Dr Patrick Ignatius Gomes, secretary general of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP).

Out of the Belly of Hell: COVID-19 and the Humanisation of Globalisation – Part 3: The Stepping Stones

Viewpoint by Anthony Barnett*

This article was originally published on openDemocracy. Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IDN-InDepth News

LONDON (IDN) – Nine moments forged the processes described above to shape the globalisation that has now gone into shock. In identifying them I’m not denying that there were many other events of global consequence, such as the end of apartheid, the wars of post-Yugoslavia, the triumph of Narendra Modi and his assault on India’s secular constitution, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands or the battles over Ukraine, to mention just five. Nor am I writing a history, I say nothing about Japan, for example, despite its importance and I am conscious of a North Atlantic bias, when the most grievous impacts have been imposed on the poorer, more populous countries.

1968: Risings against the ‘system’ followed by the entrenchment of reaction initiate cultural globalisation

Explosive confidence generated complexity, not simplicity in 1968; it cannot be understood if it is stereotyped with the romantic insignia of Che Guevara. It was a raw, novel democratic moment in Europe and North America. A hitherto unknown manifestation of humanity, ‘teenagers’, heralded the arrival of a distinct generation. Scottish political theorist and academic Tom Nairn captured the heady confidence it gave us of being different from “all previous history”, which he described as “between 6000 B.C. and A.D. 1950”.

We felt different because, “for the first time since the era of Neolithic villages … countries on roughly the same level of evolution as France [have] developed their powers of material production to the point where most people, most of the time, are liberated from the elemental conditions of poverty and scarcity … Furthermore … a generalised confidence has been created where for the first time material prosperity is ‘taken for granted.”

What we took for granted was a life unlike anything that had gone before. Good contraception freed sexual activity for women and men, television transformed the experience of the public sphere, university education ceased to be an elite privilege, and we could travel, while rock and roll expressed an epochal generation gap – famously etched in Jim Morrison’s lyrics, the lead singer of the Doors. His naval father worked with nuclear weapons and commanded a carrier fleet in action against Vietnam: “Father/ Yes, son. / I want to kill you. / Mother, I want to…” I rocked to it in London’s Roundhouse in September 1968.

Teach-ins led to opposition to the Vietnam war, followed by the occupations, demonstrations and sit-ins, that sought tolerance, pluralism, dialogue and participation and an inspiring desire to change everything. We explored ideas of direct democracy and the transformative power of shared knowledge, as deference to traditional hierarchy was discarded. 

While these hopes were crushed, a stubborn resilience was generated that has passed on through generations, always ready to ignite. It even finds expression today in the spontaneous self-organising of streets and communities under lockdown. It helped turn 1968 into an inspiring challenge to all forms of authority: ageist establishments, aristocratic entitlement, homophobic churches, vested interests, party organisations, trade union bureaucracy, workplace discipline, male dominated households, sexual and racial stereotypes. 

Sectarian violence accompanied demands for voice, fairness and self-government, generating division, craziness and all too often narrow-minded leadership and authority.  Vietnamese defiance of America did more than excite and inspire a restless generation; it challenged racism and white supremacy, which was still practised openly in the US South. Dehumanised as ‘gooks’, ‘dinks’, ‘slants’ and ‘slopes’, the Vietnamese resistance turbo-charged demands for racial equality in the US, a claim still relevant today. 

Traditional authority was threatened, perhaps none more than on the centre-left. The practical energy of the time was repulsed by often ruling social democratic parties – with the important exception of then West Germany, where the ‘anti-authoritarian movement’ obliged an entire generation to confront their parents’ Nazi past. By contrast, the Democratic mayor of Chicago, Richard J Daley, had protestors clubbed to the ground outside the party’s convention in August 1968. 

Apart from West Germany, ‘68 was defeated: de Gaulle was returned to power in France in June, Nixon won the US election in November. History since then can be seen as a series of largely successful efforts to neutralise the inchoate demands for popular, open democracy born at that time, while never being able to snuff them out. Repression ranged from crushing uprisings to appropriating and commercialising desire, from controlled concessions to the encouragement of disengagement and outright depoliticisation and the self-damaging permissiveness of hard drugs. 

The different national legacies are striking. At the time there was talk of a world-wide ‘1848’, or a Cuban inspired ‘Tri-continental’. The reality became the opposite, each country’s ‘68 intensified its national distinctiveness. As a political-cultural, generational moment, it also took place in different countries at different times. In one way, as I describe later, Spain then under Francoist lockdown, had its ‘68 in 2011. I went to Moscow in 1987 as the country opened up under Gorbachev and wrote in Soviet Freedom that “The sixties have come to the Soviet Union” as students called for the ‘Three Nyets’ (No to violence, national exclusion and claims to a monopoly on truth) and its own rock and roll music took off4.

The UK saw a dramatic example of the separate, national outcomes of 68, when the call for human rights in Northern Ireland precipitated a revanchist civil conflict that lasted thirty years. In Britain, the radicals were outmanoeuvred by the establishment. In March 1968, we stormed the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. A second march in October was preceded by a media paroxysm of alarm that London would become another Paris, instead it fizzled out in Hyde Park.

I did my best to try and reverse the defeat and initiated 7 Days in 1971, the finest radical photo weekly of our time. Put together by Alexander Cockburn and other comrades, many of whom went on to lives of influence after it folded, it lasted only 6 months. Politically, our movement was captured by sectarianism and deserved to be vanquished. Its wider liberating spirit of democracy lives on in opposition to war, intolerable exploitation and ecological pillage. These were symbolised at the time by the napalm and dioxin dropped from the most advanced technology in the world on the peasants of Vietnam. It was the beginning of an ongoing battle over globalisation.

In London, commercialisation turned rebellion into the huge new market of youth culture. Both Mick Jagger (Street Fighting Man) and John Lennon (Imagine) engaged with the revolutionary moment. Lennon understood its potential and was assassinated. Jagger went on to his knighthood and play stadiums. It was a right-wing politician who coolly picked up the anti-big-state sentiments of the time and put them in her handbag. Margaret Thatcher gave the first major speech of her career at the Tory Party conference in October 1968, linking personal responsibility with the desire to get rich.

What emerged was an unspoken, unholy alliance between the cultural radicalism of the 60s, which assaulted paternalism, and the economic radicalism on the right that despised welfarism. The energy of the sixties, rocket fuelled by the long boom, empowered the reckless growth of a capitalism freed from tradition. The permissive, rule-breaking, fame-fucking irresponsibility of sixties transgression and its embrace of individualism and the market, has now found its ultimate personification in Donald Trump. But he also represents the enemies of ‘68 who pre-date it: the racist, sexist, gun-toting individualists scared by anything that smacks of international solidarity and, above all, feminism. 

For the greatest, progressive legacy of ‘68 and evidence of its continued relevance is modern feminism. This began in reaction against the macho culture of the 68 movements and the music industry and then laid claim to a better politics. It then inspired gay rights. The #Me Too movement is the present-day inheritor of decades of arduous efforts to achieve women’s liberation from patriarchy. Implicitly a reprimand to the limitations of the early movement, it is also a demonstration of the unstoppable demand for fundamental equality and human dignity ignited in the sixties. If the future is to be decided by a contest between Trumpism and #MeToo we can be confident that, however long it may take, feminism will succeed.

1971: The end of Bretton Woods and 1973 oil embargo initiate economic globalisation

The most consequential right-wing victor over the spirit of 1968 was Richard Nixon. He won the presidency in November and made Henry Kissinger his National Security Advisor. They reversed the Johnson administration’s move towards a cease-fire in Vietnam and set about winning. Alongside millions of Vietnamese killed, wounded and displaced, the American economy also suffered. Supplying half-a-million troops in continuous combat without raising taxes drove the US into deficit. It became unable to sustain the Bretton Woods system which had governed the world financial system since 1945 and was anchored in dollar convertibility to gold. In August 1971, the ’Nixon Shock’ ended convertibility and imposed a 90-day prices and wages freeze across the US. 

The devaluation of the dollar hurt the incomes of the oil-producers in the Middle East and when, in 1973, Egypt attacked Israeli forces occupying Sinai, the resultant oil embargo led to a four-fold increase in oil prices. The two developments, the Nixon shock followed by the oil shock, led to floating currencies and the inflation of the western financial system, which along with already strong growth in Germany and Japan displaced America’s overwhelming post-war dominance. 

If 1968 was the beginning of our era of cultural and political globalisation, the Nixon shock of 1971 inaugurated a new era of economic globalization which was then trialled in Chile when, also in 1973, a US-backed coup overthrew the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende and violently imposed radical deregulation of the market. It saw the emergence of a free-market system dominated by corporations, addicted to instability, generating inequalities overseen by technocrats and elites who believed nation states had to be disciplined by exchange rate markets and borrowing spreads rather than governed by their citizens.

1975: The Helsinki Accords

The aftermath of 1968 saw chaotic confrontations everywhere. In Italy, for example, the large Communist Party turned to a reformist ‘Eurocommunism’ after it opposed the Soviet crushing of the Prague Spring. Fearful of its success, the far-right launched a ‘strategy of tension’ with a bombing campaign known as ‘the years of lead’ to prevent a Communist victory. It was pinned on anarchists, possibly with the connivance of the CIA and almost certainly with the collaboration of the Italian state. 

Vietnam turned into full scale military confrontations. Nixon launched a devastating bombing campaign against the North and a peace treaty was signed in 1973 – really an armed truce. The US withdrew its ground forces and the Senate passed an amendment that forbade any American return to fighting in Vietnam. But as the North resupplied through Cambodia and Laos, Nixon sent B-52 bombers into Cambodia, dropping a greater tonnage of conventional bombs on the small country than it had used in the whole of World War Two. 

To impose the will of the White House against widespread domestic opposition demanded an imperial presidency at home. But Nixon was defenestrated by Watergate, in effect the US constitution worked and the independence of the judiciary ensured the rule of law. (It may be that some on the right never accepted what happened and the failure to impeach Trump, as he openly claims imperial powers, reverses the outcome.) Freed from skyborne devastation, the Vietnamese army was finally able to wrest Saigon from American control in 1975.

In these circumstances a shaken western alliance headed by Nixon’s replacement, Gerald Ford, sat down with Soviet leader Leonard Brezhnev in the neutral capital of Finland to sign the Helsinki Accords. Thirty five heads of state, including the leaders of both East and West Germany – but not Spanish dictator Franco, who had taken sick and would die later that year – participated in what was in effect a European peace agreement that solidified Yalta and legitimised Soviet control over Eastern Europe. 

Looking back, we can see Helsinki as an official response to 1968. It sought to close down instability and confirm the status quo. But the Accords included a commitment to Human Rights. On both sides this was cynical. The Americans sought to re-burnish their liberal credentials, now that they had ceased bombing South East Asia, while the Russians regarded Western hypocrisy as so blatant it could not represent a threat. Thirteen years later when presidents Reagan and Gorbachev met in Moscow they joshed about human rights in just the way their predecessors would have expected, “Reagan raising both general and particular humanitarian issues in the Soviet Union and Gorbachev referring to the unemployment statistics of American blacks and Hispanics and the per capita income difference between whites and blacks in the US” (Archie Brown in The Human Factor). After which ritual they returned their negotiations.

By then, however, Helsinki had helped put the skids under communism. The crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968 had seeded a dissident commitment to basic liberties. Within two years of the Helsinki meeting, Czechoslovak intellectuals launched Charter 77 to demand that their country enjoy the human rights which the Accords had pledged. In this unexpected way they prised open the apparatus of bad faith that passed for ‘People’s Democracy’ in eastern Europe. 

Western media that had never dreamt of energetic support of human rights at home (for example, in Northern Ireland) delighted in doing so behind the Iron Curtain. Political cynicism turned to human rights for cover, and unwittingly gave the notion of fundamental rights a degree of traction its adherents have never since relinquished.

In East Europe itself opposition to communist rule was eventually led by the Polish trade union movement Solidarity, while the banner of fundamental rights made more headway as an argument for assisting the global south. Drafted with disdain by ‘realists’ who thought them meaningless, neither west nor east could rebottle commitments to basic freedoms as their publics became attached to them.

The claim that there are universal ‘human rights’ originated with African American opposition to slavery in the early nineteenth century. This discomforts liberals since it exposes the complicity of Western societies in the forced transportation of 12 million humans. The genocidal behaviour of the Nazis created an alternative history, which sees the concept of human rights as being grounded in the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights drafted to prevent such outrages from ever happening again. But with colonialism still going strong, this too had very little purchase on world affairs or people’s consciousness. Instead, it was the unexpected exploitation of what were intended to be point-scoring banalities in the Helsinki Accords that gave the kiss of life to human rights. 

