It has always been problematic that the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded from the legacy of a Swedish industrialist whose millions came from munitions that made the late 19th and 20th century wars the most deadly in human history.
In 1973 the prize was awarded jointly to Vietnam War criminal Henry Kissinger and Vietnamese resistance leader Le Duc Tho. Tho turned it down.
The Nobel committee did it again in 1993, awarding the prize jointly to apartheid’s Frederik Willem de Klerk and the long-imprisoned African leader Nelson Mandela.
Now comes news that the Nobel committee has awarded the prize this year to, of all things, the European Union. The EU has come to be despised and hated not only by the 500 million people who live in the 27 nations that belong to the organization, but by additional millions who have been on the receiving end of the imperialism and militarism wielded by its most powerful capitalist states.
Panos Skourletis, spokesperson for Syriza, the main opposition party in Greece, spoke for the majority of opinion around the world: “I just cannot understand what the reasoning would be behind [the decision of the Nobel committee]. In many parts of Europe but especially in Greece, we are experiencing what really is a war situation on a daily basis, albeit a war that has not been formally declared. There is nothing peaceful about it.” (Guardian, Oct. 12)
The EU has been the driving force behind moves to rescue the giant European banks from the economic crisis of 2008 by forcing draconian austerity measures on the working masses of Europe. Member nations such as Ireland, which were reluctant to rescue their banks, were forced to accept high-interest “bailouts.” In other cases, the local national ruling classes have temporized, but ended up accepting the EU’s “help.”
This always came at a price: cuts in social programs, higher taxes on poor and working people, massive layoffs and wage cuts. Sovereign countries were forced to accept EU dictates. As a result, most of the smaller countries of Europe are mired in recession with no hope of recovery. The Nobel prize itself has been reduced to $1.2 million from $1.5 million. The Nobel Foundation has said its investment capital took a sharp hit in the 2008 financial crisis.
When the masses of people have protested, they have been met by parliamentary huckstering, and when that didn’t work, naked police repression was used. But it doesn’t stop there.
After the downfall of many of the socialist countries of Eastern Europe, the EU leaders pursued an aggressive economic imperialism in these now “free” countries. Where there had been stable planned economies, rampant unemployment, economic insecurity and the rise of criminal enterprises such as human trafficking accompanied the theft of state property on a monumental scale. Many formerly public enterprises were not only privatized, but ownership was transferred to large financial institutions located in the leading countries of the EU, such as Germany and France.
The European Union has always been considered to be the not so hidden stepchild of NATO — the military partnership between the U.S. and European capitalists whose crimes and interventions, many of them far from Europe, are well known. The dropping of tens of thousands of bombs on the former Yugoslavia, the brutal war against Libya, and the bloody invasion and occupation of Afghanistan are only a few examples.
Most recently, the EU has been an important source of war fever whipped up against Syria. Threats, intimidation and secret armed intervention have been accompanied by increasingly shrill calls for outright war.
Alfred Nobel’s munitions seem to have more influence than his “peace prize.”