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<nettime> 'fuck europe!' then what?
Alex Foti on Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:25:03 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> 'fuck europe!' then what?


is the european question the analog of the habsburg question or the ottoman
question in the 19th century? i don't think so, but there's certainly room
for the belief that the 'sick man of europe' is europe itselft, or rather
the EU.

One could counter that the stagnation that Merkel and the eurocracy are
casting upon Europe is actually limited to the eurozone. EU countries that
are issuing their own currency have escaped the Greek fate. And the UK is
timidly recovering (wages are still way depressed everywhere, though) while
Italy and Spain accumulate record after record in youth unemployment.

So the euro is the problem, and especially the deflationary bias intrinsic
to the Maastricht Treat, that monetarist cadeau poisonn?? wrapped up by
market theologists in good times when the neoliberal economy seemed to
deliver the goods (growth and low inflation). The much-praised Draghi is
actually not doing enough against the sound money balanced budget dogma of
Ordoliberismus. He hasn't gone fully QE and unlike the Fed he doesn't have
to care about escalating unemployment in Southern Europe, save for the
periodic staid sermons about 'structural reform' of public finances and
labor markets. In macroeconomic terms, monetary policy is not expansionary
enough (and the extra liquidity to shore up reckless banks doesn't
translate in extra loans) while fiscal policy stays viciously restrictive
to the point that it's hurting Germany itself, a country that can now
finance itself at negative real interest rates (imagine: you pay back to
the bank less than what you owe, perhaps for that student loan you were
forced to take for your studies).

But of course the point is that in political terms the European citizenry
has sent a huge 'fuck europe!' to Council and Commission at the last
European Parliametary elections, where less than 50% cares to vote and
right-wing, xenophobic, nationalist or populist parties clearly and sadly
won the election (just think of FN and Marine Le Pen in France). The
eurocracy responded the usual way, by castling against any pressure from
either right or (red and/or green) left and covering the EU credibility
gash with a used band-aid like Juncker (in the pocket of banks and
corporations since day one, Luxembourg being synonymous with corporate tax
evazione) in a Commission still committed to austerity and backed the three
major EU parties: Merkel's european popular party, Hollande's european
socialist party, and Verhofstadt's european liberal party, i.e. the
political forces that are the self-proclaimed founders of Europe in 1957.

I have long argued that a Great Recession would come and its political
consequences would be similar to the Great Depression, namely a shift to
the right in Europe, which is happening everywhere except Spain (podemos)
and Greece (syriza). Even in Italy, where Renzi won the elections for the
PD, the League is rearing its ugly head with a no euro campaign and future
alliance with the elected faction of Italian neofascism (the aim being that
of equaling the FN's meteoric rise at the polls). The only antidote to the
racist drift in the peninsula has been the #socialstrike organized by
centri sociali, anti-precarity activists and radical unions (sindacati di
base) in 45 Italian cities (especially Rome, Milan, Naples, Genoa, Padua,
Turin, Pisa, Rimini) last November 14. It brought the country to a grinding
halt, its success totally unexpected. Let's hope the practice extends to
Brussels, Frankfurt, and the rest of Europe, cos we desperately need to go
beyond the nation-state to defeat precarity and solve mass youth
unemployment.

Europe is not a good sell. Not in Western Europe, not in Eastern Europe,
and most particularly on the left, where accusations of eurocentrism and
denunciations of the arbitrary political notion of "Europe" (where does it
end? when did it start?) abound. The position, best argued by Streeck, that
only by returning to the nation-state what's left of the left can hope to
shelter citizens from the inequalities of global financial capitalism,
seems to me nostalgic of the fordist age of (patriarchal and paternalist)
social democracy. In fact, the very notion of the left seems to be a trap
which the political movements born out of the revolutions of 2011 often try
to avoid (although podemos sits with the red left in strasbourg, it has
smashed the competition of izquierda unida at home and is posed to threaten
the pp-psoe power duopoly in the next political elections). What we need
more of in europe and elsewhere is progressive populism from below, which
is nevertheless structured in organizations that are able to wield
significant counterpower against increasingly repressive governments. In
Italy and France, sinistra and gauche are increasingly associated in the
popular imagination with ideological conservatism and political inaction,
while social fear and misery spread unchecked in the banlieues of Europe.

Populism is in fact the bane of the eurocratic consensus above described.
Because it would bridge the democratic deficit in the only possible way: by
getting rid of failed ??lites. On the other hand, liberals agitate the
threat of the extreme right to present themselves as the defenders of last
resort of political Europe. Of course, the very antisocial policies they
pursue (bailing out banks and restoring capital gains at the expense of
everybody else) make the growth of the radical right ever more likely. I
think there is no alternative to opposing this Europe other than in the
name of Europe itself, the Europe of individual and social rights. Knowing
full well that the remnants of the left in Europe will provide little
assistance in the task of building a left-oriented (but not
left-proclaimed) populist front, we cannot refrain from the task of
fighting nationalism at home and overthrowing the EU government in Brussels
in the name of the people. Only then, in this act of self-assertion against
the European oligarchy, will a truly European people constitute itself as
the sovereign subject from which all power descends. Next December 19 in
Brussels (where a particularly rowdy anti-austerity general strike ended up
in major clashes with the police on November 6 #manif6nov; a flashmob
launched my young labor activists of mixed descent had weeks earlier raided
the European Parliament to protest against LePen's press conf) could be the
first stage of such a process of euroradical self-awareness. Last year they
stormed the European Commission and Business Europe against the TTIP. The
D1920 is an assorted transnational coalition of activists, unionists,
farmers, public employees, students and young precarious workers. We must
bring toghether various social interests around the common priorities of
jobs and welfare, and the establishment of real democracy in europe against
appropriation by oligarchic interests. We need social advocacies and
structured political movements for this. In their absence, rabid
nationalism will only grow, until France and Germany part ways and the
whole European architecture collapses. In that scenario (which some on the
left welcome as it would entail the end of the euro and the return of
national economic sovereignty) war could return to Europe. It's already at
its doorsteps in Ukraine and Kurdistan, not to mention Syria and Libya.


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