The elevation of human rights can be seen as a cunning response by the long arm of established authority to the challenges of 1968. Rights deliver on the demands for fundamental ‘status’ equality, providing the same protections to all whatever their inheritance, gender or race. They do so, however, by depoliticising their implementation, ring-fencing the process from democracy and participation and reinforcing paternalistic authority. 

A merely judicial definition of rights excludes claims to equality of wealth and power while private property is protected. In this way charters and conventions can be deployed to shield markets from democracy. 

Nonetheless the claim to human rights appeals to norms of justice that are egalitarian and universal. They have accompanied all that has followed, irritating those who thought they had defeated ‘internationalism’ only to discover that people everywhere like the idea that their humanity entitles them to universal norms. 

For these create and strengthen a dynamic comparative consciousness. By which I mean people are not simply aware of how other countries are different, they demand standards they know are achieved elsewhere. COVID-19 has revealed this quite dramatically. When citizens in the UK say, ‘Why are we not like South Korea or at least Germany?’, it is not a matter of being envious of a standard of living the government cannot achieve. It is saying, ‘We have the right to be treated as well as they have been and there is no practical reason why we’re not’. In this and other ways, rights have become part of political struggle8.

Today, unformulated by any grand treaty but perhaps all the more powerful because of that, people all over our pandemic-struck world regard it as a fundamental – if often unmet – right that everyone who needs emergency hospital treatment can get it. 

1979-80: The election of Thatcher and Reagan

In a journalistic summary of how things will be changed by the pandemic, Lionel Barber, who just retired from editing the Financial Times for 15 years, summed up the conventional view of globalisation perfectly. Thatcher and Reagan had overturned the post-1945 welfare capitalism and Keynesianism with “liberalisation and deregulation”. By doing so they, 

“laid the ground for globalisation, the free flow of goods, capital and services transcending national borders … Globalisation integrated China and India into the world economy, lifting more than a billion people out of extreme poverty. Globalisation, of course, has always relied upon a particular mindset: the idea of ubiquitous choice, where the consumer can have it all, on demand, in real time”.

All this has been brought to a shuddering halt by COVID-19, Barber observes. His description also captures the infuriating way globalisation has been presented. Thatcher and Reagan merely “freed” business from restraints. The Chinese were “lifted” out of poverty, as if they were beneficially hoisted by the West. The main responsibility for globalisation is pinned on the heedless “mind-set” of the little guy. Such a description reveals how we are expected to regard globalisation. It is a view that has mystified understanding since the end of the 1980s.

For if neoliberalism was conceived in the Nixon shock, it was birthed by Thatcher and Reagan. For many, the term is still dismissed as a boo-word signifying only the users’ opposition to capitalism. But it is essential for an understanding of where we have got to, and why there has been such a stand-out failure by the US and Britain in their responses to the coronavirus. 

Neoliberalism, or market fundamentalism, is a particular political-economic approach distinct from the colonialism and welfare capitalism, or as David Edgerton has argued in the case of Britain, the “warfare state” capitalism that preceded it. It makes profit maximisation and marketisation the centre of economic policy, actively privatising the public sector. Its economic philosophy was summed up by Milton Friedman: “There is one and only one social responsibility of business … to increase its profits”. Companies should have no concerns about their customers, workers or suppliers unless this increases profits. As for government, its main role is to minimise all barriers that get in the way of businesses increasing profits. This was the role of “liberalisation and deregulation”. 

But clarifying a shift in policy is not the main reason why it is important to use the term ‘neoliberalism’. The reason using the word matters is that its political philosophy denies that it is political philosophy. This contributes to its influence and success – just try to oppose something that you cannot name. By presenting itself as merely the abdication by government from ‘interfering’ in the economy, and not as something that government does, it shifts responsibility for outcomes onto ‘the market’ – and if this means you lose your job, onto you. 

Reagan’s inaugural address in January 1980 set the direction. “In this present crisis”, he famously stated, referring to inflation, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”. Later in the speech he added, “it’s not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work – work with us, not over us …”. But by the mid-1980s his language was extreme, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’”. Thatcher went further still with her famous response, “There is no such thing as society” and her TINA catch phrase: “There Is No Alternative”, implying that her approach was simply reality itself and not a choice that could be contested.

The use of the term neoliberalism matters, therefore, because it makes clear that governments and international institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund pursued a policy agenda. They were not ‘freeing’ business from regulation they were imposing a specific direction of economic government. Reagan and Thatcher pretended that they were not ideological and were simply opening the way for the natural self-interest of humankind; less a policy than an ‘anti-policy’ that freed animal spirits from unnatural confinement. In fact, they were imposing damaging priorities developed by an ideology which has to be named to be challenged. 

When we use the term, however, we have to be careful. For it does not do what it proclaims on the tin. It is not a form of liberalism, that frees the market in a fair way, equalising access for all. On the contrary, it maximises the prerogatives of capital and existing property and expands their penetration. This is why it is not about the size of the state but its role. Thatcher increased total state expenditure on welfare, for example, because so many were thrown out of employment. It also meant it could be adapted by social democratic parties allowing them to invest in the public sector provided this opened it up to the priorities of capital and not the claims of the people themselves. This and the fall of communism meant opposition parties could be conscripted into accepting its framework. “It is time to break the bad habit of expecting something for nothing from our government”, President Clinton announced in his first inaugural address in 1993. “Government is not the problem, and government is not the solution. We, the American people, we are the solution”, he announced in his second inaugural, incorporating Reagan while appearing to distance himself. And in case you didn’t get the point Clinton announced a week later, “The era of big government is over”. 

As this closed the gap between political parties, depoliticisation intensified. The neoliberal turn and the rise of human rights were parallel responses to the upsurge of 1968. Each offered forms of individual empowerment while depriving people of self-government, placing them at the mercy of the law and the market respectively. Judicial rights preserved paternalism and traditional authority while claiming to deliver equality of status. Neoliberalism assaulted the traditional state and trade unions but energised personal ambition. Both can be seen as controlled concessions to the political challenges of 1968, appropriating part of its energy while safeguarding the ‘system’ as much as possible. 

