FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Austerity and Authoritarianism

Last month’s student protests in Quebec have made it clear, yet again, that austerity policies cannot be imposed except by authoritarian methods. More than a third of the students in the province struck after Jean Charest’s liberal (centrist) government decided to increase student fees by 75% in five years; the National Assembly of Quebec, in a special session on 18 May, curtailed the rights of free association and demonstration. Thus, cutting off a democratic achievement (access to higher education) was logically followed by the suspension of a fundamental freedom.

This radical reaction can also be seen in France. When the conservative coalition was defeated after an election campaign during which it abundantly used far-right arguments, it did not turn to voters in the centre to regain their support. Instead, Sarkozy’s successors have chosen to take the most reactionary position on every issue — against immigrants and welfare “scroungers” — in the hope of winning over National Front voters whose self-image fits that of the “worker who doesn’t want the guy who does not work to make more that he does”.

US politics took a similar turn less than a month after Barack Obama entered the White House. Far from lamenting its losses, the Republican Party took its cue from the Tea Party, truculent, paranoid and obsessed with labelling its opponents as leftwing snobs and self-centred technocrats who hobbled wealth producers and squandered money on “folk on public assistance”. As a Tea Party manifesto put it: “Many of us had a neighbour or heard about someone who had been living too high on the hog for too long and were wondering why we were supposed to pay for it”. After Obama’s 2008 landslide, the Republican right showed no interest in recovering the centre ground where, according to the pundits, elections are won. It abandoned the boring pragmatism ascribed to the defeated leaders and adopted the aspirations of the most radical militants.

This rightwing fantasy is a powerful force. It will not be overcome by marginally adjusting an economic and financial course that is bound to fail, causing further confusion, misery and panic, not to mention the damaging political effects of misplaced resentment. The collapse of the two leading Greek parties, jointly responsible for the financial ruin and suffering of their people, and the unexpected and spectacular rise of a leftwing coalition, Syriza, determined to challenge the repayment of a partly illegitimate debt (see Greece could begin again), show that there is a way out of the impasse. All that is needed is courage and imagination. The Quebec students demonstrate that too.

SERGE HALIMI is director of Le Monde Diplomatique. He has written several books, including one  on the French press, Les nouveaux chiens de garde and another on the French left in the 20th century – Quand la gauche essayait – both are fine works.  He can be reached at Serge.Halimi@monde-diplomatique.fr

This article appears in the excellent Le Monde Diplomatique, whose English language edition can be found at mondediplo.com. This full text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features two or three articles from LMD every month.

 

More articles by:

Serge Halimi is president of Le Monde diplomatique

September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
Kenn Orphan
The Power of Language in the Anthropocene
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
Puerto Rico’s Unnatural Disaster Rolls on Into Year Two
Rajan Menon
Yemen’s Descent Into Hell: a Saudi-American War of Terror
Russell Mokhiber
Nick Brana Says Dems Will Again Deny Sanders Presidential Nomination
Nicholas Levis
Three Lessons of Occupy Wall Street, With a Fair Dose of Memory
Steve Martinot
The Constitutionality of Homeless Encampments
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The Aftershocks of the Economic Collapse Are Still Being Felt
Jesse Jackson
By Enforcing Climate Change Denial, Trump Puts Us All in Peril
George Wuerthner
Coyote Killing is Counter Productive
Mel Gurtov
On Dealing with China
Dean Baker
How to Reduce Corruption in Medicine: Remove the Money
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail