You don’t often see a commodities broker in suit and tie saying: “If Syriza goes bust, it’s the extreme right who’ll win the next election”. This broker is Dirk Müller, also known as “Mister Dax”. He is one of the people interviewed by Christoph Schuch and Reiner Krausz in their new documentary.
Other interview partners are the historian Daniel Ganser, journalist Teresa Galindo, and Fabio De Masi, MEP for die LINKE in a European Parliament which he sees as “castrated”. But it is not just the experts and academics who are allowed to speak: activists from Valencia against gentrification and from Portugal against the “Braindrain” also discuss their political activity.
De Masi explains how the current development of the European Union is a “fundamental declaration of war against democracy”, which only benefits the interests of the super-rich. While state debt is growing, the €17 trillion wealth of Europe’s millionaires exceeds the debts of all 28 EU states put together.
In order to maintain this inequality, the state is being strengthened and militarised. A new law in Spain forbids journalists from reporting on police repression. Surveillance equipment is been developed which, according to Müller, is taking over the role played by the church in feudal society. The state now hangs over us like an all-seeing God, intimidating the victims of the crisis into silence and crushing the potential of resistance.
In Valencia Miguel Angel Ferris reports on the impact of such developments on everyday life. In a city with 800.000 inhabitants, 100.000 flats are empty as a result of property speculation. Valencia’s role as “City of Science and Culture” has been exploited to use taxpayers’ money to finance expensive construction projects like a new opera house.
In Portugal, activist Paula Gil worries that the exodus of University-educated people will permanently damage the country’s economy. The number of Portuguese citizens who leave the country because unemployment is currently as high as during the dictatorship.
“Europa – ein Kontinent als Beute” clearly presents the extent to which the crisis has affected Europe. It is when the film tries to explain who is responsible for this crisis that it is, for me, not always convincing. The historian Ganser blames US capital for the Greek state deficit, and Müller suggests that the Eurasian continent is dominated by the USA, and that NATO generals do everything possible to prevent German and Russian governments from talking to each other.
This analysis is not entirely wrong, but I feel that it underestimates the independent interests of German and European capital. The roots of Greece’s problems lie more in Berlin than Washington. At the beginning of the film, Ganser is much more clear about the root cause when he says “people must be supplied with the picture of an enemy., and this enemy may not be part of the élite. That could lead in the direction of class struggle. Instead, it should be poor people, who earn less than €400 a week. What is perfidious is the incitement to hatred on the basis of nationality … Because the lower class in Greece and Germany loses, the middle class in Greece and Germany loses, and the upper class in both countries profits.”
It is the majority of society which loses from such politics – in Athens, Berlin, and in Washington. And it is in the interest of this majority to fight against these politics. The question remains: “how?” In answer to this question De Masi gives good advice at the end of the film: “as soon as the majority realises how powerful it is, these politics are in danger. If a thousand people go onto the streets, many more will think that this is great, but they are worried that they would be alone. We must learn to have courage again.”
The demonstration against Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president were the largest in US history, and the biggest international mobilisation since the protests against the Iraq war on 15 February 2003. This should show us that resistance is still possible.
The discussion around this commendable film can also help develop such self-confidence. Go and see it – at best with other people, so that you can then discuss how its desire for a more just world can be truly realised.
Europa – Ein Kontinent als Beute
Director: Christoph Schuch and Reiner Krausz#
In German cinemas from February 23, 2017