Yet they were far from natural siblings: rights mean laws and regulations; the market means freedom and deregulation. The two processes that renewed capitalism in the second half of the 20th century operated in tandem but also clashed and I want to draw out the difference between them. 

At the cost of simplification there are two different cultures. The rights culture has a legal dimension, obviously, that led to the expansion of international courts. But belief in rights is more diffuse. Charter 77 sought legal rights such as freedom of speech and travel. But it concluded with a moral demand: “all citizens of Czechoslovakia” should be able to “work and live as free human beings”. 

The people who are attracted to this, let us call them rights-based organisers, are also rule-based problem solvers. Barack Obama is a representative. They believe in process, but not for its own sake, which means they are not bureaucrats. They can be administrators, engineers, coders and planners, scientists and priests – all creative roles within their briefs. They can be imaginative as architects, as decisive as generals, as gentle as nurses (but also tough). If there is a famine, they will ameliorate it. If there is a crime against humanity, they will seek justice. Their weakness is that they ‘deal with the world as it is’; one in which electoral processes change very little.  

Perhaps the best word to describe the other culture, which stretches from protestors seeking revolution to hedge funders looking for disruption, is radicals. Their aim is to be agenda setters. Their desire is for a step change, a reorientation; they do not accept the world as it is. On the left, the radicals and feminists of ‘68 wanted to replace paternalistic welfarism with a deep republican equality so that everyone can fulfil their potential. The radicals of the right wanted to replace it with the dynamism of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. By 1980 the right had clearly gained the upper hand.

1986: The Single European Act and the ‘Big Bang’

In the mid-eighties I saw a Duracell battery advert in the London Underground with the banner ‘Power to the People’. That was when I knew for sure that 1968 was so deeply buried it was possible to commercialise its popularity without resuscitating its threat. 

In this atmosphere, 1986 saw two decisive expansions of neoliberalism which over time turned out to be in conflict with one another, a fight now dramatically intensified by Brexit and likely to be deepened by the pandemic. These two were the ‘Big Bang’ that deregulated the City of London – the most revolutionary act of Thatcher’s “regime” (her own description) – and the Single European Act which created the European Union’s single market – now the largest free trade area in the world – which builds upon a rights-based approach. 

At the time, both were radical experiments in expanding the potential of capitalism while the digital revolution took off. The place of the UK economy had been transformed by North Sea oil whose revenues made it a de facto member of OPEC and bankrolled ‘Thatcherism’. The strength of the pound then assisted Thatcher’s assault on the privileges of the City of London. The so-called Big Bang opened its financial markets to foreigners, abolished privileged access and permitted screen trading, creating what would soon become a new world capital of funding and speculation. 

Conceived in Brussels, the Single European Act attempted to create the basis for a more coherent European Union. Its lasting achievement was to initiate the legislative processes in member states that created the single market in goods, governed by a shared regulatory framework. 

Both became monuments to unintended consequences. The Big Bang let rip a voracious short-termism in the City. It generated colossal fortunes and – later – the 2008 crash. EU leaders were obsessed with the grand narrative questions of expansion and the creation of the Euro failed to embrace the painstaking work of setting and developing standards, yet Europe became a superpower in only one respect: regulation. 

The COVID crisis throws a reverse spotlight on the two directions that western capitalism developed in 1986. One is the hedge-fund, light touch financial model exemplified by the spirit of Brexit and its City backers, that thrives off shocks. Its most influential supporter is Rupert Murdoch. The other, the more careful, rule-bound government model exemplified by Merkel and regulation, is a cousin of the more statist East Asian model, sometimes referred to as ordoliberalism. While distinct, all drink from the same capital markets.

The dramatic profiteers get the publicity, the power of regulation deserves much more attention than it gets. So much so that it has become a fourth branch of government, equal and related to the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, one which now needs its own democratic legitimacy. A recent massive study by Anu Bradford sets out what the EU has achieved, an argument she continues by showing it even gives Brussels an exceptional influence over US digital platforms. In terms of what it does, the EU should not be viewed as a project to replace its members as nation states but rather as one that provides them with the space within which they exercise an enhanced independence. 

The Single Market took decades to develop. The Big Bang was an immediate success. The US banks moved in to take advantage of the opportunity, creating the ‘off-shore’ character of the London boom to make it the headquarters of a globalisation that had no national roots. 

1989: Berlin and Tiananmen

The negative consequences of neoliberalism’s irresponsibility must not blind us to its effectiveness. It unleashed a dynamic and a self-confident hi-tech transformation. The neoliberal right successfully assaulted traditional hierarchies of privilege and thought hard about how to shape the future. Social democratic parties, by contrast, found their trade union base withering and became trapped in a rearguard action to preserve the welfare gains of the ‘50s and ‘60s

The collapse of the Soviet Union confirmed the triumph of capitalism. Mikhail Gorbachev, who took over the leadership of the USSR in 1985, believed a reformed socialism was possible and launched Perestroika and Glasnost (restructuring and openness), but he was unable to carry the party apparatus with him. When East Germans began to rebel he refused permission to use force against them and the Berlin Wall was swept away, starting a process that led to the decomposition of the USSR itself into its component nations and the triumphant marketisation of the largest territory on earth. 

In the West this was the final push that led social democratic parties to accept there was ‘no alternative’ to neoliberalism. “What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such”, wrote Francis Fukuyama, “the universalisation of Western liberal democracy [is] the final form of human government”. 

In China there remained sufficient self-belief to be appalled at the decomposition of the Soviet system, now exposed to the avarice of Washington. Beijing students occupied the vast Tiananmen Square to demand freedom, erected their own statue of liberty and appeared to confirm Fukuyama’s conclusion. Instead they were gunned down. The post-Mao leadership realised that the Soviet economic model was doomed and steered their country into the world market. But they were not going to relinquish party control. Modern authoritarian capitalism was born.

1995: Creation of the WTO

With the end of the Cold War both neoliberalism and human rights upped their attempts to influence the Global South. In 1989 the ten principles of what became known as the ‘Washington Consensus’ were set out to secure the marketisation of developing countries. In the same year a World Conference on Human Rights was proposed. It finally took place in Vienna in 1993 and was a stepping stone in replacing the paternalistic assumptions of welfare and charity with a ‘rights-based approach’ to development. 

