragic assaults on the world's forests and the Amazon Basin. Also, the skirting around the motor-car and the supporting oil industry because of their
critical role in our mass-consumption economies. The cost of and the pollution from that sacred cow, the motor-car, is incalculable, ongoing and virtually unchecked.
But the Greens' campaign against coal- and oil-fired power plants is bearing strange fruit. A major move to nuclear power is underway, and we should consider its consequences.
Leaving aside the problems of nuclear waste disposal, there are these problems:
(1) The increase in the amount of fissile material which can be converted into bombs by states with nuclear plants, and by crooked groups who would gain this material by illicit means: by theft, black-market deals and bribery. The criminal and terrorist subcultures must be watching the new boom in nuclear plants with delight.
(2) The well-known problems of nuclear meltdown, e.g., Three Mile Island and Chernobyl - events more likely with under-skilled or politically chaotic new states which "go nuclear". And then there is the ubiquity of earthquake faults, suddenly awakening volcanoes and the kind of tidal wave behaviour of which we have recently become aware, all making the siting and protection of nuclear plants ever more complicated. Are our corrupt political systems and new states, which can become failed states, up to this challenge?
(3) Perhaps most dangerous, because most incalculable, is the opportunity for terrorist nuclear blackmail, i.e., the seizure of a nuclear plant and the threat to produce a meltdown, by skilled, ruthless and nihilistic terrorists. Is this even possible? I do not know, but wonder whether the Greens have thought all this out.
Certainly, the bovine posturings of the Bob Browns of this world and the psycho-babble of the tree-huggers throw little light on these ghastly problems.Not another oil-for-food scam?
Three months on, the worldwide tsunami appeals are coming under increasingly critical scrutiny. It's all starting to look a little like the usual UN African aid scheme. All the best Western goodwill in the world breaks on the rocks of local graft, incompetence and bureaucratic bloody-mindedness.
A lot is hanging on the safe delivery of this aid and these monies to the people who manifestly need it; for if it were to turn out yet again
that members of the donor organisations - or the hosts delegated to receive and distribute donations to the needy - consume or waste or divert the benefactions, the tsunami will be the last cab off the world's generosity ranks.
Ordinary people will admit defeat in the face of the remorseless greed and bureaucratised theft of these who nowadays hijack as of right
every good cause, every occasion for public generosity.
And the predictable appearance of the Showbiz community whenever a human tragedy occurs, and the ego-trips that these often fading stars and burnt-out cases make of the whole affair, is, I suspect, a drug on the market. Everything, but everything, becomes Showbiz, and emotional self-aggrandisement.
The public just wants to give and help - whereas masses of other Westerners are really wanting to help themselves, and do
.The Year of the Octopus
A report from Cape Town (The Australian
, May 20, 2005) describes how China is going to help Zimbabwe's President Mugabe crack down on illicit internet traffic and to block dissident radio signals.
This Chinese equipment replaces older Soviet gear, and it enables Mugabe's people to spy on political opponents and dissidents within the ruling party's ranks.
And there are in fact many, so disgusting and so disastrous is the rule of Robert Mugabe.
Western journalists, diplomats and aid workers might also expect surveillance and interdiction, with the aid of the Chinese technology.
One can expect Chinese sales to all the African dictatorships and one-party states; and Iran is certainly interested in finding ways to prevent its citizens learning or passing on the truth via the new internet.
After all, China uses these totalitarian strategies against its own citizens, against the Tibetans, and against ethnic minorities in Western China already.
Imagine the crackdowns in a "captive" Taiwan.
The Americans and their friends have been putting their efforts into speeding democracy and the free passage of ideas ... whereas China and her allies and clients throughout Africa and Asia favour the closed society - the world of 1984
. Our Western Left have unhesitatingly lined up with China and the one-party states, as they did with their past equivalents.
are going to need a very long spoon to sup with this repressive, expansionist and fiercely undemocratic state, China. The question for Australians is, do we have
to go along with this state and all its works? Or is there some place where we can draw the line?
The fact is, China is a command economy in the way that Nazi Germany, and to a lesser extent Italy, was, with a private sector and a body of capitalists and entrepreneurs; but
state political objectives were primary and could, where necessary, be imposed by the political elites.
Those in China are communist and intend to remain so; and they intend to stay in charge. The army, the secret police, the media and education are Beijing's tools and protectors. The struggle to make China a more democratic, more open society was fought within the ranks of the Chinese Communist Part at the time of Tienanmen Square. The reformers lost and have been erased from official history. There is no point in our counting on convergence between our liberal and their illiberal institutions.
We should at least be realistic enough to treat China as a repressive, rapidly growing, rapidly arming mega-state, with global economic and political interests and ambitions; territorially ambitious, but much cleverer at their respective times of entry onto the global stage, than were Nazi Germany or Communist Russia.