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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 30-May-2010
The rise of left-wing violence around the world

Web Log - May, 2010

The rise of left-wing violence around the world

Left-wing violence is surging far ahead of right-wing violence

Leftist violence is rising around the world

Earlier this month, supposedly peaceful anti-austerity protests by pro-communist public sector union workers in Greece ended in the deaths of three people, including a pregnant woman, in a bank that the protestors decided to burn down. (See "6-May-10 News -- Deadly riots in Athens shock the world.")

These killings have led to a wider recognition that left-wing violence is on the rise in Europe and around the world.

In Asia, leftist violence has become organized and mainstream in some places. Yesterday, we reported on the carnage in India when Maoist terrorists sabotaged train tracks, causing two trains to collide. The Maoist insurgency in India is thought by many to be the a major threat to India's stability, as it spreads across the southeast of the country. Maoist violence has also spread to Nepal, while in Kyrgyzstan, leftist violence threatens a war with Uzbekistan.

But for the West, the real story is the rise of left-wing violence in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in America.

In an article last week in Financial Times, contributing editor and historian Simon Schama compares what's happening now to the aftermath of the bankruptcy of the French Monarchy in 1789, leading to the French Revolution:

"On the brink of a new age of rage

Far be it for me to make a dicey situation dicier but you can’t smell the sulphur in the air right now and not think we might be on the threshold of an age of rage. The Spanish unions have postponed a general strike; the bloody barricades and the red shirts might have been in Bangkok not Berlin; and, for the moment, the British coalition leaders sit side by side on the front bench like honeymooners canoodling on the porch; but in Europe and America there is a distinct possibility of a long hot summer of social umbrage.

Historians will tell you there is often a time-lag between the onset of economic disaster and the accumulation of social fury. In act one, the shock of a crisis initially triggers fearful disorientation; the rush for political saviours; instinctive responses of self-protection, but not the organised mobilisation of outrage. Whether in 1789 or now, an incoming regime riding the storm gets a fleeting moment to try to contain calamity. If it is seen to be straining every muscle to put things right it can, for a while, generate provisional legitimacy.

Act two is trickier. Objectively, economic conditions might be improving, but perceptions are everything and a breathing space gives room for a dangerously alienated public to take stock of the brutal interruption of their rising expectations. What happened to the march of income, the acquisition of property, the truism that the next generation will live better than the last? The full impact of the overthrow of these assumptions sinks in and engenders a sense of grievance that “Someone Else” must have engineered the common misfortune. The stock epithet the French Revolution gave to the financiers who were blamed for disaster was “rich egoists”. Our own plutocrats may not be headed for the tumbrils but the fact that financial catastrophe, with its effect on the “real” economy, came about through obscure transactions designed to do nothing except produce short-term profit aggravates a sense of social betrayal. ...

So we face a tinderbox moment, a test of the strength of democratic institutions in a time of extreme fiscal stress."

Schama's point is a reasonable one. As the financial crisis worsens, people lose their faith in the government's ability to prevent the crisis. This loss of faith can be buttressed by unrelated crises (such as the current oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico) that serve to highlight the government's helplessness. People become increasingly contemptuous of the government and, as they do, violence increases. In the extreme, violence increases and the government breaks down, leading to anarchy and war. The question is whether the government -- any government -- can do anything to prevent this slide toward violence, anarchy and war. Generational Dynamics theory says that it cannot. These movements come from the people, not from the politicians, and the politicians can neither cause them nor prevent them.

The Fascists versus the Communists

That doesn't stop anyone from blaming the politicians. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, writing in the Telegraph, doesn't hesitate to blame the increasing level of European violence in general on the EU government in Brussels, and in particular on the German government in Berlin.

According to Evans-Pritchard:

"It was refreshing to read "The Euro Burns" by Michael Schlecht, Die Linke’s ["The Left's"] economic guru, arguing that the primary cause of Euroland’s crisis is "German wage-dumping". He shows from Eurostat data that German labour costs rose 7pc between 2000 and 2008, compared to 34pc in Ireland, 30pc in Spain, Portugal, and Italy, 28pc in Greece and Holland, and 20pc in France. ...

Germany ran an accumulated trade surplus of €1,261bn over the period, while Spain ran a deficit of €598bn, and Portugal €273bn. This shell game was kept afloat by recycling German capital to Club Med debt markets beyond sustainable levels until it all blew up over Greece. The Club Med victims are now trapped. ..."

