In 1989, my book ‘Une autre Europe, un autre Monde’, was published in France. In the context of what I had been the first to call ‘A Europe of Thirty’ as I foresaw the continent’s reunification, I noted that Turkey would only feel it had ‘arrived’ when it could join the European Union, but that this sentiment betrayed its history as the seat of the Ottoman Empire that had dominated the Islamic world for five hundred years.
Today, Turkey is a key player in an escalating Middle East crisis. By spearheading Western aggression against Syria to protect Israel from an imaginary attack by Iran, it is paying back NATO for the decades during which it benefitted from the alliance’s ‘protection’ against the Soviet Union. (In the West, Turkey was known as ‘NATO’s sou-thern bulwark’ against the Communist threat.) Turkey’s neighborhood has changed dramatically since the Cold War, yet for NATO, Moscow is still an enemy, as it protests the Alliance’s interference in Syria’s internal affairs.
Not unrelatedly, this week, the Nobel committee awarded its annual Peace Prize to the European Union, citing the successful transformation of thirty countries that had warred for centuries into a peaceful and prosperous polity. Most observers were astonished by the prize, given the potentially earth-shattering crisis of Europe’s common currency, the Euro. And while the Nobel Committee piously hopes its decision will encourage a peaceful resolution, neutral Switzerland gears up to once again receive refugees.
The Second World War has not been forgotten by Greece which suffered a brutal German occupation, followed by the defeat of its powerful left wing under heavy-handed British/American influence. As for the Spanish, they have not forgotten their Civil War against a fascist dictator that set the stage for Hitler’s aggressions. But should Europe descend once again into conflict, it will not be over territory, but about the chasm between the 99% and the 1%.
To understand the significance of what is happening today, we should go back to 1848, when the Communist Manifesto enjoined the workers of the world to unite. The slogan was subsequently adopted by the Soviet Union and many workers’ parties, but until now, the capitalist system had remained too powerful for the workers of the world to think as one.
Until now. Three weeks before what is perhaps the most crucial American presidential election, populations in thirty-odd countries are in the street banging on pots and pans in opposition to the world America has created, while neither candidate can be expected to break from the policies that led to that opposition.
In 1989 I surmised that one of the reasons why the United States had not imposed sanctions on China after the events of Tiananmen Square was to prevent a rap-prochement between China and the URSS. Thirteen years later, the two former communist countries are united in their opposition to Western military action against the Syrian government, support Iran’s right to peaceful use of nuclear technology, and share similar attitudes toward just about any American policy you can think of.
The common front of these two rising powers is a response to the near total loss of control over world events by Western leaders who bought into the American dream of unlimited wealth. As China and Russia call for coope-ration and dialogue, the energy of desperation flows through the world system at an accelerating rate, driving it toward a bifurcation whose outcome no one can predict. And yet, no special concern is palpable.
Was the world similarly oblivious as Hitler built up his armies to overpower Europe in 1939? No one had dreamed there could be war in 1914 until an assassin’s bullet killed the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in partly Muslim Bosnia-Herzegovina. Today, as Europe’s politicians and bankers ponder how to save the Euro, its peoples spearhead worldwide opposition to Wall Street rule, while a dispute over power in a small Muslim country on its border could ignite the entire Eurasian continent.
If the Christian/Muslim enmity begun in the Middle Ages, and the struggle for equity that began with the French Revolution come together in what could be an ultimate conflagration it will be the fault neither of Iran nor of Syria.