GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL AND POPULISM: A COMMENT
"German chancellor Angela Merkel headed a trio of European leaders in delivering a powerful warning against populism and prejudice taking root in Europe, amid deepening fears about economic stagnation. In a hard-hitting new year broadcast, Europe’s most powerful leader led the charge against Europe’s far-right parties, slamming the organisers of recent anti-Islam protests in Germany as having hearts “often full of prejudice, and even hate”. Her attack on rightwing populism was echoed by France’s president François Hollande, who fired a shot across the bows of National Front leader Marine Le Pen, by pledging to fight entrenched conservatism and “dangerous” populist stances. And in Italy, 89-year-old President Giorgio Napolitano accompanied the announcement of his coming resignation with a fierce denouncement of crime, corruption and “dangerous” populist calls for the crisis-torn country to quit the euro.... Ms Merkel was upbeat in her speech about the German economy, pointing to record-high employment and her government’s success in setting a zero-deficit 2015 fiscal target. She argued that immigration was “a gain for everybody” — and appealed to Germans to accept refugees at a time when there were more displaced people in the world than since the second world war. She did not refer by name to Pegida, the anti-Islamisation movement that has gathered large crowds in recent weeks in the east German city of Dresden and elsewhere. But she made clear Pegida was in her sights, saying that such protests discriminated against people with different skin colour or religion. She declared that Germany could be proud of the fact that the children of persecuted parents could grow up without fear in the country."Stefan Wagstyl, "Merkel attacks wave of rightwing populism". The Financial Times. 2nd January 2015, in www.ft.com.
"The merit of an educated class, because it is its historical function, is to lead the popular masses and develop their progressive elements. If the educated class has not been capable of fulfilling its function, one should speak not of merit but of demerit—in other words, of immaturity and intrinsic weakness. Similarly, it is necessary to be clear about the term, and the concept, of demagogy. Those men in effect were not capable of leading the people, were not capable of arousing their enthusiasm and their passion, if one is to take demagogy in its original meaning. Did they at least attain the end which they set themselves? They said that they were aiming at the creation of a modern State in Italy, and they in fact produced a bastard. They aimed at stimulating the formation of an extensive and energetic ruling class, and they did not succeed; at integrating the people into the framework of the new State, and they did not succeed."Antonio Gramsci. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Edited and Translated by Quentin Hoare & Geoffrey Nowell Smith. (1971). pp. 262-263. German Chancellor Merkel's New Year's speech reads like the usual laundry list of tut-tutting by our bien-pensant, post-modern, liberal intelligentsia. The concerns expressed by not only her own population but also high-ranking members of her own party are dismissed by being lumped together as evidence of 'bigotry' et cetera 1. The real issue to my mind is: who or what is responsible for the movements that Mme. Merkel attacks? Surely the same people who are responsible for the mess that is the European Union economic situation since 2008. And said people are of course the governing elites of the European Union since the 1990's. Id. est., the very same people who promised that the introduction of the Euro would result in greater economic growth and integration. Given this undeniable factum, one can well understand not only the feelings but the responses of the various populist movements on the European continent. Which is of course not to deny that for the most part, European populist parties and movements usually have elements of the blind leading the blind. Or in T.S. Eliot's witticism: 'stupidity is for the vast majority of people, no doubt the best solution to the problem of thinking'. Unfortunately, unless and until the more salient and responsible aspects of what the various populist movements in Europe are talking about is taken up by Europe's governing elites, look for even more difficulties from that political perspective. Or in the words of Antonio Gramsci look for more 'demagogy', due to the 'immaturity and intrinsic weakness' of Europe's contemporary elites. Chancellor Merkel's lectures notwithstanding. 1. "Former Interior Minister Friedrich blasts Merkel over rise of PEGIDA, AfD". Deutsche Welle. 28 December 2014, in www.dw.de