And so, having blamed the financial crisis on the Germans' savings habits, Evans-Pritchard blames Brussels' solution for making it worse, by imposing euro currency deflation on the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain). He quotes socialist and communist leaders of Portugal:

"Communist leader Jerónimo de Sousa said last week that the country was being reduced to a "protectorate of Brussels", cowed into submission by financial blackmail. He invoked the civil war in 1383 when the country rallied heroically to expel the foreign opressor - with English help, the "ultimato inglês" as he calls it - from Portuguese soil."

Evans-Pritchard goes on:

"Portugal is not unique. I spent Saturday delving into the subcultures of Italy’s Rifondazione Comunista, Spain’s Izquierda Unida, Olivier Besancenot’s Parti Anti-Capitaliste in France, and Germany’s Linke (Left). While it is too early to talk of a pan-European revolt against EMU-deflation, the Left is starting to offer the only coherent critique of what has gone wrong with monetary union and why there can be no durable solution until the EU creates full fiscal union."

I wanted to quote Evans-Pritchard's argument at length because he pits the left against the Germans, and because he appears to be excusing left-wing violence. (If you don't like the word "excusing," then try "understanding" or even "condoning.")

The unwritten implication is that the WW II battle between the Fascists and Communists is being re-fought, and that the Communists ought to win it (again).

This concept of a new war between the Fascists and the Communists may not be so far-fetched, and is in fact supported by the German magazine Der Spiegel, in an article entitled "The Return of the Radicals - Crisis Fuels Rise in Left-Wing Extremist Violence." The article points out that left-wing militancy by "anti-fascist groups" on the streets of Germany is increasing, but quotes a left-wing militant as being shocked by the deaths in Greece:

"He begins to talk about Greece. The revolutionary resistance there seemed to have entered a promising phase, with unions and autonomists united on the streets. It was going so well, he says. And now this.

Violence, he says, must be used constructively and "responsibly," not against people -- especially now that things in Germany are also gaining momentum again. "There's been a rise in the number of night-time actions," he says, "and militancy on the street is increasing."

The opposition in this struggle -- Germany's federal government -- has observed the same trend and is worried about this renaissance of left-wing violence in the country. German Interior Ministry crime statistics for 2009 show a 53 percent jump in the number of left-wing attacks, the largest increase seen in many years. Police recorded a total of 1,822 left-wing acts of violence in all of Germany, considerably more than those committed by right-wing extremists."

The use of violence "constructively and responsibly," but not against people, is completely absurd, but its acceptance by the people at Der Spiegel, as well as in the mainstream press, is a measure of today's insanity.

This last sentence captures a central point of this article: that left-wing violence is soaring, while right-wing violence is not, and yet, the journalists and general public seem to excuse and condone left-wing violence.

According to the article, left-wing violence was relatively dormant before 2007, but really took off after the G-8 meeting in Heiligendamm, Germany, in 2007, and has increased since then, as the financial crisis has worsened. The increasing evidence that bankers, politicians and financiers have committed fraud while making enormous amounts of money for themselves has given left-wing groups a free pass to condone or commit "responsible and constructive" violence, when directed against non-favored groups.

Excusing left-wing violence

There are many examples of the excusing of left-violence.

Marwan Barghouti is a Palestinian terrorist who sits in an Israeli jail serving five life sentences, having been convicted of killing many civilians through terrorist attacks. According to Memri, a network of a dozen Communist Party mayors of municipalities in France are openly expressing solidarity with Barghouti. They're calling for him to be set free, presumably so that he can blow up more civilians. Would these mayors feel the same way about terrorists who committed massacres in their own municipalities?

In America, the mainstream media talks endlessly about the how dangerous the mere WORDS of the Tea Party movement are, while often ignoring actual acts of left-wing violence.

For example, the FBI had to be called in to investigate a May 1 left-wing "methodical and coordinated" attack by anarchists in Santa Cruz, California, on May 1, according to the San Jose Mercury News. And yet, this violence was barely noticed by the mainstream media outside of Silicon Valley, even though it has national implications.

Breaking a few eggs

In his article, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard calls leftist violence "more benign" than right-wing violence.

