Prize For Al Gore:“Old Europe” Fires Back At The Bush Administration
13 October, 2007
awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to former Vice President Al Gore is
a political statement by the European bourgeoisie about the policies
of the Bush administration and the politics of the United States. Rarely
has there been such an open intervention by the European ruling elite
in the internal politics of America.
The political significance
of Gore’s selection is clear, given that he is still an active
figure in American politics, widely mentioned as a potential presidential
candidate, who has on occasions attacked both the foreign and domestic
policies of the Bush administration. At the very least, the award can
be taken as a signal from the Norwegian political establishment—from
which the selection committee is chosen—that it hopes for a Democratic
victory in the 2008 presidential election.
The chairman of the prize
committee, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, denied the obvious rebuke to the Bush
administration, declaring, “A peace prize is never a criticism
of anything. A peace prize is a positive message and support to all
those champions of peace in the world.”
Vice President Gore, however,
is hardly to be identified with the cause of “peace.” One
of only ten Senate Democrats who voted for the first US war against
Iraq in 1990, he was second-in-command of an administration that dispatched
US troops to Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia, financed death squads in Colombia,
bombed Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan, maintained an economic blockade
of Iraq that caused the death of an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children,
and waged a devastating air war against Serbia.
The Nobel Peace Prize has
little in common with the similar prizes awarded to leading scientists
and literary figures, whose recipients are being honored for an entire
career, or a signal achievement, usually decades old, that has stood
the test of time. Because of the worldwide prestige and visibility given
the Peace Prize, the choosing of its recipient has become a major political
event, signaling those issues, events or countries that are of greatest
concern to the European ruling elite.
The method of selection,
laid down in the will of the billionaire inventor of dynamite, Alfred
Nobel, ensures that the award will be a political decision reflecting
a broad consensus in the European bourgeoisie. While the other Nobel
prize winners are selected by committees of experts in the various fields,
such as the Swedish Academy of Science, the recipient of the peace prize
is picked by a committee chosen by the Norwegian parliament, its five
members selected on the basis of party strength in that legislative
The five members of the committee
that selected Gore include four former members of parliament, two of
them former cabinet members, and the former president of the University
of Tromso. Five political parties are represented, from the far right
to the far left of the bourgeois political spectrum in Norway: Progress
(ultra-right and anti-immigrant), Conservative, Christian Peoples Party
(Christian Democratic), Labour (social democratic) and Socialist Left
(Green and anti-European Union). All five parties have held government
office as part of rival coalitions at one time or another in the past
Two concerns seem evident
in the selection of Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change, a UN organization, as the joint recipients of this year’s
award: a determination to elevate the issue of climate change, and concern
over signs of increasing political, social and economic instability
in the United States.
In its award citation, the
prize committee emphasized the political implications of climate change,
declaring that global warming “may induce large-scale migration
and lead to greater competition for the Earth’s resources. Such
changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world’s most
vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts
and wars, within and between states.”
As the World Socialist Web
Site has previously noted, in our analysis of the G-8 summit held in
compromise masks mounting conflicts”), German Chancellor
Angela Merkel and other European government leaders have begun to raise
the issue of climate change for a combination of domestic, economic
and foreign policy reasons.
At home, Merkel, Nicolas
Sarkozy in France and other right-wing politicians have made use of
the issue to woo sections of the middle class away from social democratic
and Green parties. They also aim to establish European predominance
in the increasingly lucrative markets for alternative energy sources
and fuel-efficient technology, and to decrease Europe’s dependence
on outside energy suppliers, partially Russia and the Persian Gulf.
Climate change has also become
a means to creating a common front of all the major European powers,
overcoming the divisions that came to the surface over the US invasion
of Iraq in 2003. France and Germany—derided as “old Europe”
by then-US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld—publicly opposed
the war, while Britain, Italy, Spain and many eastern European countries
participated in it. At this year’s G-8 summit, the European powers
were able to form a bloc on the danger of global warming that for the
first time compelled the Bush administration to make at least verbal
concessions, six years after Bush unilaterally repudiated the Kyoto
Treaty on climate change.
If its purpose had been limited
to highlighting the danger of climate change, however, there would have
been no need for the Nobel prize committee to select Gore. Giving the
Peace Prize to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
would have been quite sufficient. The action would have been well within
the traditional pattern for the award, which has been given to a series
of UN agencies, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),
the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Peacekeeping Forces,
and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
In selecting Gore, the peace
prize committee was taking direct aim at the Bush administration, for
the third time in the past six years: in 2002 the peace prize went to
former US President Jimmy Carter, an increasingly vocal critic of the
Bush administration; in 2005 the award went to the International Atomic
Energy Agency and its chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, then under fire from
the Bush administration because he had criticized its fraudulent claims
of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and refused to back a similar campaign
The prize committee’s
citation declared that Gore’s “strong commitment, reflected
in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the
struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual
who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures
that need to be adopted.”
