Friday, May 21, 2010

will the great recession lead to ww-IV?

Video - World War IV

Salon | Human beings cannot commit suicide twice, but political movements can. At the same time that former parties of the left in Europe and the U.S. were abandoning social democratic statism for celebrations of free-market globalization, progressivism was redefined on both sides of the Atlantic to mean celebration of immigration-increased diversity and the stigmatization of national patriotism as such, and not merely its perverted forms, as racist and fascist. Inasmuch as social democracy in Europe and New Deal liberalism in the U.S. were inherently left-nationalist projects, progressive anti-nationalism marked the final rejection of the mid-century center-left by the progressive champions of the global market of the 1990s and 2000s. But there was a certain logic to the neoliberal position, which is increasingly difficult to distinguish from pure libertarianism: If finance should be deregulated, and trade deregulated, why not deregulate the flow of labor across borders as well? If people are mere factors of production, not members of a cultural nation or citizens of a republic, then patriotism is pointless.

The right has not hesitated to pick up national flags that post-national progressives have tossed aside. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi's party is "Sforza Italia" -- "Go, Italy!" The new generation of Germans, for whom World War II is history, is increasingly confident in appealing to national interest, as are young Japanese. In China, nationalism has replaced Marxism as the legitimating principle of the authoritarian regime.

Law enforcement is another theme that benefits the right. In Britain, Cameron played on concerns about social decline, emulating Richard Nixon's appeal to the "silent majority" when high crime rates and dread of black militancy helped create Republican presidential hegemony in the U.S. for a generation. Prolonged economic stagnation may lead to a higher crime rate, to the benefit of tough-on-crime conservatives.

If history is any guide, an era of global economic stagnation will help the nationalist and populist right, at the expense of the neoliberal and cosmopolitan/multicultural left. During the Long Depression of the late 19th century, which some historians claim lasted from 1873 to 1896, the nations of the West adopted protectionist measures to promote their industries. Beginning with Bismarck’s Germany, many countries also adopted social reforms like government pensions and health insurance. These reforms were often favored by the nationalist right, as a way of luring the working class away from the temptations of Marxism and left-liberalism. By and large the strategy worked. When World War I broke out, the working classes and farmers in most countries rallied enthusiastically around their respective flags.

The Great Depression of the 1930s similarly led to the rise of one or another version of the authoritarian, nationalist right in Europe. Only in a few societies with deeply established liberal traditions, like the English-speaking countries and Scandinavia, did liberals or liberal conservatives hold on. And Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal Democratic Party, a coalition that included racist Southerners and traditionalist Catholic immigrants, was not particularly liberal by today’s standards.

In both eras of depression, great-power rivalry for resources and markets intensified and ultimately led to a world war. Following World War II, the U.S. sought to avert a repetition of that pattern, by creating a global market secured by a global great-power concert in the form of the Security Council. But the project of economic disarmament and security cooperation broke down almost immediately after 1945 and the split between the Soviets and the Anglo-Americans produced the Cold War. The second attempt at a global market that began after the Cold War may be breaking down now, as the most important economic powers pursue their conflicting national interests.