The Left and the European Union

On the Need for an Anti-Euro and Anti-EU Position – Published on The Bullet, Socialist Project’s E-bulletin no. 965, by Panagiotis Sotiris, April 7, 2014.

… Erosion of Sovereignty – Enter the Troika:

The Greek experiment has also been an exercise in the erosion of popular sovereignty. In all aspects Greece is a country of reduced sovereignty. The representatives of the so called ‘Troika’ (European Commission (EU), European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)) actually dictate measures in the name of ‘market liberalization’ and ‘competitiveness’ and no legislative initiative of the Greek government can be initiated without the explicit approval of the Troika representatives. The execution of the Greek budget and the tax collection process are closely monitored by the Troika officials. Without Troika approval Greece cannot receive the next part of the loans agreed with its creditors, thus the Troika actually controls the financial lifeline of a country.   

However, this is not an exceptional case. Greece represents the extreme social violence but also the deep crisis of the European Integration Process and in particular the
crisis of the Eurozone.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurozone_crisis
Austerity in all its forms is the main item in the political agenda in most European countries. The millions that marched in Spain ‘for dignity’ were struggling exactly against the austerity policies imposed as part of the provisions of the European treaties and in exchange for European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) bailouts. Portugal has suffered enormously under the EU-imposed programs and the cost of the Irish crisis has also been enormous. In Italy, ever since the Mario Monti government (2011-2013), austerity packages have been imposed as part of an attempt to remain within European Union norms. Part of the anger and discontent expressed in the French municipal elections is exactly the result of austerity packages designed to keep France at the core of the Eurozone and of a growing disillusionment with the ‘European Project.’

Moreover, such measures will soon be the rule all over Europe. The current proposals of a ‘European economic governance,’ the fact that there are already in place restrictions (and penalty mechanisms) regarding budget deficits (through the terms of the ‘Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance’), and the plans for a Banking Union that would eliminate all forms of national control upon the banking system, all these attest to the undemocratic character of the European project. In reality a hybrid between intergovernmental coordination and co-federalism, it is nevertheless based upon an undemocratic conception of a ‘constitutionalism’ without democratic legitimacy. This is in favour of the forces of capital all over Europe, since it offers the promise of getting rid of whatever gains the labour movement still had and at the same time of guarantying the prerogatives of multinational capital. Moreover, the complex institutional architecture of the European Union means that apart from forms of ‘deliberation’ without much weight, the decision process is tightly insulated against any intervention from social movements and the demands of the subaltern classes.

Today, it is impossible for anyone to claim that criticism of the euro, and the entire financial, monetary, and political architecture of the euro-zone, is unjustified. On the contrary, we can say that the euro represents neither prosperity nor stability. On the one hand, the introduction of the euro, as a single currency, creates something similar to Max Weber’s ‘iron cage’ of capitalist modernization. The governments, even of less competitive national economies, decided to surrender their monetary sovereignty, in order to take advantage of the constant competitive pressure for restructuring and neoliberal reforms. On the other hand, the euro created the conditions for a new form of imperialist hegemony within Europe. The single currency was an advantage for the leading economies of Europe, and in particular Germany, since it offered not only currency stability and a broad space for exports and investment, but also the extra advantage of a constant competitive devaluation against less competitive peripheral economies.

In this sense, we can say that the imbalances of the euro as a single currency are structural and inherent to the project from the beginning. During periods of relative stability, these imbalances could be tolerated, especially since even peripheral elites could profit from cheaper credit and imports fuelling debt-driven consumerism and real estate bubbles. But during a period of crisis and recession these imbalances could become destabilizing, especially since less competitive economies were lacking crucial economic policy tools, because of the strict terms imposed upon them by the European treaties. In this sense the Greek crisis or the crisis in other countries of the European South is not a simple manifestation of the global economic crisis, nor the product of national particularities (exemplified in the almost racist stereotypes regarding ‘lazy’ Greeks or Spaniards); it is also, the direct result of the crisis of the Eurozone.

