The End of Democracy as we know it
Mathew D. Rose is an Investigative Journalist specialised in Organised Political Crime in Germany and an editor of BRAVE NEW EUROPE
The annoyance at the revelations concerning “Qatargate” was surprising as corruption in the EU is endemic. What may have made this case different was that all those linked to it are numbered among the supposedly “good” of the European political class: social democrats, the General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), and heads of two humanitarian NGOs: “Fight Impunity” and ”No Peace Without Justice” (nomen est omen – both chock full of current and former “good” EU parliamentarians and officials). Two further EU social democrat parliamentarians, who the police wanted to get their hands on, had their immunity revoked yesterday. One of the accused is reportedly prepared to incriminate other “good” EU parliamentarians in a plea bargaining deal. Qatargate has exposed just how far the rot has spread in European Liberal Democracy.
Corruption is oddly still viewed as an evil aberration in Europe, not as the determining element of its politics, which it is. In the damage limitation operation by the EU and mainstream media following Qatargate, there is, as there always is, the talk of black sheep. No one however asks the most basic question: What colour is the flock?
What is also unusual in this case is that some of the perpetrators may well be prosecuted. This is not due to the low level of tolerance of corruption in EU institutions or European governments. The Belgian magistrate leading the investigation is already being portrayed as a hero – a candidate for a Netflix series – the lone wolf fighting for European justice and democracy, which is what the EU claims to be doing. The EU’s own anti-fraud office, OLAF, with its yearly budget of 61 million euro is just another of the smoke and mirrors institutions of EU hypocrisy.
That Qatargate is now out in the public domain may offer solace to some, but corruption still determines political policy in Europe. Qatargate was so minor in scale that one cannot even term it the tip of an iceberg. Every major event offers new truly massive fields of profit for the political class as is the case with Covid, Ukraine, and the climate crisis. While climate activists naively demand that governments “Follow the science”, Europe’s political class has a different lodestar: “Follow the money”.
Let us remain at the superficial level of corruption in Europe. What has been occurring in Britain in the past years can only be termed a “Tsunami of corruption”. During the Covid crisis billions were wasted, or better said, dispatched into the pockets of the Tory government’s friends, family, and donors for little or no return. A certain percentage of course ended up with enabling politicians and the Tory party. But this is only one of many instances. It seems every day a new mind boggling “sleaze” scandal hits UK headlines – and ends there. Sleaze is defined as an activity of low moral standards and low moral standards do not violate the law. Corruption does. So no prosecutions. And most anyone in Europe will concur about the low moral standards of the political class, so that’s OK. In fact there are all sorts of terms in English to avoid using the term corruption – and mainstream media makes liberal use of these – just as there are innumerable laws and loopholes that permit “legal” corruption, not to mention the integration of law enforcement, public prosecutors, and judges in this system of corruption.
Germany is no different to Britain. There too politicians were involved in steering PPI contracts to friends for kickbacks. Courts found no wrongdoing. Interesting is the fact that the current chancellor, Olaf Scholz, was involved in a scam, Cum Ex, costing the German and other European states billions of euros in lost tax revenues. Scholz’s case was laid to rest by Germany’s public prosecutors, to whom government has the authority to issue directives. The other day the same occurred with the German finance minister, Christian Lindner, who was accused of having received loans from a bank, for which he does occasional favours, at extremely generous conditions. In other words it was just sleaze. Let us also not forget that the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, received her current post as she had to be quickly bundled out of Berlin as she too was mired as defence minister in what was rapidly developing into a corruption affair. At least the right person ended up in the right place.
In fact, if we took a corruption tour of the EU member states things are no different. Even Scandinavia that appeared to be relatively corruption free five years ago does not have that status today. With few exceptions one can easily claim that the driving force of the European political class is not to promote the common good, but to further their own private interests. The higher a politician climbs in the hierarchy the higher their corruption value.
Their method is simple: use the hopes and dreams of citizens to win a privileged political position for themselves. This includes a great deal of virtue signalling. Political change there will be none. There is probably no political institution that has perfected this better than the EU, which has become a Prêt-à-porter centre for moral posturing.
But this is not even half the story. With regard to corruption we make one cardinal error, in which we are encouraged by mainstream media: we see the receiver of corruption as the culprit. What about those paying the bribes? When Greece descended into its financial crisis in 2009 many cases of corruption began to be uncovered. Most involved major German corporations. Nonetheless, especially in Germany, the Greeks were portrayed as venal and corrupt. On the other side stood the virtuous German businessman who was “forced” to pay bribes to earn an “honest” living. A victim of corruption. It was similar to a couple of decades ago as prostitutes were pursued by the police, but not their customers or pimps. We even have an honourable name for the pimps who bribe politicians: corporate lobbyists. They claim that they provide politicians with meaningful advice to help them make the right decision, which always equates with a maximisation of their client’s profits. What they have on offer are bribes and threats. European oligarchic society is based on force and fraud.