Hundreds of NGOs attended as well as national delegations. Like many set-piece UN events it was debilitated by diplomacy: “The rules adopted stated that no specific countries or places could be mentioned where human rights abuses were taking place”. Just to the south Sarajevo was under siege. (Later, three of the Serbian commanders would be found guilty by the International Criminal Tribunal of serious violations of international humanitarian law). 

It is good to mock set-piece gatherings of the worthy that pre-commit themselves to apparent pointlessness. But they mobilise change indirectly. Organisations that wanted to attend were forced to think about their activities in terms of human rights and an official opposition to the policies of neoliberalism deepened. While very much the subordinate, a persistent and practical opposition to the Washington Consensus accompanied its expansion.

Expand it did. Trade needs a legal framework and the global economy outgrew the post-war General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). Negotiations for its replacement began in Uruguay in 1986, the year of the European Single Market and the Big Bang. The collapse of the USSR helped Peter Sutherland, the Director of GATT, persuade a suspicious US Congress to agree to the membership terms of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to replace GATT, despite the concessions on sovereignty this entailed. 

The WTO came into force on 1 January 1995. It widened international trade regulations to include services such as banking and intellectual property, and created a dispute resolution system that subordinated states to arbitration, allowing corporations to sue them. On the label it claimed to protect small and weaker countries from arbitrary exploitation. Inside the can, it undermined national democracy, weakened trade union power, and put much of economic globalisation beyond the reach of elected representatives. 

Now that the rich countries of the west had no competition it was in effect a chance for them to ask what was globalisation for – who would benefit? Today, we can see that the answer could have been the health of humankind or the global environment. The answer in 1995 was that it was for the benefit of transnational corporations. And they now had in their sights the People’s Republic of China. 

With Bill Clinton its chief advocate, the global success of neoliberalism persuaded the centre left there was no alternative. A view taken above all by Tony Blair and his inner circle, who rode the wave to gain an overwhelming majority in the UK parliament for his transformed New Labour Party in 1997. He set about making neoliberalism fit for habitation and announced that he had uncovered the pathway for doing so, ‘The Third Way’, in between centralised state control and free market anarchy. 

International colloquiums of social democratic leaders and intellectuals convened to debate the significance of such a space. Most failed to realise the most important word in ‘The Third Way’. It was ‘The’. Apparently, there was only one ‘way’ to be found. Naturally, this called for the leader to navigate us along it. 

Just like Thatcher’s TINA, ‘The Third Way’ functioned to reinforce fatalism. Blair did not endorse the antipathy to government and society that marked out Reagan and Thatcher’s rhetoric. His desire for the depoliticising inevitability of neoliberalism, however, was shared. Some of us suspected as much, and openDemocracy was founded. 

2001-2003: The terror attacks of 9/11 to the Iraq invasion

When New York’s World Trade Towers were levelled by the ‘Hooligans of the Absolute’ in 2001, at least half the world’s population saw images of the carnage within a day. Most were appalled, some cheered, Muslims feared for their future. Whether you regarded it as a righteous act, the criminal deed of ridiculous fanatics, or a serious menace to civilisation, you witnessed it within a world-wide framework and media environment. This is what I mean by globalisation being about a shared experience but without everyone having identical responses. And not everyone did. 

The actual threat from bin Laden’s barmy sect, al Qaida, hardly lasted the length of time of the attacks themselves. The hi-jackers of the last plane, Flight 93, were foiled by its passengers, alerted via their mobile phones. But the impact of 9/11 was immense. Never has propaganda of the deed created such a sight out of the clear blue morning sky. Immediately, the vast internet spying operation the US had been mounting overseas was multiplied to cover domestic activities as well, breaching the constitution. Surveillance capitalism came in from the cold. It turned out to be a rehearsal for today’s tracking of everyone in the name of SARS-CoV-2. 

The main US response to 9/11 was to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Just as the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 proved fatal for Russian communism, so the 2003 US invasion of Iraq doomed American neoliberalism. Understanding the domestic motivations of the leaders of America and Britain, that led them to such a disastrous decision, will help us grasp why both countries now have such an appalling experience with COVID-19.

All the major powers supported America’s immediate military response, which was to overthrow the Taliban who had hosted bin Laden in Afghanistan. At the same time, planning for the Iraq invasion began, although Saddam Hussein’s regime, wicked as it was, had nothing to do with 9/11. 

A year and a half later, the staggering logistic achievement of the conquest of Iraq was designed to demonstrate the unrivalled military-political hegemony of Washington assisted by London. As the world’s greatest military machine was assembled, with ‘Operation Shock and Awe’ about to be launched, Blair wrote to President George W. Bush to say it would enable him to “define international politics for the next generation”. The aim, Blair told the president, was to establish “the true post-Cold War world order”. The British premier identified himself with this objective wholeheartedly and continued, “Our ambition is big: to construct a global agenda around which we can unite the world”.

Scorning experts, lying through his teeth and with the full support of Rupert Murdoch (the same trident of disaster that accompanies Trump today), Blair went on to recycle the hubris of Fukuyama and claimed that a triumphant Anglo-American globalisation had left history behind. Four months after the invasion he addressed the joint Houses of Congress in May 2003 as victory seemed complete. He told the assembled ranks of America’s politicians, “There never has been a time when… a study of history provides so little instruction for our present day”.

And they had just invaded Mesopotamia, the birthplace of history. Bin Laden intended his provocation to expose the political nature of the ‘Washington Consensus’. After two decades of extraordinary success, that included incorporating the social democratic opposition parties into its governing order, the world almost literally lay at the feet of a neoliberal supremacy. Yet, despite this they gave bin Laden what he wanted.

He posed a specific problem. The audacity of 9/11 was likely to inspire further terrorist follow-ups. A response was essential. Suicide bombers are a horrible challenge for police as they cannot be deterred by the knowledge they will be caught. The responsibility for security services, therefore, must be to try to detect and prevent the deed before it happens. This creates an obligation for pre-emptive policing. It also suggests doing everything to understand what motivates terrorists in the first place, to minimise recruitment. 

The one thing that you do not do in response to a terrorist attack is broaden the countermeasures in ways that encourage more recruits. But this is exactly what the US did on a massive scale by deciding to invade and occupy Iraq. Nothing could have been more calculated to enhance Islamic fundamentalism and justify bin Laden’s fanaticism than declaring a ‘War on Terror’. 

