Fascism had its roots in Europe, during the 1920s and 1930s, in massive economic failures in which the financial elites failed to recognize the political consequences of unemployment. While history may not repeat itself so neatly, the emergence of new political parties speaking for the unemployed and the newly poor could lead to governments who enclose their economies from the world and manage their performance through directive and manipulation.
The global financial crisis of 2008 has slowly yielded to a global unemployment crisis. This unemployment crisis will, fairly quickly, give way to a political crisis. The crisis involves all three of the major pillars of the global system – Europe, China and the United States. The level of intensity differs, the political response differs and the relationship to the financial crisis differs. But there is a common element, which is that unemployment is increasingly replacing finance as the central problem of the financial system.
Europe is the focal point of this crisis. Last week Italy held elections, and the party that won the most votes – with about a quarter of the total – was a brand-new group called the Five Star Movement that is led by a professional comedian. Two things are of interest about this movement. First, one of its central pillars is the call for defaulting on a part of Italy’s debt as the lesser of evils. The second is that Italy, with 11.2 percent unemployment, is far from the worst case of unemployment in the European Union. Nevertheless, Italy is breeding radical parties deeply opposed to the austerity policies currently in place.