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EU, Politics

After Brexit: what strategy for the Left?

By Christophe Ventura | Memoire des Luttes 

With Brexit, the end of a story begins to be written. That of the European Union (EU) as a symbolic embodiment of Europe. Brexit means the unthinkable for European zealots: the reversibility of European integration is possible; even unleashed.

It sends them another painful message: regional integration through the primacy of the market, economy, currency and geopolitical vassalage of the United States will not guarantee peace or prosperity to European peoples, just as it does not lead them down the path of their union.

In reality, the EU has killed the proclaimed ideals of Europe: peace, prosperity and democratization of well-being. It plunges the peoples of the Old Continent into a social war where the greatest dangers are still to come and it has shown its true function: a tool for the disarmament – the dispossession – of the democratic life of peoples.

And yet, in spite of all this, and in spite of new debates which will surely cross the European and national oligarchies about what must be done to deal with the multiplication of the votes in the vein of Brexit (or the election of Donald Trump In the United States, or referendum on the Constitution in Italy) and the crisis of globalization, the European system and its agents will have only one answer: the radicalization of the system itself.

Do not underestimate the divergences that begin to exercise the elites but let us read them. Some think it is necessary to release a ballast to save the system. They discuss the level of adjustment they can impose on their society without risking social implosions and “Brexit everywhere”. They call for more “flexibility”, the possibility of making a limited fiscal stimulus, regaining control of the monetary and banking systems, maintaining a minimum of social consent on the backs of immigrants, the unemployed and the poor.

But one thing is certain: they will not question their system and its tools. Contrary to what the media and the “eurocracy” say to frighten opinions and re-mobilize themselves, the EU operational structure is not going to disintegrate like this, nor reform itself. It will continue to function, in its zombie form, for what it know how to do (administering the interests of financial markets and free trade). The interest of the European ruling classes is not the disintegration of their space and tools, whether economically, commercially or geopolitically. Though partly competing, all these oligarchies need the EU, its single market and the rules as they are.

In reality, under the impulse of the position of the leading European power – Germany – with the second biggest power, France, guiltily tagging along, the line is made crystal clear: “The EU, either you love it or you leave it “. Here is the credo to come. If countries no longer follow and refuse more control over their budgets and economies, they can remain in the EU but as members of the second tier zone, and leave the ordoliberal  core to deepen its integration. Or they will have the right to leave.

There are three key words to be heard repeatedly in the mouths of leaders. “Stability”, “conformity”, “irreversibility” of the European system in its fundamentals: its treaties, its single market, its single currency.

For Pierre Moscovici, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, it is the same approach: Make the Eurozone the “beating heart” (Pierre Moscovici) of the EU, guarantee its integrity, give it a budget – controlled according to the rules of ordoliberalism – and designate a finance minister for the member states and the European Parliament ; stop the enlargement of Europe, limit internal social dumping (not ban it), allow a little more flexibility for surplus states to invest, continue squeezing others.

For its part, the European Commission in effect says the same, when it declares that in the face of these tumultuous times, “the integrity of the single market must be preserved in all its aspects”.

And the Left, faced with this situation? Unfortunately, here begins the problem. It is insufficiently powerful to gain access to state power and / or gain cultural and political hegemony in most European countries. It is reduced in terms of its credibility after the failure of the Tsipras experiment, which dashed the hopes raised by the Greek referendum against austerity. Moreover, the Left has to face another problem: the impossible synchronization of social and democratic struggles in Europe and in each country of the region.

Moreover, it must be admitted that Podemos in Spain did not make the European fight a priority. They have not taken any leadership on the issue. For its part, in the United Kingdom, Jeremy Corbyn chose not to lead a campaign for a left-wing exit in the 23 June referendum. All this weighs on the situation.

Finally, the transformation Left remains divided on what it intends to do with the EU. Part of it pleads for a chimerical democratic, social and ecological reform of the European Union.

Chimeric because, in addition to the aforementioned weaknesses of the Left which prevent it from changing the direction of the EU from the inside, one does not seek of a juridico-political system designed to produce neoliberalism and austerity on a mass scale organization, and organized according to the hierarchy of European inter-state capitalist relations around the domination of the German centre, to carry through a Copernican mutation towards new models of integration based on solidarity.

There will be no reasonable agreement or orderly exit from treaties or the euro. Only global confrontations with the EU await us, the outcome of which cannot be determined in advance. These confrontations will mobilize and bring European powers into conflict with each other (European and national elites will face hot debates and disagreements), and so too finance and the economy, social and popular movements and public opinion.

This is why the weakness of the left and organized social movements is not a definitive handicap. When the system is in such a deep crisis, when it is radicalized and contradictions sharpen, the slightest oscillation can cause huge splits and divisions.

In these circumstances, the important thing is not to seek an immediate majority but to be ready. To have a goal and proposals that offer a convincing way out.

Under these circumstances, any national election can turn into an “electro-democratic” shock at the heart of the European system and cause a short-circuit, a “bug” in the European system. And what happens between this “moment” and the next? Only the combination of policies that will then be put in place by the recalcitrant state and strategies of mobilization at all levels will create the conditions for a movement towards change.

It is our job to work on this. We must develop a European cooperative project aimed at reducing the power of capitalism over our societies, defining another European association – renamed – whose political boundaries will lie between inter-state co-operation with variable geometry and integration based on solidarity, under democratic control. This new European association will have to be based on three things:

  • Recasting of the principle of subsidiarity,
  • A system of hierarchy of standards,
  • Implementation of mechanisms for the transfer of sovereignty (particularly on certain cross-cutting issues such as climate, energy, etc.), which are always controllable and revocable where necessary.

These are three projects that we should work on together.

Speech by Christophe Ventura at the meeting “France and Europe after Brexit” organized in Paris (2-3 December 2016) by the Research Network on Social and Economic Policies  (EReNSEP)

Translation by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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