Why did this happen? Why did the leaders in the US and UK feel it necessary to impose by force “the true post-Cold War world order”, when they were already successful beyond the wildest dreams of Reagan and Thatcher in 1980? Why was there a 180-degree wrong response to the destruction of the symbolic towers of globalisation in lower Manhattan? The answer relates directly to the impact of the coronavirus: the western leaders did not trust their people.

The claim of neoliberalism is that, although its policies may not be popular when voters are asked about them, once implemented they will work. But can our rulers trust voters to then continue with market fundamentalism? The question is all important but never asked. It reverses the one that is asked – interminably – in opinion polls which constantly assess the degree of trust voters have in their leaders. What is not measured is the trust such leaders have in the people. 

The answer is less and less since 1968. 

The greater the rise of demands for self-government, the more the governing classes, political, media and financial, have actively distrusted ‘the people’. They have sought consent and popularity and tried to exploit popular forces. But voters themselves are managed like nitro-glycerine, with considerable respect but no trust; even though education and toleration have risen and violent crime has gone down across the West.  

Even the successful leaders of neoliberalism cannot trust the public because market fundamentalism is built on systemic competition and insecurity. Among the population at large it dissolves secure working conditions and creates precariousness reinforced by debt. Naturally, this generates wariness if not fury. Those nominally in charge are also insecure. Especially in the Anglo-American sphere, short term expectations are the norm in the heads of companies, busts are frequent and no one feels a responsibility for the general interest.11 

Perhaps the most important reason for the mistrust leaders have in their own people is that imposing market values undermines the historic frameworks that once synthesised allegiance to the state. Churches and religion, trade unions and jobs-for-life, local government and civil service, universities and their expertise, each with a strong ethos that puts loyalty and standards above cash returns, have been marginalised and marketised, dissolving the deep structures of loyalty that once secured ruling class hegemony. 

Put it this way: all countries have historic divisions of class and culture and America’s run deep. But a historically successful economy that was the centre of a booming world being created in its own image should have been able to manage the trauma of an unexpected bite-back from a tiny sect. 

In 2001, however, the American government felt unable to risk appealing to its people to stay calm, not to overreact, to treat 9/11 as a horrible crime and trust it to clinically hunt down the perpetrators. Instead, encouraged by Murdoch and the right-wing media, it went to ‘war’ at the cost of trillions of dollars. War always seems the best way to gain support from voters in whom you have no real confidence. The domestic objective of the conquest of Iraq was to create popular belief in the American state from outside.

As the missiles targeted Baghdad and tanks raced across the border, I joined a protest in New York while my older daughter texted me from the demonstration in London saying, “Best poster: ‘Shocked but not Awed’”. 

This got the point. The invasion was America’s turn at the propaganda of the deed. In the US and also the UK the target of the exercise was the domestic population, watching on the relatively new rolling TV news. The cruise missiles were not only aimed at Saddam Hussain, a long-weakened nuisance hiding from his own people. Their larger impact was supposed to reforge the allegiance of the home populations of the US and Europe. The aim, to inspire us with the knowledge that the US and Britain were defining “international politics for the next generation”, constructing “a global agenda” on our behalf, around which to “unite the world”. 

The public itself was not trusted to do anything. To be absolutely safe the cataclysm demonstrated on our television screens appealed only to a sense of vicarious agency. The supremacy was to be so great that not even the soldiers were expected to make the ‘ultimate sacrifice’. There would be no costs such as the conscription of our young against which we could organise. War, or rather victory, was reduced to a commodity that voters would be given. When President Bush stood on the deck of a gigantic nuclear-armed carrier dressed in a fighter pilot’s uniform and declared ‘Mission Accomplished’, it was the opposite of a popular parade. Once more the underlying message to the world was: there is no alternative. 

It follows that they had to win. Knowing as they did that Saddam’s army was hopelessly outgunned, it seems not to have occurred to the White House and Downing Street that they could lose. As planned, they brushed aside the Iraqi Army and seized control of some of the largest oil fields in the world.

They were also on the front line of the Sunni/Shia divide. Liberating Iraq from a secular monster at a time of novel religious mobilisation was, as many warned, foolish, or as John le Carré put it, “mad”.  

The idea of ‘mission accomplished’ was blown apart on 19 August 2003. openDemocracy had a tragic involvement with the disaster. Coming out of our ‘People Flow’ debate on migration, we launched a new column planned by Arthur Helton and Gil Loescher called Humanitarian Monitor. Their first mission was to report on the refugees being created by the Iraq war. 

They went to Baghdad and met with Paul Bremer, whom President Bush had appointed to be in charge of the country’s administration. Echoing ‘Mission Accomplished’ he told them, “The security situation in Iraq is improving day by day. It is under control now”. Then they went to the UN Embassy to interview Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN special envoy, about the refugee situation. 

As they were talking the Embassy was destroyed by a massive truck bomb. It was the start of the resistance. Arthur was killed outright. Sergio and Gil were trapped inside the rubble. Sergio managed to call from his cell phone to tell rescuers they were alive but then died from his injuries. Gill survived after they amputated his legs to release him. He wrote an unforgettable account for us six months later 

By then the revenge of Saddam’s army, reconfigured under the flag of the jihad, was upturning America’s plans. The hubris of neoliberalism met its nemesis in valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris, where history turned out to be very relevant indeed. The conflict metastasised into a sprawling sectarian resistance which humiliated the western powers. 

Through the ‘90s, market fundamentalism had delivered anxiety and insecurity in its heartland as well as growth as it bled employment down the global supply chains. The purpose behind America’s Iraq invasion was to compensate with triumphant world leadership that would bind the nation, impose peace and deliver victory, if not wealth for all. In the process it would compensate for Vietnam and confirm the 1945 vision of American ‘destiny’. Half of voters opposed the war anyway. Now, the half who had supported it expressed their disappointed supremacism in a reinforced loathing for government as such. 

They were eventually to find their spokesman in Donald Trump. His anti-government government then dismantled the resilience systems of the US state leaving it catastrophically exposed. Today, as he makes it worse by questioning his own government’s policy of lockdown, he seems unhinged in the eyes of those who seek good judgement. But he is signalling to his supporters that he is ‘on their side’ against both the traitorous outside world and the duplicitous establishment within, that together conspired to lead them into the three-trillion-dollar Iraq humiliation. Although the new world order projected by Bush and Blair may now seem a distant absurdity, we are still living in the aftermath of its frustration. 