It is true that Gore is widely
identified with raising public concerns about the danger of global warming,
in his books and in the lecture tour that became the subject of the
documentary film An Inconvenient Truth, as well as in a series of environmentally
themed rock concerts like this year’s Live Earth day.
But for all his claims of
a “planetary emergency,” the measures which Gore proposes
for dealing with the dangers of climate change fail to address the fundamental
cause of environmental degradation: the unplanned and anarchic nature
of the profit system. (See:
“Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth: political posturing and
the Democratic Party”)
To deal seriously with the
threat of global warming requires a rational and internationally coordinated
scientific plan, including the provision of enormous resources for public
transportation systems and alternative forms of energy production. Such
worldwide planning would become possible only through a bold campaign
of socialist measures, carried out on an international scale, including
the transformation of the energy and utility companies into publicly
owned entities operated under democratic control.
Gore, of course, is a capitalist
politician, and has grown wealthy from stockholdings in Apple, Google
and other high-tech giants. He is incapable, by ideology and by social
interest, of offering a serious program to deal with climate change.
Moreover, Gore has talked
a better game than he has played. When in office, as vice president
for eight years, he did little to advance his avowed environmental concerns.
The Kyoto Treaty, which Gore played a significant role in drafting,
was a largely symbolic exercise, and the Clinton administration never
submitted it for ratification by the Senate because of intense opposition
by American business interests.
There has been considerable
media speculation, in the wake of Nobel prize announcement, that Gore
may seek to leverage the award by entering the contest for the Democratic
presidential nomination. Dozens of “draft Gore” committees
have sprung up and been given wide media publicity, although Gore himself
and his closest aides have disavowed any immediate interest in such
It is doubtful that the Nobel
prize committee aimed to inject Gore into the presidential campaign
in such a direct and obvious fashion. However, behind the award is a
widespread concern in ruling circles of Europe that the crisis in the
United States is developing far more rapidly than the US political establishment
Gore is being held in waiting,
in the event that a political radicalization erupts, sparked by financial
crises, rising social tensions, the ongoing bloodbath in Iraq or some
new military adventure by the Bush-Cheney administration, that threatens
to escape the boundaries of the established two-party system in the
This danger is exacerbated
by the extreme telescoping of the US presidential election process.
Both Democratic and Republican nominees are likely to be selected by
mid-February, given the accelerated primary schedule in which nearly
half of all delegates will be chosen by February 5 for nominating conventions
that do not take place until late August.
The Democrats and Republicans
could well have settled on pro-war candidates—Hillary Clinton
for the Democrats, any of the leading Republicans—leaving mass
antiwar sentiment disenfranchised and millions of people looking for
an alternative. Under such circumstances, a Nobel Peace Prize winner
and critic of the Iraq war could well play the role of safety valve
for bourgeois politics.
Gore has already demonstrated
his fundamental commitment to the stability of bourgeois institutions
and bourgeois rule, through his conduct during the 2000 election crisis
in Florida. Despite winning the popular vote, Gore capitulated to the
right-wing Republican hijacking of Florida’s electoral votes,
ratified by the intervention of a politically motivated 5-4 majority
of the US Supreme Court.
Gore and the Democrats refused
to conduct any serious struggle against the trampling on democracy in
Florida because they were far more alarmed by the possible consequences
of a popular mobilization against the right-wing electoral coup than
they were by the coup itself, which placed Bush in the White House.
They thus share political responsibility for all the crimes committed
by Bush, Cheney & Co. since the Bush administration was inaugurated
on January 20, 2001.
There is ample history to
suggest that the Nobel prize committee took note of Gore’s conduct
in the 2000 crisis in its internal deliberations. From the 1970s through
the 1990s, the Peace Prize was frequently awarded to political dissidents
whom the prize committee hoped to build up as alternatives to popular
revolutionary movements against corrupt and crisis-stricken regimes.
These included figures such as Lech Walesa of Poland, Desmond Tutu in
South Africa, Adolfo Esquivel in Argentina, Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma,
Rigoberta Menchu in Guatemala, and Jose Ramos-Horta in East Timor.
The selection of Al Gore
for the Nobel Peace Prize suggests that the European bourgeoisie sees
the danger of a mass upheaval from below taking place in the United
States, the center of world capitalism.
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