You could say that the year 2010, or at least the start of it, represented the calm before the storm.
In Britain, Labour was still in power, under Gordon Brown. In the US, Barack Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Daily Telegraph was hailing Libya, the country with the highest Human Development Index in the whole of Africa as one of the top six exotic cruise ship destinations.
The BBC had been filming a documentary series called Syrian School - a quite sympathetic portrayal of everyday life in a country at peace. No one, back in 2010 was calling Bashar-al-Assad, Syria’s leader, ’a monster’. He was actually presented as a ‘reformer’ who with his attractive, British-born wife Asma was leading the country along the right path.
Back in 2010, the word ‘Brexit’ had not been coined. Ten years ago you’d have been laughed out of court if you had said that Donald Trump would become US President. The brash real estate mogul was then presenting a reality TV show called The Apprentice. You’d also have been mocked if you had said that the veteran left-wing antiwar Labour backbencher Jeremy Corbyn would become party leader - and come tantalisingly close to becoming British Prime Minister. Jeremy who?
In the end, though it was the Right and not the Left, which finished the decade on top, not just in the US but elsewhere too. That was quite remarkable given that the financial crash of 2008 should have made the 2010s a decade of moving away from neoliberalism and towards a more equitable economic system. However, the Left, instead of focusing on economic injustices and the iniquities of modern global capitalism, got sidetracked into ID politics, leaving the Right, who mixed faux-nationalism with generally pro-status quo economic policies to triumph. Donald Trump and Boris Johnson were the prime examples of this phenomenon.
The interventionist wars of the first part of the decade supported by many ’liberals’, also played into the Right’s hands as they led to a large influx of refugees from the war zones which turbo-boosted the appeal of anti-immigration parties and politicians.
The Arab spring was a pivotal event. It began in Tunisia in late 2010 and soon spread as a wave of genuine discontent with repressive, corrupt governments and unaccountable police forces at a time of economic retrenchment and large scale youth unemployment.
The US was determined to exploit the clamour for greater democracy to its own advantage. Particularly so in Libya, where under the guise of the ’Arab Spring’ support was given to an uprising of Islamic militants against the Gaddafi government. Libya, thanks to western intervention on the side of the ‘rebels’ was turned into a jihadists' playground. We had to intervene in 2011 our leaders told us because Gaddafi was going to massacre the inhabitants in Benghazi. It was only in 2016 that we were told the truth. A House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report concluded: ‘the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence’.
After Libya came Syria. Again there were legitimate grievances. Again, the west and its regional allies, poured petrol onto the fire. Weapons were smuggled from Libya to Syria to help the ‘rebels’. The US watched on as the Frankenstein monster of ISIS, their policies had helped to create, edged ever closer to Damascus. Had it not been for the bravery of the Syrian Arab Army, plus the support from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, secular Syria would have fallen to the mediaeval death cult, whose adherents had killed innocent civilians around the world.
It was in Aleppo that the regime changers met their Stalingrad. But having lost in Syria, they then turned their attentions to Iran. Meanwhile, the ‘red tide’ was turned back in Latin America. Venezuela, against all the odds, defied the Empire, but Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador went, as Julian Assange, a political prisoner for much of the decade, knows only too well.
The seeds of the Brexit vote can be traced back to the Blair years but it was Cameron and Osborne’s austerity which was the decisive factor. If a referendum had been held in 2006 ‘Leave’ would probably have lost-times were good then for most people. But ten years later and Britain had experienced the joint-biggest fall in real wages of any OECD country. Ironically the most influential British politician of the decade was a man who never actually won a seat in Parliament. His name was Nigel Farage, aka Mr Brexit. The year of the EU referendum saw the victory of Farage’s friend Donald Trump in America. France in 2017 bucked the trend with the ‘centrist’ Macron defeating Marine Le Pen, but it wasn’t too long before Macron’s popularity ratings plummeted and by the end of 2018 the Gilets Jaunes were already on the streets.
Trump meanwhile far from ‘draining the swamp’ appointed notorious swamp dwellers to his team. Those who thought they were voting for a US President who would end the wars and bring the troops home were cruelly disappointed.
Corbyn might have made a difference to the global picture but fatally he made too many compromises with his enemies. The result of all the hope that was invested in him was a whopping 80 seat majority for the Tories at the tail-end of the decade. There are lessons for Bernie Sanders here.
Last week the global elites met for their annual get-together in Davos. In spite of, or possibly because of, all the upheavals, they’ve had a good decade. In 2010, by today’s Oxfam calculations, it took the combined assets of the 43 richest people to equal the wealth of the poorest 50%. By 2019, it was just 26 individuals.
All the time we’ve been playing culture wars, and calling each other ‘fascists’ and ‘racists’, ‘far-left’ and ‘far-right’, ‘woke’ or ‘unwoke’, the super, super, super-rich have been amassing even more wealth.
It all brings to mind that famous line in the Italian novel Il Gattardo (The Leopard), which reveals to us how elites maintain their dominance.
‘If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change’.
Things did change quite dramatically from 2010-19 but who ended up on top? The same people who were on top at the start.
Follow Neil Clark @NeilClark66 and @MightyMagyar
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