Inconsequence

Note kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

The debate which has started on the possibility, or not, of the constitution of « fronts » in the fight against the political system which has built itself up around the Euro reveals the inconsequent thinking of a number of participants. This inconsequence may lie at the level of analysis, as well as at the level of political action. It takes the sting out of the trends of ideas and the political currents, which have taken up the struggle against austerity and the Euro.

Inconsequent analyses

The first inconsequence consists in considering the Euro only as a currency, and therefore taking up the question only under the economic angle. Not that the latter was not important. The economic consequences of the Euro are, for some of them, immediate and direct upon growth and upon the level of economic activity. What is determinant, here, is the fact that the Euro functions in reality like a system of fixed parities between various economies, in the way of the old gold standard. The system of the gold standard has had catastrophic consequences during the 1930s, and such has the Euro today. But the consequences also come from the influence taken by financiarization, which took a new turn through the implementation of the Euro. These consequences are indirect, but they are considerable in effect. The crisis of 2007-2008 would not have had the same consequences in Europe had it not been for the Euro. The merely economic dimension of the consequences of the Euro could therefore justify taking a stand against it. But one would be seriously deceiving oneself in not seeing that the Euro has implications going way beyond these facts.

The Euro is actually a political project. For the promoters of the single currency, who never hid this fact, the point was to bring the European Union to take a decisive jump in the direction of federalism, but to do so implicitly, without ever asking for a democratic validation, which these promoters knew would not be forthcoming. The antidemocratic nature of the project is therefore inscribed in it from the beginning. So that, in the minds of its promoters, the game consisted in bringing about a decisive shift in the rules and methods of government of the countries, which adopted it. The Euro is not only constituted by explicit institutions such as the European Central Bank, or by implicit ones, such as the Eurogroup. It is also a principle of government which, through the economic consequences of the Euro, affirms itself progressively as self-evident to all who accept it. It brings them, or forces them to accept, the dismantling of all the social institutions, be it the various measures taken since 1945, or the Code of Labour. The Euro is at the origin of the great regression, which is occurring in the social domain. But the Euro functions also as a framework emptying democracy of its content, and progressively of its very meaning.

One can see, from the beginnings of the Euro, the materialization of the idea of a government by rules, a government of anonymous « experts », grey and irresponsible, who are presently exercising an ever expanding share of the reality of power. This principle of government constitutes the most formidable subversion of democracy seen since 1945[1]. It is the main reason for the frontal assault against popular sovereignty and against democracy which we have witnessed during the Greek crisis this past June and July. This government by rules is consubstantial with the influence of so-called « neo-liberalism »[2]. It goes way beyond the mere ordo-liberalism promoted by Germany[3]. It would be a mistake to limit reflection to this sole point. Ordo-liberalism is only the particular form taken at a given moment by this kind of government by rules. Should the very principle of government by rules demand that one take one’s distances with ordo-liberalism, we must know that the system will comply remorselessly. The Euro is in reality one manifestation of what Michel Foucault called « biopolitics, » that is, the disappearance of politics behind pseudo-natural effects [4].

The eminently political nature of the Euro constitutes its institutions, explicit and implicit, into a totality making up a system. It is therefore profoundly inconsequential to reduce the question of the Euro to economic questions, however right these might be, or to social questions alone.

 

Inconsequence in analyses (2)

But the problem of inconsequential analyses of the Euro does not end with reducing the latter to the sole economic or social domain. They also stem from the refusal, open or concealed, to affront the political and systemic consequences of the Euro.

Saying that the institutions of the single currency, the institutions of the Economic and Monetary Union, constitute a whole making up a system has direct and immediate implications on the analysis one must make of the Euro. Putting the Euro into question is akin to putting into question the whole of the structures of the European Union. It then results a kind of clenching up on the part of its partisans, which is beyond rationality. But there is a truth in this. If the Euro breaks up, it will no longer be possible to make the same European Union. A break-up of the Euro would bring about a deep crisis, not only of the existing institutions, but also of the political dynamic, which one has tried to implement since the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993.

The question then coming up is of knowing if this dynamic can still represent something positive. If we give a negative answer to this question, a point of which I am convinced since 2005 and the rejection of the project for a European constitution and the ensuing denial of democracy [5], we can see that any possibility of rebuilding in the future some form of cooperation between European countries which will prove propitious to progress and hope for the peoples of Europe, passes precisely through the destruction of these institutions, and of the project of which they are both the result and the carrier. From this observation, it follows that fighting against the Euro is in reality fighting against something much vaster than a “mere” single currency. The stakes of the struggle go way beyond the monetary question. Anyway, people have never gone at each others’ throats on mere technical or economic points. This is what some cannot understand who, for one reason or another, turn out to be incapable of carrying this reasoning through to its end. In trying to limit the stakes to the merely economic and technical (which indeed exist) they are holding disembodied discourses, disconnected with reality. It is inconsequential to recognize the non-economic implications of the Euro and to refuse to draw their consequences as to the statute of the struggle against the Euro today. In the same way, it is inconsequential to recognize the central importance of the struggle against the Euro and not to think about the means to carry it out.

