Yesterday morning in Budapest I was at a sports club where I often go, moving my body to combat the effects of time, and as I came out I heard the sound of a police motorbike coming towards me with its siren blaring. As I looked to see what was happening I noticed two other vehicles also approaching and my first thought was that some foreign president was visiting the country and had a special escort.
To my great surprise these police motorbikes and cars were escorting a bus to the Office of Nationality and Immigration which I realised I was standing opposite.
Once I understood that there was no foreign dignitary coming – because not many dignitaries travel by old bus – I wondered if there were dangerous criminals in the bus. I then remembered that all morning from my apartment I had been hearing the sounds of police vehicles moving around the city and I had ignored them; maybe the two things were connected? As the bus passed I was horrified to see the faces of women and children, clearly refugees, sitting on the bus with men standing in the aisles, and police officers standing among them: maybe 10 police escorting 50 refugees. The Police wore masks, the kind used by those wanting to avoid an infectious disease.
I have no idea what life was like in Nazi Germany before the Second World War in 1939 at the height of Jewish persecution before the holocaust started, but I bet it was not far away from what I was witnessing in Budapest on a hot August day in 2015. Echoing the horror of the scenes in Budapest, in the Czech Republic desperate police have started to draw numbers on the refugees for identification purposes.
Budapest is now almost in a state of siege. Thousands of people are arriving daily, probably more than before the ludicrous border fence was erected along the Serbian border. And with Germany now giving the green light for Syrians to go and register there, every refugee who looks even remotely Middle Eastern is on the move there as quickly as possible. Some people are making lots of money by making and selling fake Syrian passports. Hungarian police earlier this week allowed refugees to travel without passport checks, now they changed their mind and currently there are around 3000 refugees camped out at the train station waiting for the Hungarian authorities to change their mind again.
European politicians are in a permanent state of improvisation. They have absolutely no idea what response to give to this situation and any kind of agreement is impossible. A voluntary quota of around 32000 refugees per country was talked about in meetings this week among EU leaders and that would distribute the 800,000 that Germany expects this year, but it is ridiculous to think that countries in austerity with tiny economies have the capacity to take in refugees. And other countries refuse point-blank to even consider the idea with Poland suggesting it can take a few hundred Syrian Catholics only.
The Schengen agreement is on the verge of collapse under the strain of the numbers of people moving. It’s impossible to process such numbers. And 800,000 is the tip of the ice berg. Every human being that arrives triggers the journey of more because the experiences of success are transmitted by phone and internet to the people who remained behind. Entire families are arriving with small children, elderly and even disabled relatives. They are fleeing from a nightmare of the West’s creation in their homelands.
If Europe wants to resolve this problem it has to understand it in its ultimate root.
And down in the roots of this problem is this: NATO wars and interference in other countries.
The USA and its military allies thought they could just bomb countries and destroy economies and lives without any repercussions. Well, this is pay-back time. It took a while, but first Kosovo and now Syria is being emptied of its people, all of whom believe there is a life for them in the West and all of them ready to take the risk because there is nothing for them where they come from.
If Europe wants to really resolve the refugee crisis a massive change of European foreign policy is required. Even British Prime Minister, David Cameron understands this. Today he said that the best solution to the crisis was to bring peace to the Middle East.
The balance of power between labour and capital in the world has been changing increasingly in favour of capital in recent years and unless we connect the different crises together – wars and military spending, economic collapse and ecological disaster – we will not find the right answer.
It is surely worth recognising that we have similarities today to other moments in history. Before the Second World War there was massive xenophobia and nationalism in a country that was also being subject to terrible austerity. Xenophobia, nationalism and austerity are now in the news every day.
It seems that after the War the people of Western Europe and the world were so shocked by what had happened that fundamental changes were introduced. In Western Europe there was a sharp expansion of Public Services, nationalisation of key industries, and a much lower gap between rich and poor: capital was more at the service of human beings. As time went by Big Capital gained more and more power, constantly rolling back all the advances in public services and the benefits that nationalised industries provided. Nationalised industries were sold off at bargain prices to make a small number of people incredibly rich and the balance of power between labour and capital went back in the favour of capital.
Well, now Big Capital has so much power that it is effectively out of control and creating havoc and destruction while pursuing profits at the expense of human beings. NATO is the armed forces of Big Capital.
If this is not stopped, and quickly, then as George Santanya, the Italian philosopher, poet and novelist wrote, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
A great starting point to reverse the advance towards global war would be for Europe to recognise that NATO creates more trouble than it solves and dissolve the alliance.
This weekend in Helsinki, Finland a conference is taking place on the subject of NATO and Russia in the Baltic Sea Area, organised by the network No to War – No to NATO. The conference has the aim to, gather citizens from the Baltic Sea region and experts to inform each other; analyze the tense situation in the area, and present alternatives to militarization including cooperation, a common house of Europe, OSCE, and Neutralism. Besides the analysis of the NATO strategy and their geostrategic interests the international conference discusses the negative impacts of these policies to the societies, in particularly to a social and gender-justice society.
The timing is opportune as in October, NATO will be carrying out military exercises in Italy, Spain and Portugal and anti-NATO activists in those countries are planning a series of demonstrations to raise awareness of the dangerous military doctrine that NATO espouses and how it affects the daily lives of European citizens as austerity-proof military spending continues while NATO countries daily increase the rhetoric against Russia, trying to turn it into the role of villain previously filled by the USSR in the Cold War.
Delegates from all over Europe will attend, and Pressenza will be covering it.