[Marxism] Tariq Ali on the Extreme Center: “We are witnessing the twilight of democracy”; Jerome Roos

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Thu Jul 2 14:35:59 MDT 2015

Tariq Ali: “We are witnessing the twilight of democracy”
by Kieran O'Connor for Verso blog

Instead of worrying too much about the extreme left and right, we
should focus more on the extreme center, says writer Tariq Ali, author
of The Extreme Centre: A Warning. He spoke to Creston Davis on June 26
in The European about the decline of democracy and German hegemony in

Creston Davis: Mr. Ali, with regards to your most recent book, The
Extreme Center: A Warning, what are the characteristics that define
extremism in your opinion?
Tariq Ali: For one, continuous wars—which we have now had since
2001—starting with Afghanistan, continuing on to Iraq. And even since
Iraq, it’s been more or less continuous. The appalling war in Libya,
which has wrecked that country and wrecked that part of the world, and
which isn’t over by any means. The indirect Western intervention in
Syria, which has created new monsters. These are policies, which if
carried out by any individual government, would be considered
extremist. Now, they’re being carried out collectively by the United
States, backed by some of the countries of the European Union. So that
is the first extremism. The second extremism is the unremitting
assault on ordinary people, citizens inside European and North
American states, by a capitalist system which is rapacious, blind, and
concerned with only one thing: making money and enhancing the profits
of the 1%. So I would say that these two are the central pillars of
the extreme center. Add to that the level of surveillance and new laws
which have been put on the statute books of most countries: the
imprisonment of people without trial for long periods, torture, its
justification, etc.
 . . .
Davis: Do you think there is hope in the rise of Syriza, Podemos, Sinn
Féin and other Left political parties?
Ali: Well, I think Syriza and Podemos are very, very different from
Sinn Féin in many ways, and so I wouldn’t put all three together. I
would say that Syriza and Podemos are movements which have come out of
mass struggles. In the case of Podemos, directly out of huge mass
movements in Spain, which started with the occupation of the square.
In Greece, as a response to what the EU was doing there, punishing it
endlessly, for the sins of its ruling elite. And so the response of
the people was finally to elect the Syriza government to take on the
Troika and set them up with a new alternative. Its future will depend
very much on whether they’re able to do so or not.

Davis: Do you think they will?
Ali: At the moment we have a critical situation in Greece. Even as we
speak, where there is an open attempt by the EU to destroy Syriza by
splitting it. There is a German obstinacy and utter refusal to
seriously consider an alternative. The reason isn’t even a lack of
money, because money swims around the EU coffers endlessly, and they
could write off the debt tomorrow if they wanted. But they don’t want
to do so, because of the election of a left-wing government. They want
to punish Syriza in public, to humiliate it so that this model doesn’t
go any further than Greece. We are seeing a struggle between the
Syriza government and the Troika—as well as the American side, the
IMF—with very little room for any compromise...
 . . .
Davis: Many intellectuals here in Athens agree with you that the EU is
backed by the German elite. Some even go as far as to say that it’s
Germany trying to take control of Europe once again.
Ali: I know this argument. It’s not invisible. It’s there for everyone
to see. But I think to compare it to the Third Reich is utterly
ludicrous. Germany is a capitalist state nurtured carefully and
brought back to prosperity by the United States, and it is very loyal
to the United States. I don’t even think the Germans enjoy full
sovereignty. There are some things which they cannot do if the United
States doesn’t wish them to do it. So, one cannot discuss Europe
without understanding US imperial hegemony, both globally and
certainly in Europe as it stands. It’s an alliance that the Americans
control, in which the EU of course has a great deal of autonomy, but
in which it still is very dependent on the United States, especially
militarily, but not only in that respect. So to blame the Germans for
everything is an easy way out for some of those suffering in Europe
today. At the time of German Reunification, it was no secret that
Germany would soon become the strongest political entity in the
European Union. And that has happened.
 . . .

It was the creditors who pushed Greece over the edge
by Jerome Roos
ROAR magazine, July 1, 2015
. . .
And so the bottomline is that Greece was pushed over the edge by its
own creditors. Its left-led government is clearly still willing to pay
— just not at all costs, like previous governments. In fact, Syriza
rightly demands a fairer distribution in the burden sharing, a
sustainable long-term payment trajectory, and a sovereign say in the
way it chooses to meet its obligations — by taxing shipowners, bankers
and media magnates, for example, rather than cutting the wages and
benefits of workers, pensioners and the unemployed.

If this is considered “radical” and “irresponsible” in Europe today,
it’s only because the center has shifted light-years to the right.
Unfortunately, that is precisely what has happened. If anyone bears
responsibility for the Greek default on the IMF, it is the extremists
in the creditor camp who would rather suffocate their borrowers than
ensure continued repayment.

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