In 2002 one of President Bush’s close advisors taunted Ron Suskind for being part of “the reality based community”. You, he told him, “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality… That is not the way the world works any more… We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality”. The supporters of Brexit, like Trump, inherited this belief that they can create their own reality, a mindset now even more unhinged after three decades of erosion of the traditional state apparatus and its loyal servants and the pulverising of electoral loyalties. When the discernible reality of SARS-CoV-2 arrived, they not only lacked the political culture to study it in a judicious way, they had lost all the necessary trust in their people to confront the challenges together.   

2008-2011: The financial crash and Occupy Wall Street

The penultimate moment of neoliberal globalisation came midway between America’s frustration at the hands of Jihads and the COVID-19 pandemic: the 2008 great financial crash. 

Unlike the UK, the US had the self-belief to swiftly elect a far-sighted opponent of the Iraq War to head its next government. Barack Obama modelled himself on Reagan. He saw his project as overcoming the divisions between American voters to reconcile them to globalisation in the form of the rise of China, the loss of the industrial sector, the supremacy of finance, the penetration of digital platforms (he pioneered a close relationship with Silicon Valley) and a controlled withdrawal from the Middle East, preserving America’s global financial dominance while becoming a model of firmness and tolerance for the world. But as he took office neoliberalism’s financial system went into meltdown. His immediate task was to oversee its survival.

The central banks in the US, the UK and later the EU, launched massive programmes of ‘Quantitative Easing’, printing money which was funnelled into the financial sector. The Obama administration passed a stimulus of 778 billion dollars; the financial system was saved but not the homes of 9.3 million American families. Stratospheric bankers’ bonuses returned to the stratosphere while the rest of us watched the sky. An economic depression was avoided, but austerity had a punishing effect on local, health, welfare and social services across most western economies; the failure to ‘clean out’ bad debt was accompanied by poor levels of growth and growing insecurity. 

If the neoliberal financial system was half-saved, its ideology was buried. Its core claim that markets know best and government is the problem could hardly survive massive market failure followed by government doling out support on such an unprecedented scale. The calamity exposed its cant; the idea that neoliberalism was not an ‘ism’ vaporised. By 2016 the International Monetary Fund used the term to describe the way privatisation and marketisation had been imposed on countries around the world. After examining 160 of them, an IMF report concluded that it had led to booms and busts and increased inequality in developing countries, making many worse off. 

That same year a US presidential candidate finally came out against “globalism” and for American workers, saying “I have seen at first-hand how the system is rigged against our citizens”. 

Unfortunately, it was Donald Trump. His opponent, Hilary Clinton, who had taken 675,000 dollars from Goldman Sachs for three private speeches, was unable to deny the system was rigged. She defended her action by saying others did it so why not she, an example of how the left-of-centre parties were so deeply implicated in systemic greed and cult of celebrity they could not effectively oppose it. 

Instead, the post 2008 impasse generated a new form of opposition. A movement of the young took off. While still inchoate it is of immense importance: whether the world pulls out of the coming years of post-virus turmoil with working democracies rather than hi-tech fascism depends upon its development, the alliances it can achieve and the willingness of others to ally with it.

The movement was originally inspired by the Egyptian revolution, whose aim was to create a parliamentary democracy of the kind failing in the West. The occupation of Cairo’s Tahrir Square in January 2011 made it the epicentre of an exemplary effort to mount a peaceful yet forceful protest. Inspired by it, a ‘movement of the squares’ developed, taking off in May 2011 in Spain. 

The May-15 movement of the indignados occupied Madrid’s sweeping Puerta del Sol and then spread to 80 cities across the country. Its example triggered similar protests in Greece and the USA, as well as Santiago, Tel Aviv and New Delhi. In the following years equivalent risings inspired the umbrella movement in Hong Kong and the occupation of Istanbul’s Gezi Park. France saw both the Gilets Jaunes and the nuit debout. At the end of 2019, the ‘sardine’ mobilisations filled the squares in Italy to frustrate Matteo Salvini’s right-wing ambitions in Emilia-Romagna. 

One of the things that defines any social phenomenon is the nature of the opposition to it. Three kinds of resistance to neoliberal globalisation developed over time. 

From the start, as we have seen, there was a human rights inspired opposition to its extreme manifestations, often supported by churches and religious associations. Eventually this jailed its most egregious torturers, banning some of the most blatant forms of pollution, educated many more young girls, enabled better development, reduced some extremes of inequality, disarmed cluster bombs, and mobilised against HIV. But it was never able to shake off the complicity of being the street sweepers of market fundamentalism. 

Though funded by skilled foundations and run by great NGOs and international agencies, the ameliorators did not challenge the power structures, even though, and this was always important, they did not share their values and market-driven priorities. 

I witnessed an amusing illustration of the conundrum this created at the UNDP conference in Oslo in 2011. The United Nations Development Programme “advocates change to help people build a better life for themselves”, a classic human rights endeavour of the broadest kind. It reported and ranked how well countries in the Global South were managing in terms of development. Now it had to reassess its method of scoring because this listed Tunisia as a top-ranking success, only to see its population rise up against their treatment and trigger the Arab Spring! Although not without real achievements, the UNDP had gone along with depoliticisation and had been unable to build real democracy into its criteria of ‘development’.   

Second, globalisation had also always been accompanied by militant, leftist challenges that did put democracy first. Their impotence helped reinforce neoliberalism’s aura of inevitability. The alt-globalisation ‘movement’ overreached itself by calling for an entirely different democratic order, while self-marginalising by scorning nation states, the only influential arenas of democracy, as irredeemably compromised. 

Many of the arguments associated with its radical criticism of globalisation were well researched and damming. The pioneering Transnational Institute based in Amsterdam (of which I was an early Fellow) produced a critique of neoliberalism avant la lettre in Susan’s George’s How the Other Half Dies. Naomi Klein’s No Logo and Shock Doctrine brilliantly exposed the nature of corporate influence and its opportunist financial profiteering and she secured wide readerships. The movement named the behemoth. But the protests were a form of Cassandraism, far-sighted but helpless. They reinforced a sense that opposition to the Washington Consensus was futile.

Today, Klein’s superb Intercept analysis of the Silicon Valley response to the pandemic shows how the big digital platforms seek to reconfigure public space for corporate gain. Presented as the best way to protect us from contagion and justified by strategic competition with China, they will imprison democracy behind algorithms. It makes the need to connect to an effective public more urgent and – the big perhaps – tangible and relevant as many of us rethink our futures.

