OPINION: France has a new socialist president. Greece, no government at all. The world's stock markets oscillate between greed and fear. Only the world's editorialists seem content to reassure us that, in spite of appearances, very little has – or will – change.
But, if they're right, then we are all imperilled.
Because all those reassuring editorials are based on one, chilling, assumption: that democratic politics no longer has the power to countermand the world's bond dealers and currency traders. That in any showdown between the power of the people and the power of global financial markets it's the people who will lose.
Except they won't – not in the long run. Because, if the weapons of democracy fail them, the people won't stop fighting, they'll simply reach for new, undemocratic, weapons.
The editorial writers of the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, and even the New Zealand Herald, in their rush to shore up the crumbling intellectual edifice of neoliberalism and downplay the significance of the French and Greek elections, have failed to digest all of the news emerging from those contests.
In their eagerness to paint Monsieur Francois Hollande as some sort of professional, weak-kneed French politico who will say one thing on the hustings but do another in the Elysee Palace, they have forgotten who helped him across the line in the crucial run-off ballot. If the global financial markets make it impossible for Monsieur Hollande to keep faith with the French electorate then to whom, exactly, do you think they will turn?
Certainly not to the Socialist Party, nor to the equally discredited Gaullists.
No, they will turn in their hundreds of thousands to the party of the far Right.
The party that would tear up the treaties binding France to the European Union.
The party that would close the borders of France, not simply to immigrants, but to the exports of France's neighbours.
The party that would bring the eurozone, and the dream which inspired its creation, crashing down in the name of economic nationalism and "France pour les francais!"
Those editorial writers also appear to have missed the ominous success of the Golden Dawn.
These Greek fascists, with their Nazi-style salutes and their Hellenic version of the swastika, won 21 seats in the Greek parliament last Sunday.
Their nostalgia for the days when the colonels ran Greece, and the jails were filled with leftist intellectuals and trade union activists, casts a grim shadow not only over Greek politics but over the whole of Europe.
The neoliberals' hatred of history blinds them to the fact that the world has stood before where it stands today. In the 1930s, in the midst of the Great Depression, with millions unemployed and the political leaders of the "civilised world" unable to conceptualise any way out of the deepening economic crisis except to cut and cut and cut, the way was cleared for the extremist demagogues of Right and Left. Men who preached the primacy of politics over economics; politicians who specialised in identifying scapegoats; butchers who slew them in their thousands.
The one great exception to the economic folly of deflation and austerity was the administration of American president Franklin Roosevelt. His "New Deal" offered a "third way" between the Scylla of Italian and German fascism and the Charybdis of Soviet communism. In faraway Sweden, and here in New Zealand, social-democratic governments followed Roosevelt's lead, constructing societies that became the envy of the world. Too many nations did not.
Inevitably, the world was rescued from economic failure by that most terrible and irresistible of "stimulus packages".
Those who had declined the peaceful path to economic success were subjected to the awful audit of war.
There are worse things than fiscal deficits. How does one account for millions of human losses?
- The Dominion Post