Greece, the left and left of left(I)

 

Note kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

The diktat wrested from Greece by the Eurogroup and the European Commisssion is a tragedy for Greece. This agreement will solve nothing and will even worsen the crisis which Greece is going through. The Greek debt was not sustainable in 2010. Nor was it in 2012. It still isn’t following this diktat. The country’s solvability is by no means assured, because the viability of the economy is not assured either. There is an evidence here, denied by the negotiators in Brussels, that a country can only reimburse what its economy allows it to. In fact, it is even the contrary which seems most evident, for the measures imposed by the diktat, combined with the policies of the European Central Bank, are going to aggravate the economic crisis in Greece. But the conditions which have surrounded this disaster have consequences which reach beyond Greece. We are presently watching the shipwreck of the European social-democracy and a pivotal moment for what is called the « radical left. »

 

The shipwreck of the European Social-Democracy

European Social-Democracy, with its big dream of a reformed European Union, of a Euro “of the left,” foundered during the last days of June and the first days of July [1]. European social-democracy has revealed itself as a force for imposing austerity, a force which has contributed to crushing an attempt at building another economic way in Europe. This shipwreck has only one precedent: the one of August 1914, or even better, 1918. As was the case then, German social-democracy has been the first to go to the bottom, needless to say. The ghost of Ebert, and of his collaboration with Noske, came back to haunt the corridors of the Chancellery in Berlin[2]. The collusion between the SPD and the German right over Greece has been evident [3]. We must keep in mind the declarations of Martin Schulz, calling for the toppling of a government, the democratically elected Greek government, and the similarly calamitous declarations of Sigmar Gabriel, a leader of the SPD, allied with Angela Merkel in the German government. But this phenomenon goes far beyond the case of Germany. In Great-Britain, the events of the past days have aggravated the latent crisis within Labour, already badly recovered from the Tony Blair episode[4]. These events will also worsen the internal crisis of the PD in Italy, a party raking from part of the former « eurocommunists » all the way to the centre-left coming from the Christian democracy. One could multiply the examples.

In France, we can see in the manner with which the majority of the so-called « socialist » Party has stood behind the diktat, in the ways and words used by the Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, to make the Parliament vote, that this logic of collaboration with the enemy has reached rock-bottom. It is significant that the “trouble-makers” of the so-called “socialist” Party voted, in their majority, with the rest of the Party. Even the French Communist Party, which is the only party of the Left Front to be represented in Parliament, hesitated. We remember that on Monday morning, Pierre Laurent was calling for a vote in support of the diktat before the group’s President, André Chassaigne, taking into account the reactions of the base and of numerous local federations [5], called for a vote against. This step of Pierre Laurent is in truth most revealing, not only of politics reduced to electoral and financial interests, but also of the weight of the Europeist ideology within the PCF. One must understand how this ideology came about, and why the events of these past days throw it in such a violent crisis.

 

Europe as sole horizon?

The European Union, re-baptized « Europe » at the price of an obvious hat-trick, had become the heart of the project of the social-democracy since the 1980s. The collapse of the Soviet Union even lent some urgency to the European « dream » of social-democracy. In fact, the latter could see, in such a “federal” type project, the possibility to impose social measures onto what it was calling then the « forces of reaction, » which in the 1980s were identified with Thatcherism in Britain. The defeat of traditional social-democracy in Great Britain in face of Margaret Thatcher seemed in some sense to validate this project. Convinced, especially in France and in Italy, that no « other economic policies » were possible within the national framework, it put its hope into politics on the European scale. The absence of any serious analysis of the reasons of the failure of the politics of the Union of the Left in France in 1981-1983 certainly was an important factor in the turn taken by the French left, which had been one of the least »social-democrat » in Europe. Other factors played a role, such as the “years of lead” in Italy.

But the rallying to the European idea was in fact ancient. Since the 1950s, the idea had taken hold in the social-democracy that only a strongly integrated organization of Western Europe could prevent the return of wars to the European continent. One must also point out the very strong anti-communism of the SPD in West Germany, which led it to accept the framework of the Treaty of Rome (and of NATO) as the only one susceptible to guarantee the Western European social system, which at the time nobody was thinking of changing, but of bringing it to evolve. Let’s also take note of the fact that many social-democracies of Southern Europe (in Spain and Portugal in particular) were subjected to the influence of the SPD.