This is a remarkable conclusion when you consider the fact that of the three bloodiest and most genocidal dictators of the 20th century -- Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong and Josef Stalin -- two were left-wing dictators, only one was right-wing. Each one of these dictators killed tens of millions of innocent people, so it's hard for me to see why two of them are benign. And if you throw Pol Pot into the mix, who killed merely millions of innocent people, that's three out of four. So there's nothing benign about left-wing violence.

Something that I've heard throughout my life from Boomer intelligentsia was that left-wing violence was to be excused because "You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet." That is, it's OK to kill millions or tens of millions of people, since your goal is a socialist workers' paradise. This is presumably the same kind of paradise that Osama bin Laden promises to suicide bombers who wish to qualify for 72 virgins. And it must be similar to the paradise that Hitler promised the Germans, once those darned Jews and Russians had been exterminated.

Still, it's worth asking: What's the different between left-wing and right-wing violence. More generally, what's the difference between the left wing and the right wing?

I do remember what my teachers told me when I was in school in the 1950s and 1960s. They told me that in Communism and socialism, the government owned everything, while in Fascism, there was private ownership of property, though still controlled by the dictatorial government.

I keep thinking of the irony of what my teachers told me as I look at China and see that, under their definitions, China has moved from a Communist country in the 1950s to a Fascist country today. But nobody calls it a Fascist country, of course, because fascist violence is out of fashion, while communist or socialist violence is sooooooooooooooo in fashion, though I assume that it makes little difference to the people being killed or their familes.

Ya know, ya gotta hand it to Hitler - at least he was honest about what he was doing. He was going to exterminate the Jews to leave behind a superior race, and he was going to exterminate the Russians to give his superior race some Lebensraum.

And I guess you could say that leftist dictators were honest too. Stalin knew that he wanted to exterminate the Ukrainians through starvation, for example.

So what's the difference?

That's the point -- whether you call violence "left-wing" or "right-wing" depends on what's in fashion. In the 1950s and 1960s, when my teachers were telling me their definitions, it was increasingly fashionable among young Boomers, and their teachers, to describe America's capitalism as just another form of fascism. These young Boomers would walk around with copies of "Chairman Mao's Little Red Book of Quotations" in their back pockets, not concerned that, at the same time, Chairman Mao was barbarically slaughtering tens of millions of Chinese in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Well, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, don't you.

The future of left-wing and right-wing violence

It's truly remarkable today that left-wing violence is approved and condoned by the mainstream media and by many politicians. Of course there's a "not in my back yard" flavor to the approval, but there's approval nonetheless. And left-wing violence is growing.

And yet, right-wing violence is almost non-existent today, and shows no sign of growing. How is that possible?

My guess is that it's simply fashion in labeling. If you're a terrorist and you want to blow up a school bus full of kids, then you call yourself left-wing so that you'll be a "good guy"; you wouldn't want to call yourself right-wing, since that would make you a "bad guy," even though the actual murder of the children in the bus would be no different.

It's worthwhile remembering that Fascism was once considered highly fashionable by the intelligentsia. There were anti-government riots in the early 1930s, and when Franklin Roosevelt took office, Benito Mussolini's Fascism was considered a model for the New Deal. After all, it was said, "Mussolini may be a dictator, but at least he keeps the trains running on time." Later, when Mussolini teamed up with Hitler, Fascism became unfashionable.

The articles that we quoted at the beginning of this essay all point to increases in violence. Simon Schama wrote "The world teeters on the brink of a new age of rage ... we face a tinderbox moment a test of the strength of democratic institutions in a time of extreme fiscal stress."

Whether the violence turns into a tinderbox as early as this summer remains to be seen, but there's no doubt that violence will increase as the financial crisis worsens. And current trends indicate that the worsening violence will be left-wing violence, not right-wing violence.

Does that mean that right-wing violence is gone forever? Hardly. It was the success of the Communists in Germany that led to the rise of Hitler and the right wing in Germany.

As left-wing violence grows, we can expect to see the countervailing rise of right-wing violence, forming opposing political identity groups, just like religious identity groups that can form and go to war with each other. The violence is the same -- just the label is different.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this rise of left-wing and then right-wing violence is possibly a major part of whatever scenario leads us to the Clash of Civilizations world war.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-May-10 The rise of left-wing violence around the world thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (30-May-2010) Permanent Link
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