- Category: Revolutionary Strategy
- Created on Saturday, 04 June 2011 09:00
- Written by Jérôme E. Roos
Greatly underreported in this country, Europe has seen massive gatherings and protests over the past few weeks, beginning with those in Spain. (The picture to the right shows one of these, in Barcelona on May 29.)
Where will these protests and beginning movements go? This is the subject of the following, which originally appeared the other day in RoarMag, a recently created blog or webzine. (ROAR is an acronym for Reflections on a Revolution).
Why we need a European Revolution
by Jérôme E. Roos
The mass protests currently sweeping through Europe are truly unprecedented and historical both in their creative and non-violent character and in their immense geographical spread. The oncoming exacerbation of the eurozone debt crisis — Paul Krugman yesterday warnedthat meltdown is imminent and that it’s “time to panic” — will only serve as fuel on the fire of this budding European protest movement.Yet however inspiring this continental quest for real democracyis, it’s also worrisome to consider its possible fate. Yes, we have plenty of revolutionaries now, and yes, for the first time in decades we have a genuinely revolutionary movement here in Europe. Yet we have no revolution, and at this pace, we won’t have one anytime soon.
The reason is that while we have a movement, the movement has no direction. While we have plenty of ideals, these ideals are not yet embedded within clearly defined ideas. At times, it seems like the the epic clusterfuck within which we currently find ourselves has paralyzed us. Where on earth do we begin to unravel the Gordian knot?
The easiest place to start, logically, has been at the grassroots. In a beautiful irony, occupying city squares has become at once our last resort and our first step. Driven both by despair at the state of our world and by hope for a better future, we are all a bit like Antonio Gramsci, who famously subscribed to “pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will.”
But while there is a heart-warming and immensely inspiring beauty to the massive popular assemblies that are being organized on public squares throughout Europe right now, there is also something incredibly sad about it. How is it possible that so many hundreds of thousands of people, who despite their outrage have been so remarkably peaceful and modest in their demands, can be conveniently ignored and scorned by the dominant system of power?
How sad is it to see tens of thousands of people sitting down on the street to discuss the most reasonable issues of social justice, financial stability and environmental sustainability — while knowing that 1,000 miles away in Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin, a handful of powerful men and women in suits continue to carve up the future without any consideration for such matters at all?
How sad to see, in other words, that in the EU’s handling of the crisis, Puerta del Sol and Syntagma square are just afterthoughts. And how sad to see, as a result of that, that these brilliant protesters are confining their demands to such modest goals as fighting corruption, taxing banks and reducing military expenditure.
The true utopia, as Slavoj Žižek has pointed out many times before, is that these goals of social justice, financial stability and environmental sustainability can be achieved within the parameters of our global capitalist system at all. To paraphrase Žižek, the real utopia is not the idea of a radically different world — but the idea of a radically different outcome within the same world.
The real causes of the people’s misery, after all, are not caused by the corruption of a few hundred politicians or the greed of a few thousand bankers, but in the structural dynamics that enable and reward such behavior in the first place. As Robert Wade, my Professor at the London School of Economics put it, “this is not a crisis in the system — it’s a crisis of the system.”
As a result, today’s crisis cannot be solved by regulation — or ‘cosmetic surgery’, as Wolfgang Münchau recently put it in the Financial Times. It can only be solved by transformation into a different system altogether. The idea of a common market with free trade and free capital flows, but no European government to look after the interests of the citizens who are affected by these cross-border transactions, is just foolish. It was bound to produce crisis.
Since we are all subjected in our daily lives to the economic dynamics of a deeply integrated European market, the structural solution simply has to be European. Turning our back on Europe because the technocrats in Brussels let us down is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. As Žižek pointed out in an excellent article on the Greek debt crisis: