On the logic of “fronts”

Kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

The debate raised by the interview given to FIGAROVOX is proving very instructive in that it reveals the state of (non) reflection of some. I must point out that the differences between the text published by FIGAROVOX[1] and the (considerably more developed) text on my carnet are of my own will. I considered that the interview was quite long already. But this debate is not (only) reflecting the intellectual state of part of the militants and sympathizers of the Left. One can read in it interrogations as to the political strategy which would have to be adopted by a “national liberation front,” to use the expression of Stefano Fassina[3] or by what I am calling an “anti-Euro front.” The purpose of the present note will be to clarify or render more precise a number of points. Let no one be surprised if the vocabulary appears dated (to those who still remember). The question of “fronts” has a long history. But let’s not misread this vocabulary, either. We will use it only when necessary.

1 – Characteristics of the period

Any reflection of political strategy must be rooted in a political and economic analysis of the period. The one in which we are living took birth during the 1970s and 1980s, which produced the financiarization of capitalism. Not that finance was a new thing. But, through processes of financial innovations which developed beginning in 1971-1973, finance progressively became autonomous from productive activities in a first phase, then it constituted itself as overarching them in a second phase. Today, finance is creaming off an ever more considerable return on productive activities, and this translates into the impressive opening of the gap between the richest 1% of the population and the others. There derived from it also, what has been called in France the « thirty piteous (years) » in contrast with the « thirty glorious (years) », characterized by the rise of mass unemployment and a weak growth.

In this process of financiarization, one decisive turning point has been, in Europe, the implementation of the Euro (or, to call it by name: the Economic and Monetary Union). The institutions of the economies which adopted the Euro have found themselves being progressively modified, be they the monetary institutions, which were of course the first to be affected, but also the productive institutions (because of the important distortions in competition induced over the long term by a fixed exchange rate) and finally, the social institutions. What we are calling today “austerity” is merely the result of this institutional change. Austerity is the legitimate daughter of the Euro; since 2010 it has become its darling favorite. After having attempted to finagle around it during the years from 1999 to 2007, countries like France, Spain or Italy, Portugal and Greece have been forced, according to rhythms and under conditions which were specific in each case, to squeeze into the straightjacket of austerity. The domination of the austeritarian thematic over the political life of these countries is concomitant with financiarization taking root, with the help of the Euro.

But the Economic and Monetary Union has also induced, and one can suppose that this was indeed the true aim of those who put in place the Euro, important changes in the forms and methods of political governance. The shifting towards a world of systematic denial of democracy is the result of this. We must be aware of the fact that the single currency is not only an instrument of financiarization. It has progressively become autonomous itself, and it has become a way of government with ever greater consequences, day by day, on the political functioning of the countries. National Parliaments have been progressively deprived of their sovereign prerogatives, particularly – but not only – by the TSCG which was ratified in September 2012. This dispossession of popular sovereignty and of democracy operates for the profit of one single country, Germany. It has deep political consequences both on the representation of the people, and on the political mechanisms within the various countries, as well as between them. This is one of the main factors promoting anti-democratic behaviour in the European countries. One of the consequences of the Euro is an escalation in the effects of competition and rivalry between countries, which are directly threatening peace in Europe.

So that we are once again confronted with extremely strong social contradictions, inside the countries as well as between them. We are once again confronted with a period of troubles and revolutions.

 

2 – The tasks of the period

The institutions put into place during this period, particularly in the current phase of the domination of finance, constitute a whole, making up a system. But in Europe, one is perceiving the central place held by the Euro. This is what makes out of the destruction of the Euro the strategic objective of today. Any attempt to get out of financiarization and austerity while remaining within the framework of the Euro is condemned to failure. We have seen it with the events unfolding in Greece during the present year. From the moment that the Greek government accepted to make the keeping of the Euro the condition of its policies, it put its head on the block, as was shown by the Diktat imposed upon it on July 13th. In the contrary, by attacking the Euro frontally, one opens a breach in the institutional system. Once the Euro abolished, one part of existing institutions will become incoherent (including some institutions of the European Union) and their replacement or evolution will become again possible. But saying this implies that one situates oneself in the universe of the possible, and not in the one of certitudes. The abolition of the Euro will not automatically bring about this result. But as long as the Euro remains in place, no change appears possible. The destruction of the Euro is therefore a necessary but not a sufficient condition.