So who is doing the bribing? For major political influence one needs sizeable sums of money. In the case of Qatargate, which EU politicians claim was a very minor affair and had no real political influence, over a million euros in cash was discovered in the residences of the accused. That was simply banknotes which were lying about. We do not know how much was not discovered, nor do the many amenities such as first class travel, wining and dining, and gifts appear in these sums. These are monetary resources that normal citizens cannot afford. Beyond major corporations, the 1%, and in a case like Qatargate, national states, no one else can. This is something they do systematically.
In fact, large corporations and the rich determine European policies. Geopolitical decisions are still dictated by the United States, but even these are established in the US by corporate interests. It is fascinating that people do not ask why climate warming including CO2 emissions is still increasing in Europe, as are inequality and poverty, tax injustice, the deterioration of public healthcare and education, the attack on press freedom – in fact all the things that are fundamental aspects of what we call the common good are inexorably growing worse. European governments and the political class tell us everything is getting better. It isn’t.
This brings us back to basic question of “Cui Bono?” (Who benefits?). What is increasing are corporate profits and the private wealth of the top percent. This is not because they are terribly clever, as we are lectured by them and mainstream media. It is because they dictate the rules. Better said, they buy them.
The odd thing is that this is actually common knowledge, just like climate change. It requires a personal effort to conceal this reality from oneself. So why and how do people do it? One reason is that we are socialised with an ideal of democracy. It is celebrated daily in mainstream media. As Josep Borrell, the EU’s pseudo foreign minister (himself found guilty of insider share dealing), so distinctly metaphorically described it: our democracy is what differentiates us European humans from the beasts “of the jungle”. It is proof of our moral superiority and exceptionalism over the rest of mankind. We are championing the existential battle between democracy and authoritarianism. It is all so simple: we are good, they are evil. To call this into question simply is not possible for many citizens, including many leftists. Their conception of the world from earliest childhood would disintegrate. What about all those petitions signed, demonstrations attended, donations to NGOs (many of whom are mainly financed by the EU or European national governments) that promise to make make big changes, but ending in microscopic improvements? It would mean that when you go to vote, you know nothing will change – Italy is a textbook case. When a possible alternative is presented, as was the case with Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, the same interests used their money to prevent this – not Putin or China. Having to admit this is something truly existential. In essence democracy in Europe is a myth similar to the belief that royalty are somehow special. Yet people appear to want – to need – to believe in these.
Then there is the question of class consciousness. Britain is moving from a failed economy to a failed society before our eyes due to corrupt politicians from the Tories, but also from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, selling policy decisions to the highest bidder. But ask any of the shrill metropolitan middle class liberal Guardianistas what the cause is, they will answer Brexit. Here their social underlings had understood the political crisis of their nation and exercised their democratic choice (the permitting of which is considered by most of Britain’s ruling class as the greatest political error of the century) to stop the rot. Class antagonism is obviously another very powerful force that trumps reason.
Then there is identity politics, very much encouraged by the political class, concentrating on individuals and their private agendas while turning their back on collective movements for social change. It renounces class and collectivism in favour of a specific interest group, pitting one against the other, ignoring that their democracy has gone to the dogs.
With consumerism maybe we have arrived at another crucial element. With regard to politics as with climate change, many Europeans believe they have nothing to gain and everything to lose. The lifestyle of Borrell’s European Garden is under threat, from foreign authoritarian leaders and states (today our friends, tomorrow our enemies), dark-skinned refugees, radicals calling for social justice, climate activists, the poor who want to rob them of what they have or stop them from having more. Better to join in in the lies and hypocrisy: “God, just get me through this and let the scum and the next generation suffer the consequences”.
On the other hand, there also comes a moment when people have a sense that they have nothing more to lose from their political class. Up to now such events have been relatively isolated in Europe. We saw it in Greece in 2015 as its citizens voted massively to reject the EU’s financial destruction of Greek sovereignty (and as was to be expected, its political class betrayed their democratic mandate). We saw it in 2018 with the Gilets Jaunes in France, and again with the candidature of Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister, which his own party sabotaged to prevent popular change in Britain. We saw it as the climate movement gave up on politicians and went over to civil disobedience and direct action. Again we are seeing large popular movements with the massive strikes in the UK for wage and working condition improvements, but also the protests in France against the further degradation of their pensions system. But the oligarchic system has been able to cope with these up to now – rather easily. Cash put in the right pockets of the right people has proven an excellent investment.
All dominating political systems have eventually collapsed, as will this one. This may come from internal upheaval, outside forces, or climate collapse. What we can however do in the meantime is to stop taking “liberal democracy” seriously and deal with the political reality of our society – as frightening as that may be. It is not that democracy has failed, it just doesn’t exist any more. The political class and their oligarchic paymasters are not there to further our interests, just theirs. We only have each other, but isn’t people organising themselves to move forwards what society is about?
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