A different Europe should adopt a policy of peace and neutrality. For the moment, demands like this arise as the dispersed expression of very diverse groups and citizen initiatives but they are gaining ever more ground among wide sections of the population.
Public awareness is improving but the alienating role of the media acts against it, distorting reality.
Working like an enormous lie factory, the so-called mass media (in particular, television) are very far from being neutral and “professional” bodies dedicated to objective reporting.
Instead of that, even the public broadcasters -which are funded with everyone’s money- twist and turn to suit the interests of governments, their owners or large multinational companies. Media that do not conform to this profile are rare or simply survive with a degree of marginalisation.
The deterioration of democracy is reflected very well in this obvious denial of so-called press freedom and of the public’s right to information.
Novel media such as the internet still allow a certain amount of play, however they are now being controlled and the time is not far off when these spaces of freedom will also be closed.
The (smaller and smaller) material reserves that families still have also conspire against a more forceful citizen reaction, even allowing a certain margin for the hope that things improve in the immediate future.
Of course, the opinion polls indicate that pessimism is growing and families are restructuring their consumption and limiting their expenditure to a minimum in expectation of worse days ahead.
But poverty and destitution, although expanding, still do not affect the majority of the population.
However, the proportions of the groups known as “three thirds” that make up the social fabric (those integrated into the system, those threatened with exclusion and those who are marginalised) have changed in recent years. There are now very worrying pictures of poverty and even of destitution in the heart of these rich societies in which the democratic order is supposed to guarantee some basic minimums for everyone and sufficient opportunities to progress in wellbeing.
This erosion of the material basis of democracy brings distress and discomfort to those who always believed themselves immune to social descent, growing fear to those who find themselves threatened with exclusion and feelings of impotence and rage to the growing mass of destitute souls for whom nobody can now see a way out. Democracy with hunger has a bitter taste.
If, for now, the explosions of social discontent do not constitute an immediate threat, the deterioration of that reserve accumulated after two or three decades of material improvement might surprise the most optimistic people.
Dominique Gaston Andre Strauss-Kahn, former Managing Director of the IMF, drew attention to this point recently and said that if the dynamic were not corrected, Europe could experience large-scale social explosions. In fact, it is already happening.
But the factor that probably most limits a more forceful citizen response is the lack of development of an organisation equal to the present circumstances. Fragmentation is its most notorious characteristic.
The crisis of the political parties has allowed a thousand sectorial and regional initiatives to appear in their place. Although they represent deeply felt and legitimate demands, their narrowness does not enable them to co-ordinate their efforts and give their protests a political form appropriate to the circumstances.
Workers’ struggles, regional demands, causes based on ethnicity or gender -among the most conspicuous- have not found for the moment a way of co-ordinating that allows them to translate their enormous social presence into a political force that manages to stop the suicidal course of events, the erosion of democracy or, still less, bring about solutions. All this allows the system to continue its merry progress without worrying about the wave of discontent that it generates.
Everything carries on as though the dominant class assume that although democracy is deteriorating and protest is growing, there will be enough police to maintain control.
And war, that biblical curse that was believed to have been overcome in modernity and after the end of communism, not only has not disappeared but has remained and deepened.
Predatory wars and imperialist wars are an integral part of United States democracy and civilised Europe is also throwing itself to a growing extent into that maelstrom of death and destruction.
Europe, falling back on its colonialist traditions, is not only abandoning the idea of building an EU based on shared prosperity, a continent of peaceful coexistence with the world, but it is also supporting war.
It becomes, then, a fundamental challenge, that the peoples of old Europe and North America reclaim the best of their democratic tradition and make up their minds to stop the current process that is leading to barbarism.
Those that compare the current situation to that of the Great Depression are not far wrong. Indeed, after the “roaring twenties” suddenly everything collapsed, the streets filled with Nazi hordes, what little democracy there was then drowned in its own contradictions and the world found itself facing fascism and war.
Of course, none of this is inevitable and a powerful citizens’ mobilisation could stop the insane right and avert war with a profound social revolution.
If it is concluded beyond doubt that the evil resides in the system itself and that sooner or later democracy and peace will turn out to be incompatible with capitalism, the path to seeking different alternatives will have been embarked on. We could be at the gates of a new dawn. If the system becomes incompatible with democratic coexistence and destroys not only human beings but also the environment and the resources that ensure the existence of this and future generations, it would be a pressing imperative to seek an alternative that now is not just possible but urgent and necessary.