France's new President, Francois Hollande, is having an uphill struggle. He calls himself a Socialist, but like many European socialists he would more accurately be called a Social Democrat.
Although intending to work solely within the capitalist system he nevertheless felt himself able to promise voters that if elected he would foster growth domestically and in Europe and to balance the French budget by 2017.Laudatory aims, but the problems facing the capitalist world are not making his job any easier! French government forecasts of a paltry one point two percent economic growth next year already look over optimistic and may have to be revised downwards. France is Europe's second-largest economy, but French industry is in crisis. Car maker Peugeot Citroen is to shut its Aulnay plant near Paris with the loss of 3,000 jobs in addition to shedding a further 5,000 jobs from its other plants. The company had a first-half loss of about US$999 million this year.
But the malaise is not restricted to Peugeot CitroÃ«n. The day after the car maker's announcement, Telecommunications equipment manufacturer Alcatel-Lucent said it would cut 5,000 jobs globally by the end of 2013. Air France has also proposed to eliminate 5,122 positions while another 2,000 jobs are expected to go in a planned "reorganisation" by pharmaceuticals group Sanofi. (That's over 20,000 jobs from four companies alone.)
This shedding of large numbers of jobs by big companies is more than just a symptom of capitalist crisis. For the people whose jobs are being axed en masse, it is a catastrophe. Where are they expected to find alternative jobs when prospective employers are shedding jobs like confetti?
Not that capitalism gives a toss, of course. Despite the fact that all those thousands of sacked employees are now out of the consumer bracket, no longer able to contribute to the growth of the economy, they are being turned from financial contributors into a financial burden. Once laid off, each and every one of them exacerbates capitalism's woes. They certainly swell the ranks of those asking whether there might not be a better way.
And, of course, there is. It is called Socialism. It was the appeal of socialism that got Francois Hollande elected in the first place. If, however, he is too faint-hearted to push for a real socialist solution for France, then the French voters will probably swing back to the parties of the Right, who will be waiting with plenty of glib answers (but no solutions) to the country's problems. They will probably do what they have done already, and blame it all on migrants from North Africa!
Meanwhile, other right-wingers in various parts of Europe (and elsewhere) are busy trying to polish up the sadly tarnished image of the Nazis. You remember the Nazis, don't you? They were members of an Aryan master race who were going to make the world safe for international business by eliminating the Communists, and then all the socialists, trade unionists, progressives, as well as all the Gypsies, Jews and Slavs.
Western governments Â in Britain, France, the USA in particular Â thought the Nazis' anti-communist crusade would be a great aid to them in their quest for a way to overthrow the Communist government of Russia, which would open up a tremendous source of raw materials and man power. However, neither the Soviet government nor that of Hitlerite Germany was willing to be used as a pawn in the great game being played by Anglo-French imperialism. Even in the West's own ranks there were major political leaders who recognised that the tactics of imperialism were strategically flawed. Churchill, imperialist to his boot heels, nevertheless could see that Britain and the US needed the USSR if they were to have any chance against Hitler.
The routing of the Nazis by the Red Army, after several years of atrocities and grim occupation, it was thought at the time had finally put paid to any lingering admiration for these beasts in grey or black uniforms. But no, it was not to be. Instead, it became imperative to portray the Soviet Army as the bad guys and the Nazis as well-dressed gentlemen warriors, respectful of women, kind to dogs and little children, educated and sophisticated.
The French actress/singer Juliet Greco knew how sophisticated they were: she was tortured by them in France for helping the Resistance. I remember her explaining to Michael Parkinson why she hated the Germans: Referring to her own arrest, she said "And then the girl went on the table ... and that's all I'm going to say about that!"
The first "democratic" elections in the Baltic States after Gorbachev destroyed the Soviet Union brought overtly racist and anti-communist parties to power there. Racism was illegal in the Soviet Union, but the region's "democrats" had no problems with it being used in the elections. Now, while Soviet emblems and the word "Communist" are banned in Latvia, the authorities in the town of Bauska, south of Riga, have unveiled a monument to the Latvian legion of the Waffen SS. The Latvian Legion of the SS was formed in 1943. Its members took part in punitive operations against anti-Nazi partisans and civilians. Members of the Latvian SS were particularly known for their savagery against their own people, whom they both feared and hated.
The Nazis used the Baltic SS battalions to exterminate innumerable civilians in the Pskov region of Russia, the Brest region of Belarus as well as near Dnepropetrovsk. Herding the inhabitants into barns or churches and then burning them alive was a favourite method. Most Baltic Waffen SS members were killed or captured by Soviet forces during the War, although some found their way to Allied POW or Displaced Persons camps. Such was their identification with the Nazis that British officers at least tended to hand them over to their Soviet allies to be dealt with as collaborators.
Hideously, the inscription on the Bauska monument to these fascist butchers declares that it is "dedicated to Bauska's defenders against the Second Soviet Occupation".
Talk about rewriting history!
October 3, 2012