One must therefore not limit oneself to the sole destruction of the Euro (which is an indispensable preliminary) but also think through what could accompany this destruction and the reconstruction to follow. This implies a project of global reconstruction of the economy with implications in the monetary and banking domains, as well as in production, in social and environmental measures, in taxes, etc…It is clear also that the destruction of the Euro will imply the rethinking of the forms and processes of the insertion of France (or any other country) at the international scale. The destruction of the Euro will lead to implementing another form of foreign policy, as well as redefining our relations with the European countries. This is a daunting project. It implies a level of consensus in opinion,         consensus which can only build itself on a convergence of opinions, even on precisely worded agreements on a number of points. The struggle against the Euro will imply an alliance whatever its form (and it could well be limited to an implicit form). But this alliance will have to extend itself to the measures immediately accompanying the destruction of the Euro. Insofar, the best analogy might be with the programme of the Conseil National de la Résistance which aimed not only at the liberation of the French territory but which also put in place important goals of reforms of French society.

3 – Stefano Fassina’s hypothesis

By reason of its central place in the present mechanism of capitalist domination, and by reason of the state of subjection in which France (and popular sovereignty) is being held, this struggle against the Euro can be akin to a struggle for national liberation. This expression was used for the first time by Stefano Fassina. He is calling for the constitution of « fronts of national liberation » in the various countries which have been subjected to the austeritarian logic and to the ambitions of Germany and he has been – in part – joined on this terrain by Romano Prodi[4], the former Italian Prime-Minister.

Such vocabulary, if endowed with an important capacity of appeal, nevertheless raises the problem of what one calls « frontist logic.” This frontist logic is fought against by those who think that the problem reduces itself to a global combat between capitalism and « revolutionaries » and who are not ready to any compromise in the name of the coherence of said combat. The most important argument against “frontist logic” is that the necessary compromises into which forces of the Left must engage themselves into, will keep them from building the popular mobilizations which are their only support. Forces of the Left would therefore find themselves disarmed by a logic submitting the general dynamics of struggle to the constraints of the constitution of a « front ». They would be lead to lose either before having reached the first objective, or immediately after this objective has been realized, in the so-called « phase of exploitation” of the initial victory [5].

In this critique of frontist logic, one should have to go instantaneously, and with as little mediation as possible, from a « first stage » objective to the general objective. But this critique rests in reality on a theorizing of the Russian revolution which bears only little relation with the real-life practice of the Bolsheviks. In fact, the objectives which insured the success of the revolutionary movement were essentially reformist ones, cemented by a nationalist consensus once a foreign intervention had been launched against the revolution.

But it is just as evident that too narrow a submission of the various forces to an immediate objective, the incapacity (or lack of will) to think the « afterwards » were important factors in the weakening of the struggle. In the case of the struggles lead against colonization, the movements who succeeded were those able to associate the dynamics of the immediate combat for independence to perspectives for constructing a postcolonial society. The validation of a « front » strategy is therefore not a question of principle. It rests on a given number of rules which wan be formulated thus:

  • Preparation of the «afterwards » as early as the initial phase of the struggle.
  • Maintaining the strategic as well as the political autonomy of the forces seeking to promote real social change.
  • Capacity to unite the greatest number around the « front » and to isolate the adversary.

 

4 – The logic of fronts

One can immediately discern that no party or movement will be able alone to carry the program concerning the “afterwards.” The question of alliances is therefore raised, and with it, the question of the form that they should take. Alliances can be reduced to a minimum in some cases (a tacit pact of non-aggression) just as they can be more developed (a common participation in political structures, even in governments).

This question of alliances arises in the immediate present, so as to acquire the strength necessary to conquer the obstacles of all kind which will arise between the anti-Euro forces and the Euro’s destruction. For, there must be no doubt about the fact that, in defence of the Euro, we shall have a sizeable part of the traditional political forces, the banks and the employers, but also a good share of the « opinion makers» of the press. A considerable part of these forces transcends borders, whether they are political parties or business circles. These forces will stir up any form of division possible. This means that if the battle will unfold nominally within the French framework, it will in reality oppose international forces to any « front » fighting against the Euro.

It becomes evident then, that one of the key points for the success of this front will be, in the contrary, its capacity to unite the French population and part of the lower bourgeoisie and to carry division in the ranks of the adversary. One will need to show how a large majority of the population will benefit from the abolition of the Euro, from those most disadvantaged to some categories of managers and owners of small and medium companies. The absence or the weakness of the political representation of these latter categories implies that the struggle to win them over to the anti-Euro « front » will essentially occur by the way of ideological themes and by the capacity of maintaining current activities at a normal level. Let’s keep in mind the very strong pressures exerted by the European Central Bank onto Greek society by way of organizing de facto a crisis of liquidities in that country. But one will also need to divide the adversary and to convince it, in its representations, that a destruction of the Euro is inevitable in order to generate run-for-your-life behaviours within the fold, which will then rapidly disarticulate its capacities of action and reaction. The phenomenon of self-realizing anticipations must be put to play to the detriment of the adversary. This implies that proposals such as those of a « plan A » rationally discussed (and which can have a certain theoretical validity), or a referendum on the Euro, will have to be abandoned very rapidly, for the victory will depend to a large extent on the rapidity of reaction and of the moving ahead of the « front » against the Euro.

