Now Europe must lead

03 November 2004

I'm not usually much for mob scenes but [French] TV5 had asked me to go to Planet Hollywood, a huge nightclub on the Champs-Elysees, to be one of their commentators on the election, so I was surrounded by the chattering - in English and French - classes, what we call here the "Bobos" for bourgeois-bohemians and a lot of politicians and media people. I stayed until after four AM and returned home thoroughly depressed as it became clear that the initial tide favourable to Kerry had turned.

I'd only returned from the US Monday morning and had gone out canvassing for Kerry on Saturday in small-town Pennsylvania with friends from Cornell University. We all thought he had a very good chance, even though everyone admitted it was hard to get really enthusiastic about him. There's even a group called "Kerry-haters for Kerry", a tongue-in-cheek way of pointing out that the man isn't the most charismatic ever to walk the earth.

But at least he's not a proto-fascist or a go-it-aloner, and that's what we seem - apart from a last-minute miracle - to be stuck with now. With four years clear ahead of him and no re-election to worry about, I fear Bush and the ghastly neocon/neo-liberals around him will now go on the rampage. They can continue with impunity their attacks on the Constitution and on hard-won freedoms; while profound economic inequalities and religious obscurantism spread throughout the country. Beyond its borders they can't really carry out another full-scale invasion - they haven't the money and the soaring deficit was the best-kept secret of the election - but Iraq and Israel-Palestine will continue to fester and Bin Laden will recruit thousands of new followers.

So, people, 3/11 is the first day of the rest of our lives. The Brits have got to redouble their efforts to get rid of Blair. Europeans in general must understand that it's no use hoping that the United States will join in any necessary effort or aim for any decent goal. Whether it's about climate change, North-South solidarity, relations with the Moslem communities, social welfare systems in our own countries or any other urgent matter, Europeans have got to lead. No one else can. No one else will. If we do, other countries from other continents will join. If we don't and wait for Bush, we'll wait for Godot and let the planet and its people rot. It's a slim chance - our own governments are bad enough - but it's the only one we've got.