EU: Authoritarian, Racist and Imperialist: … //

… The Question of the Euro and the EU:

Today, within the European Left, the question of the position vis-à-vis the Eurozone and the European Union draws a necessary line of demarcation. Moreover, as the history of the workers’ movement shows, questions that have to do with the articulation between struggles at the national level and the configuration of the international system, always act like points of condensation of contradictions and like litmus tests for the ability of the Left to be really antagonistic to capitalist strategy.

At the same time, trying to envisage this kind of alternative, not only in terms of ‘catch-phrases’ about ‘workers’ power’ but in terms of the articulation of a narrative that could be antagonistic to the dominant neoliberal discourse, requires exactly a confrontation with the problems and strategic aporias of most tendencies of the contemporary Left. It requires:

  • The articulation of the program (and the basic lines of demarcation such as debt annulment, exit from the euro and the EU, nationalizations, redistribution of income, implementation of forms of democratic social control etc) into concrete radical proposals that take into consideration the experience and knowledge coming from the movements.
  • The insistence on the escalation of struggles and a strategy of a ‘prolonged people’s war,’ because it is impossible to have any political change without a strong movement from below, without a broad social and political alliance that is confident about its ability to wage victorious struggles. In contrast, a sense of defeat or powerlessness among the workers and other popular strata can only lead to fragmentation and an individualized fight for survival, a tendency that will undermine left-wing politics!
  • The confrontation with the open questions of revolutionary strategy and the need to elaborate on a strategy that could combine fighting government of the Left, based on the necessary transition programme, with forms of self-organization, self-management, workers’ control and solidarity from below as the contemporary version of a ‘dual power’ strategy.
  • The experimentation with new forms of political organization, beyond both the model of the anticapitalist sect and the electoral front without programmatic elaboration and democratic process, toward a redefinition of political parties and fronts as laboratories of mass critical political intellectuality, as learning process, and sites able to actually produce alternative narratives for societies.

Because today, at least in the ‘weak links of the chain’ such as Greece, the challenge is not resistance but hegemony. Faced with a severe crisis of hegemony, caused both by the crisis of neoliberalism and an impressive protest and contestation cycle of almost insurrectional character, a hegemonic crisis that cannot be disguised by the current cynical ultra-liberal ‘fuite en avant’ tactic adopted by European bourgeoisies, the challenge for the Left in each country is to attempt to forge a new historical bloc: the combination between a broad alliance of the subaltern classes, a radical program, and new forms of social and political organization. Refusing the ‘European Road’ and the ‘European Integration Project,’ namely the main strategic choice of European bourgeoisies since the end of WWII, is an indispensable aspect of any attempt toward a new socialist perspective for the 21st century.

(full long text).

(Panagiotis Sotiris teaches social theory and social and political philosophy at the Department of Sociology of the University of the Aegean. This text is based on a presentation at ANTARSYA UK meeting (March 29, 2014), and first published on his blog at lastingfuture.blogspot.gr).

Links:

Freedom from religion, on Intrepid Report, by Dave Alpert, April 7, 2014: For a long time I’ve thought about and have been ambivalent about writing this article. People are very sensitive about religion and their freedom to worship and I wasn’t certain how it would be received. I want to state now that I respect people’s right to worship their God in any way they choose. That is not what this article is about. It’s really about the imposition of organized religion and religious dogma into the political, economic, and social lives of a worldwide multi-ethnic reality; the imposition of beliefs that can deprive others of their rights …;

US annexed the whole world through global spying – Assange, on Russia Today RT, April 7, 2014;

Japan ordered to end whale hunt, on People’s World, by Blake Deppe, April 4, 2014: The UN’s International Court of Justice has ordered Japan to halt its yearly whale hunt, a cruel practice that gives no consideration to the welfare of the animals. Japan is one of several countries that persisted in this practice after whaling was banned worldwide in 1986, in this case using “scientific research” as an excuse. But there is nothing scientific about whale killing, and the UN has called them out on it …;

FORUM: State of the World, on ZNet.

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