There comes a time when the scholar must get out of his ivory tower, without renouncing his scholarly status. And one of the conditions for this is precisely being able to emerge from the “amongst ourselves” and to rub against others, running the risk of getting pricked. From this point of view, the urge to keep one’s hands clean at all cost is more revealing of an exacerbated narcissism than of anything else.

 

Political Inconsequence

It is not only in the analysis that one finds inconsequential positions. In fact, there is political inconsequence, too, and it is far more dangerous in reality.

Was the Greek crisis a mere twist, or did it constitute a point of rupture, a caesura between one period and another? A great many analysts are of the opinion that with the events of June and July 2015, we have entered a new phase, and they are right. The brutal assault carried on by the European institutions against a sovereign State, the absence of any real negotiations, and the resulting denial of democracy have indeed provoked a brutal change in representations on a European scale. One can say, and it will not be wrong, that all the elements, which led to these acts of unheard of brutality, had already been in place in Europe for several years, and that some of the methods had been employed against the Cypriot government in 2013. But the level of violence, symbolic or real, and the flaunted scorn for democratic acts have crossed new borders. Especially, the representation of what happened has had a very broad echo, not only in Greece, but also in all of Europe. One can consider that it is the change at the level of political representations, which has been truly decisive. The use of words like « treason, » « capitulation », or « resistance », made by nearly all political commentators, indicates that something decisive has happened in Greece, as well as about Greece. A quantitative accumulation transformed itself into a qualitative change. That’s where we are come.

To a new period correspond new tasks. If the nature of the aim remains the same, namely the disappearance of the Euro as the keystone of a profoundly anti-democratic system functioning within the European Union, the necessary political configuration changes. It forthwith imposes the constitution of “fronts” going beyond traditional alliances. This is the statement made by Stefano Fassina[6], which I picked up and which has also been picked up by a number of actors. This notion of « fronts » imposes, to all involved, to get out of « amongst ourselves.” For, if an alliance rests on broad common points, the dynamic of « fronts » reduces these common points to the strictly indispensable, in order to reach one’s aims. Not to understand that the change in the political situation demands a change in the forms of political action is precisely one form of this political inconsequence.

But, even among political leaders who seemed to have understood the meaning of the new situation, we are not safe from inconsequential formulations. So that, trying to backpedal, as did Eric Coquerel in the discussion we had on Thursday August 28 on the TV show « Arrêts sur Image », beginning by denying that a rupture has occurred, to finally admit reluctantly that it did, is also of a grave political inconsequence. That the Party of the Left wants to coordinate with other European parties of the radical left on what it calls a « plan B » is perfectly understandable. That it limits this coordination to the sole domain of politics, without bringing up the question of coordination beyond its traditional political domain, is tantamount to refusing to translate into action the consequences of the change in period. However, the new period renders the “amongst ourselves” suicidal.

The question of the relations with forces not belonging to the same political arc than one’s own is now on the table. For one can well foresee that no force of the Left will be able to reach, through its sole internal growth or through alliances with those closest to it, the critical mass necessary to heave itself to the level of responsibility for the period. This question is not put forward in an unprincipled way, the first principle being the verification of a minimum of compatibility between the aims, which will result in excluding certain forces, such as now, the Front National. But this question must not be considered in the absence of practical and concrete implications. From this point of view, the attitude of the “Party of the Left” which recognizes on the one hand the change in situation, but is attempting to limit its consequences on the other, brings up a real problem. The more so that things are moving in other areas. The presence of Jean-Pierre Chevènement at the summer session of Debout la France of Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, on Saturday August 29, is significant. That Jean-Luc Mélenchon refuses to appear on the same stand as Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, as had been decided a few days ago, shows that sectarianism is still polluting political action. For everybody understands that Mélenchon and Dupont-Aignan do not have the same ideas in many areas, and that they can even violently be opposed to each other. But what has become mandatory in this new period, which we have entered, is that the possibility of agreement on the question of the Euro needs to be verified, and that the leaders must be capable of discerning between politicking and the general interest. To leave the choice of the agenda to sectarianism is a third form of political inconsequence.

The problem here is that this accumulation of inconsequence, on the side of analysts and intellectuals some of whom seem more preoccupied by their political virginity, or on the side of political leaders, will have an enormous political cost. Inconsequence also prevents educating militants, adherents and partisans for the tasks ahead and there is a big risk that the choice will be left only between total impotence and a total confusion of motives, for setting limits will no longer be possible. From this point of view, it is urgent to start re-doing politics in the noblest meaning of the word.

Notes

[1] See Sapir J., Les économistes contre la démocratie, Paris, Le Seuil, 2002.

[2] Denord F., Néo-libéralisme version française, histoire d’une idéologie politique, Paris, Demopolis, 2007

[3] The roots of which are studied in Friedrich C-J, « The Political Thought of Neo-Liberalism », American Political Science Review, 1955, 49/2, pp. 509-525.

[4] Foucault M., Naissance de la biopolitique, Paris, Gallimard/Seuil, 2004.

[5] Sapir J., La fin de l’eurolibéralisme, Paris, le Seuil, 2006.

[6] See http://russeurope.hypotheses.org/4235

 


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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