The socialist political establishment of Europe is in trouble. After several decades of uncontested reign of socialist ideas and policies after the end of WWII, a hand has appeared, writing on the wall. They don’t know what it is writing, but it doesn’t look good.
In an article this last week Antti Alaja of The Social Europe Journal expresses his concerns about what he calls the arrival of the “Age of Distrust” in Europe. In his native Finland he sees he signs of the Age of Distrust in the rise of a non-Establishment, fringe political party, the True Finns. After almost three decades of “stable” political rule by the three main parties – all socialist to one degree or another, note that – the voters in Finland now distrust the political establishment, and express their distrust through the voting booth. Alaja also comments that this “Age of Distrust” is in fact not limited to Finland; he says that it is “gaining ground” in the European Union in general. Indeed, Finland is not the only nation in Europe where the establishment feels threatened. I mentioned before The Netherlands and Geert Wilders. Distrust is the prevalent mood today in Germany, France, and even in the new members from the former Communist block – especially after the compulsory measures taken to save Greece and Ireland from bankruptcy using the money of the more solvent members of the Union.
Alaja doesn’t stop to discuss why exactly Europe entered the “Age of Distrust” after a decade of exorbitant optimism about the future of the EU. He writes for the socialist (I mean, of course, “progressive”) Social Europe Journal. No socialist ever stops to think about such causes. He has a bigger fish to fry, and it is not why voters are so unhappy with the socialist establishment; he doesn’t really care about it. His main concern is rather preserving the ideology of socialism “credible,” which means, of course, sellable to the general public: “One of the biggest challenges is: how can one build a credible social democratic alternative in the ‘age of distrust’?”
This is a very important question, including for us, the American readers. It tells us something about the socialist political establishment, both here in the US and in Europe. And it also warns us of the evils we must fight off if we want to preserve our civilization. Europe is a mirror for America to a great extent, and if we learn from Europe’s mistakes, we can effectively preserve our American liberties against our own would-be dictators and establishments.
Let me first translate the question in American terms, and also give some historical background. “Social democratic” is the European political slang for “socialist.” Ever since the word “socialist” became rather a liability, the European political class adopted other terms to express their ideology. “Social democratic” has been the term that stuck, especially because the “democratic” part of it made it in line with the dominant political religion of the day, “democracy,” whatever that thing may mean. So when Alaja is concerned about a “credible social democratic alternative,” he is actually concerned how socialism can survive as a dominant ideology in Europe despite the fact that so many years of socialist political establishment led to the “Age of Distrust.”
European socialists had quite a free ride after World War II in Western Europe. While Hayek in his The Road to Serfdom told us that governments use war to advance their socialist policies, in reality it was the after-war Europe that proved to be the fertile ground for socialism. The people were tired, and terrified of the war. They would accept anything, “just no more war.” So any governments in that period in Western Europe that would have preserved the “social peace” could rely on the tacit support – or at least the passivity – of the general population. Any socialist policies, any violation of the people’s liberties and freedom could pass unchallenged, because all that the people of Europe wanted was “no more war,” and the rest was not so important. Added was the fact that the Iron Curtain still existed, so the constant threat of a new war made it even easier to drug the voters into accepting more and more government intervention in their lives. Most people didn’t even know the difference between freedom and socialism because they didn’t care about it. “No war” was all they cared about.
(Similar to it were the last two years in the US. The Democrats’ propaganda against Bush’s wars was only used as a tools to gain the majority to put socialist policies in effect; the anti-war mood of the majority of the voters was exploited for political purposes, as socialists always do. Of course, we know now that the Democrats’ anti-war propaganda was hypocritical – they did nothing to stop any of the wars Bush started.)
So within 20 years after the end of the war, socialism – or “social democracy,” as they call it these days – was the established “consensus” in Europe. Any ideas of capitalism, free markets, or private enterprise that Europeans may have entertained before the war were extinguished. By the 1970s the governments were the largest employers and the largest capitalists in all Western European nations, in some places like Sweden or France controlling 70 to 80 percent of the nation’s capital goods and of the job markets. Socialism ruled, and the socialist (from all parties) establishment ruled, and it ruled without any alternative so that when in the 70s many scandals shook the political world of Britain, Germany, and France, nothing really changed. The governments kept robbing the populations of even more of their hard-earned money, the government control over the economy tightened, and the regulations of the economic life of the nations became total and comprehensive.
The socialist “consensus” in Europe steered well through the 1990s and the first years of the 21st century even though the ghost of the WWII had long been gone, and the Berlin Wall wasn’t there anymore. The establishment had newer and newer goals to throw at a public that had now emancipated itself from its terrible past but needed bright future to give it hope. It was the common market (destroyed earlier by the tariff barriers the politicians had erected before), then it was the European Union, then it was the Euro, then the expansion to the East. The Great Society always had something to achieve, to keep the “masses” focused. But the main goal was to keep the “consensus” that Europe must remain a “socially responsible society,” which means a land of socialism where the government controls the lives of the people, through taxes, regulations, and welfare systems.
