And speaking about Europe… May 15, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.
…Tom McGurk has a good piece in the SBP this weekend. It asks some fairly fundamental, albeit obvious, questions as to the EU. I particularly like his take on the Merkel/Hollande summit…
Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, France’s new president, François Hollande, will go to Berlin on Tuesday to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel. There won’t be an empty ringside seat. Officials from both sides will be working hard all day to come up with a version of the final communiqué that will try to conceal the yawning policy differences between them.
Watch the genius of Euro-speak as they seek to come up with a policy for austerity and growth in the same press release. Even the language used by Europe’s officialdom (as in the old Soviet era) has begun to buckle and bend under the increasing demands of political ambivalence. Despite the electoral promises, I suspect we will end up with a sham fight.
And there you have it. Austerity and growth policies are in opposition to one another. Attempting to cobble them together as our own beloved leader Enda Kenny does, is futile. And McGurk is correct in his other point. The ‘black is white’ tone and substance of comments emanating from the ECB, the EU and France and Germany (and a special shout out to this Dutch politician as well) has been something to hear and it does bear comparison with the excesses of the Soviets. One could also argue that like the Soviets it speaks of a detachment from the life of ordinary citizens within the EU (on a very very slight tangent, I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth reiterating. There’s something particularly noxious about emissaries from the ECB et al being put up in near enough the best possible accommodation) and of a political approach that is rooted in elites.
And that detachment is near enough the only excuse for what is taking place at this moment, a speeded up run through Weimar in Greece. As McGurk notes;
It is deeply worrying that the EU seems to think Greece is merely in the middle of an economic crisis. There seems to be no awareness of the dimensions of the catastrophe facing wider Greek society. The options have simply run out: the choice is either to implement an austerity regime that will surely only increase the rate of social breakdown and political chaos, or leave the euro.
But leaving the euro is likely to make a terrible situation even worse. According to French bank BNP Paribas, a sudden exit from the euro would quickly wipe 20 per cent off Greek GDP, send inflation soaring to 40-50 per cent and send Greece’s debt/GDP ratio to over 200 per cent. This would inevitably have a significant impact on the remaining eurozone countries. And then there is the longer term implications for the entire EU project if, after a Greek euro withdrawal, Greek society were to descend into chaos.
But in all this there’s not an hint that there is serious concern about both the impacts and the outcomes of the policies pursued by the EU etc. Technocratic fixes don’t work for two basic reasons, they cannot work in the given context – austerity cannot lead to growth and the situation facing Greece (whatever about ourselves) is so profoundly serious that it goes well beyond the efforts made to date. Indeed I can’t but help think something akin to a Marshall Plan [ERP] style endeavour, at least in scope, is what is necessary if Greece is to remain within the EU. The second reason technocratic fixes don’t work, at least in extremis, and here we are by definition in extremis, is that when the opportunity is then presented to electorates to vote they vote agin them. And naturally so. Culpability for the Greek situation may well rest with capitalism, in some ways that seems to be more accurate than most times that charge is made – given the centrality of Goldman Sachs to covering up the fault lines in the Greek economy. But attempting to deal with that with economic policies that impact upon those with least ability to bear their weight is punitive.
McGurk makes another point I’m not entirely convinced by.
In some of the poorer parts of Greek cities, Golden Dawn’s black-shirted thugs are openly attacking immigrants and burning down their shops. As I predicted some weeks ago, the Greek political centre was devastated in the recent elections, and the extreme left and right of an older Greek generation have re-emerged.
The ghosts stalking the streets are those of a pre-democratic Greece, when colonels fought communists in a vicious civil war at the end of World War II.
Not so sure about that. It seems to me that the mention of colonels is very slightly ahistorical – at least in the sense the term is used generally, but beyond that SYRIZA as the leading element in the anti-austerity measures, doesn’t strike me as ‘extreme left’. It seems to me to be closest to traditional social democracy, or that space which the formerly social democratic parties vacated in the period from the 1970s onwards. It is to the enormous credit of SYRIZA as the last significant ‘euro-communist’ inflected formation in Europe that it hasn’t followed those parties on their path rightwards. But what it has done is somehow retain a sense from traditional social democracy of when that force was genuinely oppositional. That’s no small achievement either.
Where once we could reassure ourselves – after devastating wars in Europe – that the new European experiment was in the business of consolidating liberal democracy and building a society based on equality, can we still feel as assured as we once were? Is there not a pervasive sense that bankers and their requirements take precedent over all others?
These days, the EU is hardly recognisable.
Ain’t that the truth?