Josep Fontana, historian, publishes ‘The century of the revolution’
The 21st century has brought confusion, uncertainty, lack of confidence in collective progress and democracy. How did we get here? Josep Fontana reconstructed in 2011 the path traveled in a book of 1,200 pages, For the empire , which reached the Arab spring and the movement of the indignant. In The century of the revolution. A history of the world since 1914 adds and revises its copious documentation, updated until today. The data provided in the chapter “The era of inequality” are chilling and, if the trend is not corrected, many of today’s readers will be the future poor.
“I had the finished book,” says Fontana, “but I wanted to wait to see the results of the North American elections. Since 1945 the presidents of the USA they can change the trajectory of the world, as it did with the Roman emperors. “
How did we get here?
By many factors. One of them is fear. Fear is a determining factor in political attitudes. The exaggerated fear of the Russian revolution was decisive in the failure of the Second Spanish Republic or the reformism of the Weimar Republic. On the other hand, this same fear and the strength of the unions favored negotiation and reformist policies to satisfy the population.
Is not it now that we have forgotten the stupor in the face of the barbarism of the two world wars, when we opted for a game of alternations, a right-wing party that created wealth and a social-democratic party to distribute it?
Social democracy played a very important role in the attainment of benefits such as those of the welfare state, which were granted as antidotes to the revolution. In 1968 it could be seen that the threat of new revolutionary movements had passed, when the French Communist Party refused to support the student protests, while in Prague the options of a socialism with a human face were frustrated. Lost the fear of the USSR and the threat of revolution, the minority of 1 per 1,000 of the richest could sleep peacefully. Why make unnecessary concessions?
What date does it put?
Social progress, understood as the sum of a more equitable distribution of the benefits of economic growth and an improvement in living conditions, ended around 1975.
Taking the oil crisis as an excuse, the fight against the unions was launched and the relocation of companies was favored, which weakened the capacity of the workers to improve their working conditions and their salaries. All this contributed to a global economic restructuring as the basis of a new global corporate order, without the obstacles that the nation-state opposed.
The crisis that began in 2007 and 2008 worsened the situation. The most serious is that, overcome the crisis, inequality has run wild and continues to grow day by day. The consequences can be very serious.
In his book criticizes the economist Thomas Piketty.
Yes, because his approach that inequality is a permanent feature of human history hides the value of struggles such as those that allowed the progress made by the workers movement. All this helps to promote the idea that there is nothing to do, and encourages inaction, at a time when they have been losing even a part of the gains that the workers’ movement had achieved in a century and a half of social struggles, while the peasants of the underdeveloped world are robbed of the use of common goods, such as land and water.
How do you explain the irruption of Trump and Le Pen?
Citizens who saw their situation worsened have ended up losing trust in the elites that governed them, including the members of a social democracy that has ended up integrating itself into the system. In the absence of an independent left with enough force, it has been the far-right parties that have picked up that collective anger. It is a movement that started in Eastern Europe, gained strength with Brexit and now takes a new dimension with Trump. But in the long run these parties do not have programs that can satisfy their demands, so we do not know what can happen in the future.
But Trump is not against the interests of that power, quite the contrary.
Trump came from the system, but he knew how to show himself as someone who wanted to end “the swamp of Washington,” so that many of those who felt marginalized and forgotten by the old system, such as the white workers of a decadent industry or farmers, They put their hopes in him. The skill with which it is handled can be seen in cases such as its proposals to reduce banking regulations, which legitimizes saying that what is involved is that banks can give more credits to companies so that they can hire more workers, When what is really about is to allow the bank to return to their old practices of speculation.
Is not lying punished?
The right has always known how to play with the prejudices of the people. The mistake of the left has been to persist in convincing with rationality. The importance of prejudices (racial, gender, etc.) is a determining factor in personal decision making.
Can not the fear of the effects of inequality, of the migratory catastrophe, act as a brake on that voracity of which you speak?
All analysts agree that the growth of inequality is a very serious danger for the future, but nobody is willing to implement policies that eliminate it. On an international scale, we know exactly what the solution is. If policies that favor the emergence of more prosperous and egalitarian societies are applied in Africa, they will not need to leave. But what is done is to remove to the peasants the lands they cultivate and give them to foreign companies that exploit them without consideration. The situation will become explosive with the combination of an unstoppable demographic growth, desertification as a consequence of climate change and the consequent increase in poverty. If we have not been able to solve the challenge posed by the first arrivals of immigrants, how can we face what millions can represent trying to assault Europe to escape hunger and poverty?