Ever since Marx and Engels got together almost two hundred years ago to try to protect the people who were building the modern world, largely with their bare hands, the slogan of the Communist Manifesto of 1848, ’Workers of the World, Unite,” has increasingly become reality. Trade unions and other worker organizations have close cross-border relationships, as do ad hoc organizations such as Black Lives Matter in the US or the Yellow Vests in France (Recently, an Italian politician was called out by his French counterpart for paying a solidarity call to the Yellow Vests leadership….)
With the twenty-first century well under way, and every possible means of communicating that can be imagined (pending brain to brain hook-ups), as the earth’s population inches up towards eight billion, rulers may also seek solidarity with each other.
Almost a hundred years after Marx was born, heads of state created the United Nations, bringing delegates from around the world together in a General Assembly that meets for two long sessions a year, while the fifteen member Security Council deals with crises. But while ‘peace-keeping’ has become a familiar term in every language, when the capitals of the world ring in 2020, each will be struggling to keep the domestic peace.
In the early decades of the industrial revolution, no one would have put an iron worker in northern England and a cotton-picker in the Carolinas in the same category, yet today, their respective national leaders are up the same creek. Having come far in the art of peaceful cooperation among themselves, they share similar challenges when it comes to keeping their respective populations happy. Demonstrators across North and Central Africa reject leaders from long-ruling parties, while students in Hong Kong reject the ‘one country two systems’ deal created when Great Britain handed its last colony over to China in 1997. Perhaps it is no surprise that they are waving American flags, in what may be the first open color revolution, mimicking Taiwan, whose independence from Communist China has constituted a diplomatic challenge since Mao tse Tung completed his Long March to power in 1949. While Russian President Vladimir Putin has been anointed with the title of ‘enemy’, Xi Jin Ping’s China, whose economy will soon overtake that of the US, is referred to as America’s foremost competitor, to be opposed with kid gloves, such as by gifting US flags to demonstrators.
On the other side of the world, although Europeans are now part of a ‘Union’, its diverse tribes continue to follow their national traditions when it comes to protecting working conditions. The Yellow Vests brought together shop-keepers and other independent workers mainly in the province protesting fuel hikes affecting their mobility. Unexpectedly, they inspired the workers of oil-producing Iran protesting a similar decision. French President Macron and Russian President Putin, among many others, struggle to revamp their respective retirement systems, almost down to the last detail. French miners and other arduous professionals such as train drivers long ago won early retirement and their members refuse to let go of that privilege, while Russian workers resist a rise in the hitherto low retirement age for all. Both heads of state compromised by granting women with children additional credits toward retirement.
Whatever their respective political systems, populations everywhere are determined to keep or raise their living standards, and this suggests that the job of maintaining international peace will be easier when leaders leaders adopt common solutions to domestic challenges.
Unfortunately, the evidence increasingly suggests that in many parts of the world, what they share is a trend toward gangsterism.
Deena Stryker is a US-born international expert, author and journalist that lived in Eastern and Western Europe and has been writing about the big picture for 50 years. Over the years she penned a number of books, including Russia’s Americans. Her essays can also be found at Otherjones. Especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.