Friedrich Nietzsche is full of quotable quotes like this one: “The more you fight monsters, the more you become one.” Or another one of everyone’s favourites: “If you stare long enough into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.”
Both sayings now perfectly describe the predicament of the European Union. In the EU’s zeal to fight Vladimir Putin, many potential mini-Putins have been spawned and are now waiting in the wings to take over governments. This ultra-right-wing, xenophobic nationalist continental drift undercutting countries across Europe is largely predictable.
While ordinary people suffer from economic hardships and their children’s future is being sacrificed, their current leaders continue with a proxy war against Russia that has become a bottomless pit. Austerity is being imposed; bullets take precedence over butter.
If you are a European voter, would you blame Putin and the Russians, as you are told to do, or your own politicians and the big corporations, many of which actually profit handsomely from the war in Ukraine?
Over the past year, real hourly wages dropped in 22 EU countries, for example, by 7.3 per cent in Italy, 3.3 per cent in Germany, 1.8 per cent in France, and 1.2 per cent in Greece.
The euro zone is now expected to grow by just 0.8 per cent this year instead of the previously forecast 1.1 per cent. Germany, Europe’s largest economy, is forecast to shrink by 0.4 per cent this year.
Last year in Germany, real wages fell at the sharpest rate in 15 years as a record-breaking inflation rate of 7.9 per cent eroded any rise in earnings. Given the country’s tragic history, its people are especially unsettled by the high inflation.
As reported by wsws.org, the World Socialist Web Site, the next budget being discussed in the Bundestag will contain “massive [welfare] cuts and aim to launch the largest rearmament offensive since the end of World War II. According to the plans of the current Social Democrats (SPD)/Green/Free Democrat (FDP) coalition government, €85.5 billion (HK$714 billion) will go to the military next year, an increase of almost one-third compared to the 2023 figure of €65 billion”.
The draft budget will contain the deepest entitlement cuts in post-war history. “The health budget alone is slashed by 33.7 per cent from €24.48 billion to €16.22 billion, after it had already been cut by almost €40 billion the year before,” wsws.org reports. “There will also be far less money for education and numerous social benefits. For example, expenditure on the maternity convalescence centres and family holiday homes is reduced by 93 per cent each, for youth education and other youth [facilities] by 77 per cent, for youth welfare by 19 per cent, for student aid by 24 per cent and for housing benefits by 16 per cent.”
Tragically, all these cuts are presided over by socialists and social democrats, whose predecessors set up the post-war welfare state that was the envy of the world. The current generation of working-class Germans may be the last of the post-war era who can look forward to a pleasant retirement. Is it any wonder that more German voters are turning to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD)?
Germany, of course, is not alone. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, military expenditure in the EU totalled US$345 billion last year, exceeding, in real terms, that was spent in the last year of the Cold War in 1989. Among those with the largest year-on-year increases in military spending are Finland, which has abandoned its long-standing neutrality by joining Nato, at 36 per cent; Lithuania at 27 per cent; Sweden at 12 per cent and Poland at 11 per cent. By the eternal formula of government spending, that can only mean more bullets and less butter.
As expected, some smaller EU countries are rebelling against Brussels’ almost unconditional commitment to Ukraine. Poland, Hungary and Slovakia have all banned the imports of grain from Ukraine because a supply glut has drastically cut prices and hurt their own farmers. Kyiv has threatened to take its complaint to the World Trade Organization. Former British defence minister Ben Wallace can’t be the only one thinking Ukraine is “not grateful enough”. The ruling Law and Justice party in Poland is every bit as right-wing, populist and nationalist as Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party in Hungary. The only difference is that Poland is anti-Russian while Hungary is the most pro-Russian of the EU states. The Poles may be anti-Russian, but they won’t be forever pro-Ukrainian.
Outside the EU, Britain has been among the most zealous supporters of Ukraine and also one of the most hardest hit by the economic fallout from the war, though many years of domestic misrule also contributed mightily to its impending downward spiral to developing-country status in the coming decades. Yet, its political and media class continues to demand absolute commitment from the public without debate.
A study by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit estimated that the energy crisis stemming from the war has cost the equivalent of £1,000 (HK$9,690) for every adult in Britain. That’s because high wholesale gas prices caused by the war cost energy suppliers an additional £50 billion, which has been mostly passed on to consumers.
If the International Monetary Fund is right, British households have been the worst hit in western Europe because of the high dependence on gas. The country uses gas for generating about 40 per cent of its electricity and for heating 85 per cent of its homes, which are among the least energy-efficient in Europe.
More ultra-right-wing politicians are emerging across Europe; quite a few of them will see no problems with making nice with Putin, if not imitate him. Maybe it’s really time to make peace with Russia, before the 2030s becomes the 1930s.
Source : SCMP