The second condition of success is that the « front » must have a clear idea of the measures which will accompany the exit from the Euro, in the immediate as well as in the middle term. Nothing would be more destructive for the « front » than going to battle without an agreement, even an implicit one, on these measures. For one must know that, once operations are in swing, they will unfold within the temporality of financial markets (even if the latter are technically closed in France), and that this temporality is akin to the one of military operations. We saw this clearly at the occasion of the Lehman Brothers crisis in 2008. It is therefore out of the question to engage into battle with the sole idea of the « reconstitution of monetary sovereignty ». One will fast have to become much more precise, even if it is not useful yet to enter into details. In one sense, the exit from the Euro must be planned like a military operation, in the very short term as well as in the middle term. An agreement, repeat: even an implicit one, on the measures to be taken, will be one of the conditions of success, or of failure, of the anti-Euro front.

The third question which will have to be taken care of concerns evidently the surface of this « front » and its forms of constitution. Numerous formulas can be imagined, going from implicit coordination (implicit pact of non-aggression) to more explicit forms of cooperation. Let’s remind ourselves here that at the Presidential elections of 1981, militants of the Gaullist RPR were gluing posters for François Mitterrand… One cannot go on forever cherishing the cause of the evils which one is complaining about, and there comes a moment when the logic of political life will demand that one be either in favour of an exit from the Euro, or in favour of maintaining the Euro. There will be no third way then.

Evidently, these various forms do not oppose each other, but they can complete each other in a rainbow going from explicit cooperation to implicit coordination. But one can well see, too, that in time the question will arise of the presence, or not, in this « front » of the Front National or of the party which will form out of it, and it is of no help trying to deny this. This question cannot be decided today. But we must know that it will come up, and that the adversaries of the Euro will not be able to dodge it forever. It will imply therefore following attentively the future evolutions of this party and confronting them uncompromisingly but also without sectarianism.

From the point of view of the forms which this « front » could take, the formula « to march separately and to hit together » seems to me the one that is best adapted. It does not exhaust – by far – the question of the surface of extension of the « front ». One will need to probe the possibility of detaching from the « socialist » Party some of its elements, to also probe the possibility of counting on dissidents from the UMP and on the sovereignists coming from the independent parties (and we are taking note with satisfaction the discussions between Nicolas Dupont-Aignan et Jean-Pierre Chevènement). We will finally, and this is not the least of the tasks at hand, have to unify the radical left. Such various tasks have not been at the order of the day since 1945 in our country. The loss of experience is considerable here, sectarian reflexes are widely present, but, most of all, the weight of a moralizing ideology pretending to be politics constitutes the main obstacle, and the principal force of our adversaries.

The reasons for potential disagreements will be extremely large within this « front », should it come into existence. But the true question will be to know whether the women and men who will compose this « front » will be able to overcome their disagreements – whatever these might be, and however justified these might be – and understand that the objective of exiting from the Euro, with all that it implies, (and of which I will not remind you) imposes that one put these disagreements temporarily aside. This is the measuring rod by which we will be able to see if the camp of the anti-Euro forces is capable of taking on the task of the time.

[1] http://www.lefigaro.fr/vox/politique/2015/08/21/31001-20150821ARTFIG00294-montebourgvaroufakis-sortie-de-l-euro-le-dessous-des-cartes-par-jacques-sapir.php

[2] http://russeurope.hypotheses.org/4225

[3] Fassina S., « For an alliance of national liberation fronts », article published on the blog of Yanis Varoufakis by Stefano Fassina, member of Parliament (PD), 27 July 2015, http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2015/07/27/for-an-alliance-of-national-liberation-fronts-by-stefano-fassina-mp/

[4] See his editorial in Il Messagero of 8 August 2015, http://www.ilmessaggero.it/PRIMOPIANO/ESTERI/europa_fermi_inaccettabile_blitz_tedesco/notizie/1507018.shtml

[5] We find here again the Trotskyite critique Trotskiste of the Frente Popular at the time of the Spanish civil war, or of the national liberation fronts constituted during World War Two with, in particular, the critiqueagainst the French and Italian Communist Parties in the phase immediately following the Libération.

 


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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