Yet, the turn taken in the 1980s goes well beyond this. There has been a qualitative transformation which made « Europe » go from being an important element in the ideology of the parties of the Socialist International, to becoming a dominant and central element. It’s a substitute ideology which allies the old internationalist stock-in-trade (or rather, the internationalist formulations, for there would be much to say about the reality of the internationalism of social-democracy) with a « grand project, » extending over several generations. The various European social-democracies, followed by what survived from institutional communism, therefore made out of the « European construction » the alpha and omega of their political project [6]. This has had important effects on the labor movement, and the CFDT in France started its involution, transforming itself into a union of class collaboration, a dynamic which accelerated from 1995 onwards. But even within the CGT, this evolution could be sensed with the powerful rise of a “European” tropism. This tropism has already been rattled, at least in Fance, by the failure of the 2005 referendum. The result, which could have been reached only because a fringe of the voters of the so-called « socialist » Party voted « no, » was experienced as a real tragedy within the party. Instead of drawing their lessons from it, and understanding that this « European » tropism could only bring with it new catastrophes, the leaders of the party decided to persevere.

To which it must be added that, things being as they were, the European Union needed to endow the project with some credibility. This is precisely what has gone to the bottom with the Greek crisis.

 

The reality principle

Indeed, the European Union has shown a hideous face. Or, more exactly, some of its institutions have shown that they were by no means « neutral, » but that they had what one might call a « class content » or, if one wants to use a less qualified language, that they were consubstantially at the service of the well-off. This concerns, of course, first of all the monetary institutions, that is, the Eurozone. The institutions of the Economic and Monetary Union, and especially the fact that some of them are « de facto » institutions without an existence in law (such as the Eurogroup), ensure the predominance not only of a certain kind of politics within the EMU, but also the domination of financialization over the countries of the EMU. The fact that these institutions are presently consolidated within the EU, even if numerous EU countries are not part of the Eurozone, only aggravates the situation. We have clearly seen not only that there is an impossibility to wage any other kind of politics but those of austerity within the framework of the Eurozone, but above all that this framework is political and is intent on imposing its law to all the countries. Finally, we have had the confirmation that, far from constituting a framework for appeasing tensions between countries, the Eurozone had the effect of exacerbating them.

We can well see that no alternative policies are possible within the framework of the Eurozone. One could probably say the same about the EU such as it exists today. The conditions of negotiations of the TTIP/TAFTA show that this treaty, which is to be concluded behind the backs of the peoples, will only function for the greater profit of large multinational companies. The EU is no protection at all from this planetary market. In the contrary, it contributes to bringing it about. The comprehension of such facts is now penetrating ever deeper within the electorate, but also within some fractions of the social-democratic apparatus. This is the case in France, in the fold of the so-called “socialist” party.

The social-democracy is being confronted with reality. It dreamed of a process of European construction and is waking up today with a monster. Worse, it discovers that it is itself one of the monster’s parents. One can then understand the historical hangover which has overtaken European social-democracy. But can it negate the result of nearly thirty years of multiple and repeated compromising of its principles?

The European Union and, of course, the Eurozone, will reveal themselves the Nemesis of the European social-democracy. But in the same time the various parties of the “radical left” are facing a pivotal moment. For, from the rapidity of their reaction, will depend their capacity to take foot in the electorate of this social-democracy or in the contrary, they will be watching other forces taking it over. In politics too, nature abhors emptiness.

 

Notes

[1] Evans-Pritchard A., « EMU brutality in Greece has destroyed the trust of Europe’s Left », The Telegraph, 15 July 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/EMU-brutality-in-Greece-has-destroyed-the-trust-of-Europes-Left.html

[2] F. Ebert, leader of the SPD, crushed in blood bloodily crushed, with the complicity of the Reichswehr and of the Freikorps the revolt of the socialist left around Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht

[3] Mounk Y., « Germany’s Social Democrats Are Colluding in Greece’s Destruction—And I’m Leaving The Party », The Nation, 16 July 2015, http://www.thenation.com/article/germanys-social-democrats-are-colluding-in-greeces-destruction-and-im-leaving-the-party/

[4] Jones O., « The left must put Britain’s EU withdrawal on the agenda”, The Guardian, 14 July 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/14/left-reject-eu-greece-eurosceptic

[5] I can witness to this in consideration of the number of comments from responsibles of local sections and e departmental sections of the PCF which landed on my carnet RussEurope between Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th.

[6] See « Quand la mauvaise foi remplace l’économie: le PCF et le mythe de “l’autre euro” », 16 June 2013, note on RussEurope, http://russeurope.hypotheses.org/1381

 


Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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