Capitalism in Crisis and Europe’s Rightward Drift
Capitalism, though always an inherently unjust and exploitative system has, over the past thirty or so years, taken on a new kind of ruthlessness that those at the bottom of the food chain find increasingly intolerable. Neoliberalism and its free market ideology has provided legitimacy for a paradigm that promotes profit at any cost and retains at its core an immoral justification for the establishment of a tiny elite group of billionaire monopolists at the expense of everybody else.
This climate of economic injustice has become the prevailing theme of our time and the reactions to it across Europe, although varied, speak of a rage that is, by no means, on the verge of dissipating any time soon. What at first glance may seem like the rise of xenophobia and nationalism on the European continent does, upon closer inspection, reveal itself to be the deep-seated anger and disgust of the masses against an out-of-touch elite who have been skewing the rules and regulations in their favour and ignoring the plight of the people.
From the rise of Marine Le Pen’s Front National and other right-wing nationalist parties in Germany, Poland, Greece and Spain, to the exit of Britain from the Euro-zone, what we are witnessing now, I believe, is mass disillusionment with Neoliberal capitalism and widespread revolt against the Troika’s reverse-Robin Hood policy of robbing the poor to give to the rich.
As Europeans who have endured years of the contractionary austerity policies unleashed by the IMF, our once steadfast belief in a system built upon the pillars of shared prosperity and equality have been shaken to the very core. We watch as the rich get richer and fatter and greedier, while the mass of people struggle to maintain a decent standard of living and to survive.
The grand-scale awakening with regard to the reality of economic oppression grew gradually upon the wake of the 2008 crisis when the entire Neoliberal paradigm proved itself little more than a facade for the corruption and parasitic nature of the Western plutocrats.
The mood since the crash has been sombre and unnervingly grim. While the governments of the western world sided with the super rich and the “too big to fail” bankers, who then proceeded to grant themselves enormous bonus packages, all around them citizens floundered. Foreclosures were forced on families in countless neighbourhoods and suicide rates across the West soared to unprecedented heights.
Eight years on and the bankers, the culprits of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, are richer, bigger, badder, bolder than they’ve ever been. Meanwhile, the effects of the IMF’s austerity policies are coming into full view. Entire societies decimated, welfare systems dismantled, hospitals dilapidated, schools overcrowded, homelessness rampant, unemployment soaring, emigration off the charts.
The toxic environment of elite criminality and mass impoverishment has then been compounded by the refugee crisis and the influx of immigrants into an already sombre economic landscape. These hapless people, fleeing extreme violence and warfare, are greeted by European populations exhausted and angry after almost a decade of decreasing standards of living and by European leaders desperate for a scapegoat and anywhere to divert blame.
The right-wing realizes its strength in mass disgust with the establishment and by finding easy targets, such as vulnerable immigrants, distracting attention away from a crisis that is essentially systemic in nature. For many people, blaming foreigners for their unemployment and financial frustrations is simply easier than facing the fact that it is the capitalist system itself which has failed us and so they become persuaded by racist rhetoric.
It is a common feature of autocratic regimes to play the blame-game and to attempt to shift the focus of discontent away from unequal and unstable systems onto communities who have no means to protect themselves; namely, foreigners. Adolf Hitler directed mass hatred against the Jewish population, Donald Trump points the finger at the Mexicans, and characters like Nigel Farage of UKIP scapegoat Indians, Pakistanis and anyone of different ethnicity, including Syrians and other refugees fleeing war.
Europeans of every nation need to stop giving credence to these hate-mongers and acknowledge the fact that so-called foreigners are not responsible for our downward (or rightward) spiral. We need to abandon this left-right political paradigm and recognize that it no longer accurately describes the situation we face today. It is indeed more accurate to discuss a dichotomy between the plutocratic elites and the impoverished masses and admit to ourselves that the aggressive onslaught we need to defend ourselves from is an economic one in which race plays little to no part at all.