And then all the goals were achieved, and to their surprise, the establishment found out that today Europe is entering an “Age of Distrust.” Suddenly the voters begin to think of alternatives. They think of alternatives in terms of new politicians, and new political parties. But what is even worse, an increasing number of voters is now challenging the very “consensus” itself. Socialism is not the accepted ideology by default anymore. More and more of the new politicians are challenging the status quo, in Holland, in Austria, in Britain, and even in France. And worse than that, voters do get their message, and support them!
So the establishment now has a challenge to deal with: How do you create and run a credible socialist alternative in the Age of Distrust? Not only the “voice of the progressives,” The Social Europe Journal, asks that question. Many others do too.
It is quite a challenge, indeed. It may turn out to be an impossible task because the Age of Distrust did not come about magically. It was created by that very same socialist ideology that reigned without competition for several decades in Europe. That same socialist ideology is based on a simple moral premise: That every gain must be someone else’s loss. And therefore those that gain much must by necessity have caused others to lose much. The rich must necessarily have robbed the poor, otherwise why would the rich be rich, and the poor be poor? Socialism in its very foundation assumes gain is crime, wealth is crime, and profit is crime. This belief in the immorality of profit is the very basis for the taxes and the huge systems of wealth re-distribution across the entire European Union today. Taking someone’s earned money cannot be justified morally – unless we have assumed prior to it that earned money is immoral by itself. Government force can have only one moral basis: restoration of social justice. So if the government takes money by force from those who work to give it to those who don’t work – which is the bare naked essence of all socialist policies – it is only because the society has established in advance that those that work have received their money in result of social injustice. Distrust towards those that work, that are successful, provident, thrifty, is at the very foundation of the socialist “consensus.”
The distrust in the early years was only directed at the rich. But with the years, the message of socialism sank in and it created distrust against anyone who is better off than their neighbors, whether they were rich or just middle class. Sure enough, if the rich gain at the expense of others, then everyone else who gains more than their neighbors, must do it at the expense of the others. The distrust spread in the whole society, not only towards the rich, but between people as well.
Then there were the special groups, favored by the state in its welfare programs. Trade unions, of course, got special favors. Single mothers. Artists. Poor and unemployed, many of whom in today’s Europe prefer to stay poor and unemployed – it makes them automatically eligible for welfare. Students. Farmers. Domestic producers.
Then came the favorite game of all socialists, dividing people into ethnic groups and favoring one above another in the name of “preserving ethnic identities.” Billions of euros are distributed today by the European Union in programs for preserving decrepit “cultures” and non-existing genetic “identities.” Not to mention the socialists’ love for Islam, and the billions of euros going into “cultural” and welfare projects, projects for building mosques and supporting whole neighborhoods of unemployed immigrant families.
All these programs, ironically, do exactly the wrong that socialism promised to solve: They make some people gain at the expense of others. Those that work are robbed of their money in favor of those who don’t work.
Even more ironically, at the end the socialist “consensus” did not create inequality. It created a new class of rich: The socialist politicians. The centralized control over the money of a nation couldn’t produce anything else but corruption; and, like Alaja admits in his article, part of the reason for the distrust in Finland is the numerous corruption scandals among the socialist political establishment. And Finland is not alone.
It is only natural that the distrust that is the moral foundation of the socialist ideology eventually becomes the dominant moral mood in a culture where the socialist ideology is dominant. It has happened before, in Eastern Europe. There was no reason to believe Western Europe will escape the same fate, if it adopts the same ideology. Inner cities in America where the socialism of the Democrat Party is the dominant ideology, have been in the Age of Distrust for a generation now. There is no escape. When one class of people is robbed of their money to give to another class of people, no matter what the official propaganda says, it will create mutual distrust. If at the very start socialism says that one man’s gain must be another man’s loss, then soon the beneficiaries of the state’s welfare programs will be looked upon with distrust; and eventually the ruling class that effects the programs will be the target of distrust. If whole nations squander hundreds of billions of euro, and then other nations are penalized collectively to make up for it, this will create distrust. If people are separated into class groups, ethnic groups, gender groups, age groups, and favored or penalized economically according to their group identity, this will inevitably create distrust. Socialism, when developed to the bitter end, destroys the society by destroying the bond between the individuals in the society, through its system of economic rewards and penalties.
Therefore, the Age of Distrust did not happen magically, it was the product of that very same socialist “consensus” that reigned uncontested throughout Europe for several decades. Alaja and his socialist buddies better wake up to the true reason for it, instead of trying to paint over the surface. The sooner they wake up, the less chance is there for a new Hitler.
So, yes, it is quite a challenge to find a credible socialist alternative in the Age of Distrust. It is just as big of a challenge as it is to decide what type of gasoline to use to extinguish a fire. Adding more of the same, no matter how “credible” it may be, will only make the problem worse.
The best solution for Europe is not a “credible socialist alternative” but an alternative to socialism. Let’s hope Europeans will finally awaken to reality. And Americans, too.