The farce and the scorpions
We are forced to think that Marx was right and that history repeats itself first as a great tragedy and then as a miserable farce. Looking around us, we notice a disturbing undercurrent, even if a little ridiculous in its forms, especially regarding the European and Spanish far right in particular. An army of scorpions is running around our liberal democracies undermining the values of coexistence and diversity, while the big economic questions have fewer and fewer answers and are more and more worrying in terms of inequality and social mobility.
Democratic values are facing great economic and social challenges that the far right and populism are taking advantage of to call into question the entire political construction.
Great powers such as China and Russia despise the very idea of democracy by sacrificing it on the altar of utility, efficiency and the false safety of their citizens, based on a total absence of freedom. This week, the Chinese regime published a document called China, a functioning democracy in which it claims that in the pandemic the results of management have been better than in the US, which it describes as a polarised country, and in which it concludes that "there is no fixed model of democracy". It must be part of the farce, wanting to make people believe that China or Russia are another model of democracy instead of autocratic regimes in which, on the one hand, Xi Jinping has changed the Constitution to ensure his power indefinitely and, on the other hand, Vladimir Putin has signed a law to stay in the Kremlin until 2036. But the Chinese idea that governance is easier with draconian measures of lockdown, censorship and disregard for the freedom and welfare of citizens is a truism. Easier for the ruler does not mean better for the ruled and their non-existent citizens' rights. Dictatorship gives advantages on the international chessboard, where China and the USA represent antagonistic models, but where the United States is in decline in its active role as military guarantor of values and interests and not currently in a position to give moral lessons on democratic virtues.
In this context, the European Union, which has the most imperfect and best welfare model in the world, will have to face the transition of the German chancellorship and the elections to the French presidency. The EU has faced the severe coronavirus crisis with the blessed optimism of Keynesian intelligence, but it urgently needs a new step forward on banking, fiscal integration and key policies such as immigration. The experiment of the German coalition of social democrats, greens and liberals faces the need to make structural reforms that will end up conditioning its allies and the role of the EU in a world that looks towards Asia and is not counting on it, beyond observing it as a tourist destination with the attraction of beautiful old age.
The French elections will be another test for the whole of Europe. The emergence of Éric Zemmour has shaken everything in France, where tensions run high as the economic recovery has left behind the least qualified workers and farmers and punished them with inflation. Le Pen has become a sorcerer's apprentice in comparison with Operation Zemmour. The far-right journalist is sponsored by the media mogul Vincent Bolloré, president of the Vivendi group, owner of Paris Match, Le Journal de Dimanche, Canal+, Europe 1 and the Fox-inspired television channel Cnews. Bolloré also has interests in Italy's Mediaset and Spain's Prisa – he is only waiting for the Spanish government to give it the go-ahead, which would allow him to control El País and SER.
At war with Macron's Elysée, Bolloré is pushing a candidate who claims that "the existence of the French people is in danger" and who speaks of the "great substitution" and the threat of Islam on Catholic France by projecting an alternative based on a non-existent homogeneous and glorious past. Intoxicating for years in his programme Face à l'info, his strategy will ring a bell: confrontation on set to attract audiences and have an impact on social media, which feed the algorithms of hatred. It is a strategy that ends up conditioning the political agenda.
We only have to look around us to see how intolerance and the positions of the far right are making headway in public debate and how part of the press is playing strongly in their favour. You only have to read some of the Madrid press, which would sweep away the Catalan language with petty arguments tailor-made for the far right. Spain has always had journalists at the heart of hate campaigns, but we must also bear in mind those who are inhibited by fear and opportunism. Those who call themselves moderates and simply float in the waters of the highest bidder.