Skip to main content
Read page text

Page Text

Yanis varoufakis: europe is the loser – pages 2-3

AUGUST 2015  N o 1508




S / T S A T S I

SP R O J E C T S / A R T F O R U M /


Price: £3/US$4.99

The appeal of the righteous cause

Many of the foreign fighters of the past century – from the International Brigades to IS volunteers – have been fleeing their own lives as much as pursuing what they believe to be a better world

ARIS STOIDIS – ‘Shout’ (2015)

The Europe we don’t want


The Eurogroup and the International Monetary Fund have crushed the hopes of a youthful movement that sought to transform a nation and rouse a continent. Beyond the shock that events in Greece have given supporters of the European project, there are other noteworthy features. The EU is becoming increasingly authoritarian, as Germany imposes its wishes and obsessions unchecked. Though founded on a promise of peace, the EU seems incapable of drawing lessons from history, even when recent and violent; what matters most to it is sanctioning bad debtors, and the headstrong. This amnesiac authoritarianism is a challenge to those who saw the EU as the place to experiment with going beyond the framework of the nation state, and achieving democratic renewal.

At the outset, European integration lavished material advantages on its citizens, against a backdrop of the East-West confrontation. In the immediate post-war period, the project was driven forward by the US, which sought a market for its goods and a buffer against Soviet expansion. The US recognised that if the “free world” wanted to compete effectively with the “democratic” republics of the Warsaw Pact, it had to win hearts and minds, which meant demonstrating its goodwill through social policies. Since this strategic lifeline disappeared, Europe has behaved like the board of directors of a bank.

Some participants in the cold war, such as NATO, survived the fall of the Berlin Wall by inventing new monsters to destroy on

Serge Halimi is president of Le Monde diplomatique other continents. The EU’s institutions have also redefined their enemy. The peace and stability they claim as their objective now demand peoples be politically neutralised, and their remaining tools of national sovereignty destroyed. This means integration at the pace of a forced march, the burial of political questions in a one-size-fits-all treaty, a federal project. This venture is not new, but the Greek case illustrates the brutality with which it is now being pursued.

“How many divisions does the pope have?” was reportedly Joseph Stalin’s dismissive response to a French leader who urged him to deal tactfully with the Vatican. The states in the Eurogroup now seem to be applying the same approach to Greece; reckoning that the government they find so exasperating would be unable to defend itself, they have destabilised it through enforced bank closures and import

Continued on page 2

Inside this issue Germany’s little-known third way f denord, r knaebel, p rimbert Pages 4-5 Who becomes a jihadist, and why? laurent bonelli Pages 6-7 Guadeloupe’s memorial to slavery jacques denis Pages 8-9 N Korea: money’s making its mark martine bulard Pages 10-11



e don’t know how many will come back; of those who do, we don’t know how many will turn to violence. But given the numbers, it’s very worrying,” said Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator, referring to 3,000 EU citizens who have gone to fight for IS (Islamic State) or the Al-Nusra Front in Syria and Iraq. “Let’s assume half come back, and 10% of those turn to violence; that would mean 150 people who had learned how to handle guns and explosives, developed a worldwide network of comrades in arms and greatly increased their tolerance for violence. The Nemmouche incident [the 2014 attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels] shows the kind of risk we are facing” (1).

The series of attacks in Europe (Brussels last May, Paris and Montrouge this January and Copenhagen in February) coming at the same time as the military successes of IS and Al-Nusra in the Middle East has produced a discourse of fear and war – France’s prime minister Manuel Valls has even spoken of a “war of civilisation” – and a widespread mobilisation of state institutions.

There have been parliamentary commissions, expert reports, international conferences and initiatives such as Europol’s Focal Point Travellers programme. New countermeasures include stripping would-be fighters of citizenship, confiscating identity papers, stopping welfare payments, indictment for criminal offences, suppression of propaganda (especially on the Internet) and tighter border controls. Some countries, such as Denmark, have created deradicalisation centres to treat returnees. Social workers, health workers, teachers and families have been asked to report signs of radicalisation.

Laurent Bonelli is an associate professor in political science at the Institut des Sciences Sociales du Politique, University of Paris West-Nanterre

Moscow: have cars lost their way? hélène richard Pages 12-13 Armenian art at the Venice Biennale avedis hadjian Pages 14-15 Sierra Leone’s other deadly disease silas gbandia Pages 14-15 Frank Gehry’s monument to money johan popelard Page 16

The apparent novelty and scale of the phenomenon are used to justify these measures, yet over the last century many have gone to fight in conflicts in which they were not directly concerned, despite their country’s disapproval: the International Brigades in Spain (1936-9); the pro-German Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism (1941-4); the Machal volunteers in the conflict that led to the creation of Israel in 1948; supporters of Nicaragua’s Sandinista revolution in 1979; and volunteers in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya. US political scientist David Malet has documented foreign volunteers in more than 20% of wars between 1816 and 2005; their numbers have ranged from a few hundred to tens of thousands (2).

Despite the diversity of these experiences, and what we may think of them, a comparison shows they have much in common, and sheds light on what makes them leave family and friends, social and working life, to fight in a distant country for a cause of which those around them may disapprove, and for a highly uncertain reward.

The first lead is ideology. The testimony of foreign volunteers gives great importance to grand narratives of a struggle between conflicting world visions. “In Islam,” Mourad Fares said from Syria, “there are no frontiers, there is no nationalism: Muslims are a single community. … It’s the third and final world war that has started here. The whole world against Islam” (3). This recalls a letter a Frenchman wrote to his father in August 1944: “In London, they are enlisting to fight for unfettered capitalism, which is controlled by international Jewry. In Paris, we are enlisting to fight Communism so as to allow the establishment of a New World Order. Don’t be angry with me – I have made my choice: I’m joining the Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism” (4). It also echoes what Simon Lagunas, a French Communist Party activist who joined the International Brigades in Spain in 1936, said: “There’s something you can’t understand unless you were there – something very important – and that’s anti-fascism. It was the mortar that held us together. Within anti-fascism, people had different leanings, but we were united in our desire to stop fascism” (5).

Continued on page 6

Skip to main content