The post-2008 ‘movement of the squares’ and its successive upsurges are the third response to corporate globalisation, different in kind from both the alt-globalisation protests and the institutional efforts at amelioration. They could prove to be a turning point because their generational character means they can lay the basis for wide public support for arguments like Klein’s. For, as Spain’s outstanding sociologist of the networked society, Manuel Castells, recognised when he addressed them in Barcelona, the indignados initiated a movement equal to that of May 1968. 

That is to say, a generation is challenging its predecessors and claiming, on the basis of its distinct experience, that the world now has to change. It is often asked how come the crash of 2008 did not lead to an immediate challenge to the financial system. One reason is that the parties of the left were themselves its co-perpetrators; another, that there was no coherent alternative, and third, that it happened so fast and the response in terms of refinancing the system was so huge, swift and effective, at least in saving the financial system. The inequity of the poor then having to pay for it all took time to sink in. 

The younger generation bore the brunt and now face long-term insecurity, precariousness and debt. It gives them a determination that is more formidable, serious and cross-class than ours was, when my generation rode the sixties boom. In Spain, the consequences of the crash were especially egregious. Its government may have been corrupt but it was not fiscally reckless. Yet by 2011 there was 45% youth unemployment. Hence the eruption.

Crucially, what made the indignados similar to France’s soixante-huitards was their national appeal. In a protest march everyone faces the same direction and while it can be exhilarating it is predictable. In an occupation, people face each other and the collective experience can be personally formative. In an uprising, demonstrators both engage with each other and face outwards, to make a claim on the country. This only occurs when there is reciprocity. 

In 2011 it was palpable in Madrid. The indignados were reaching out to the country not defying it. Polls reported 70% support, millions said they participated in some way. A detailed study by Paolo Gerbaudo of the movements in Spain, Greece and the US noted the way they broke from the “self-ghettoisation” of the previous anti-global protest and the fragmentation of identity politics as they claimed to represent “the people as a whole”. Unlike the previous anti-globalisation protestors, the occupiers no longer “considered the notion of the sovereign people as part of an authoritarian past”. Occupy Wall Street is proof. Its slogan ‘We are the 99 percent’ not only gained world-wide traction it was addressed to America and bust the myth that it is a land of opportunity for all. The occupiers may have been confined to a relatively small encampment in Zuccotti Park, but they addressed the national – and they became the backbone of the Bernie Sanders campaign that has reconfigured Democratic politics. 

As well as going to Madrid, I witnessed the referendum that defied the EU’s impositions on Greece, visited Occupy Wall Street, experienced the huge Gezi protests and travelled around Scotland the week of its 2014 referendum. In each there was an intense engagement with the future of their own country and its democracy by a newly politicised younger generation.

Because of the loathing many commentators feel towards such a challenge from outside their normal circles, the distinct national projects of the different upsurges have been largely ignored. In his reflections on the impact of the coronavirus as a historic “turning point”, John Gray states as fact something that is simply untrue, “Liberal or socialist, the progressive mind detests national identity with passionate intensity”. He did not witness the Stars and Stripes flying in Zuccotti Park.

In London, the ‘occupy movement’ was an imitation protest with no link to domestic politics and settled down by St Paul’s Cathedral helpfully assisted by undercover policemen. But the Labour Party had opened itself up to new members. When Jeremy Corbyn stood for its leadership in 2015 and opposed austerity, the party was, in effect, ‘occupied’ by his supporters, to create the largest party in Europe in terms of membership. In Spain, Podemos which came out of the M-15 movement is now part of the governing coalition having explicitly adopted a national-popular strategy, helpfully theorised by Chantal Mouffe. In less than a decade, the financial crash has given birth to a new political generation that wants to unlock democracy at home and is becoming experienced at electoral politics.

The far-right, with its hedge fund managers and climate deniers, felt most vulnerable. For in any shift towards reform that attempted to meet the objections of the protestors, they would be first in line, for example with the closure of tax-havens. The sharpest-eyed saw that the new populism being trailed in the squares also showed them a way to overcome the threat. If they could hi-jack opposition to ‘the global elite’ they could adapt it to their cause.

Strange as it may seem, the ascendency of Trump owes a debt of thanks to Occupy Wall Street. It showed him that the establishment politics which found him personally so rebarbative had become increasingly repulsive to everyone. Even though he was himself an oligarch, whose property empire floated on the cash-flow of money-launderers, he could now attack the one percent on behalf of the 99 percent! Only mere rationalists would object that he was himself part of the problem. As master compère of ‘reality’ television, Trump realised this would in fact lend him credibility – and he is a great borrower. 

The success of right-wing populism shows why it is mistaken to minimise the potential of the left-wing occupy uprisings that the far-right pillaged. The protestors are the voice of an unprecedented political generation gap. In the two most extreme neoliberal regimes, the US and UK, the last elections would have been overturned by considerable margins if they had been decided by the under-thirties. A clear signal of the inventiveness and energy of the new generation is that just as its first wave of occupy influence seemed to wane the Climate Emergency alliance emerged with Greta Thunberg as its figurehead. The combination of the urgent need for the greening of the global economy, egalitarianism and the desire for deliberative and creative forms of democracy, attached to a national politics that favours internationalism, combine to make a coherent challenge to the unlimited avarice of neoliberal politics. 

Ecological consciousness is no longer niche. It is reported, for example, that in 2017 an estimated 80 million in China alone streamed the BBC’s Blue Planet II, so many that it slowed their internet. The film showed that our everyday plastic detritus is suffocating the oceans. Millions realised that our lives had to change. But not everyone. One image haunts me, of Donald Trump walking past Greta Thunberg at the UN last year. It was not just the contrast of the ‘ogre and princess’ or that he had power and she merely youth and truth. It was that in all their pomp he and his entourage ignored her, as if there was no need to heed the warning she personifies, confident in their America First supremacy. A few weeks later a microorganism entered someone’s throat and began human to human transmission. [IDN-InDepthNews – 09 June 2020]

* Anthony Barnett, an English writer and campaigner, is the co-founder of openDemocracy and author of The Lure of Greatness.

Image:  Egyptian forces cross the Suez Canal at the start of the Yom Kippur War | CIA

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top