Europe’s moment of truth
Last fortnight, this column had ended on a note that talked of the result of Greek referendum as a vindication of all those who challenged the nefarious market-oriented economics of the IMF, European Commission (EC) and the European Central Bank (ECB; the key constituent of the Troika). It had also ended on a note that Europe “had” changed as a result of these alienating policies; and the triumph of the Greeks over the Troika.
This policy package meant that the roll-back of the State-run welfare measures on healthcare, education and social security; maintenance of a currency that remained depressed on account of the European recession that began in 2008 (helping only Germany that already was a manufacturing hub of the continent and thus enjoyed some prosperity); a shot-gun privatisation of public assets; and a political message that indicated the rise of a new European Left.
These Greek-like phenomena are visible in nations like Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, and to an extent France, the heartland of Europe. Yet, on the contrary to this reality, the economic reform package that was pushed down the gullet of the Greece’s neo-Left Syriza government was one of that of “austerity”, and curbs on capital growth through massive public investment, which the Greek economy was crying for. The leading nation that did this to the Greeks was Germany, and ludicrously, the northern rim of Europe like Finland.
The courageous Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, who had challenged the Troika’s intransigence by going back to his people and seeking their opinion, had to swallow the package because he curiously wanted to remain within the failing common currency zone of Euros. Of course, he did understand that as much as he wanted to remain in the Euro zone, the other nations of the same zone were fearful of him walking out and bringing on the deluge.
This column, however, had ended on a note that Europe had fundamentally changed that fortnight. That opinion was viewed by many observers to be too over-the-top, especially in light of the oversimplified description of the Troika package, dubbed ‘austerity measures.’
But a fortnight later, a consensus opinion is emerging amongst those who are much closer to the European continent that it is far more disunited and dysfunctional today than it ever was. The Foreign Policy magazine has accepted this reality and written about it; the outstanding CNN economic and business news anchor, Richard Quest, has propounded it this week.
And, the Guardian newspaper, post-Alan Rusbridger, its editor of two decades, had taken a very cautious approach in writing about Greek scenario, had finally come out and advocated “Euroscepticism” to return on the British agenda.
They were not just bothered about German government’s insularity and unifocal, self-absorbed quest for wealth accumulation at cost of the rest, but also were bothered how multinational solidarity of European working class was breaking down. How does one look at the future? Quest seems to believe – and a line that even IMF chief, Christine Lagarde, has taken - that the belt cannot be tightened to the extent that the gut reaches a point of explosion.
This is the moment for the European Left to seize; not the tired old guard of the classical communist parties who are now on the fringes; but the renewed neo-Left that bases itself more on the Italian communist, Louis Althusser than Marx’s maxims of a 19th century Europe. Karl Marx was a fascinating political philosopher who almost created a General Theory of capitalism that seems timeless even today. Social-democrats of Europe destroyed the possibility a socialist/communist resurgence in the continent, as a covert ally of the Bretton Woods gang of capitalist elite, who took upon John Maynard Keynes for the short term only to allow the people to rise up to a level where they could enhance productivity.
Once the USA, almost single-handedly became the Capital provider of the European continent, through such measures like Marshall Plan, Europe achieved the creation of a industrial middle class out of the working people.
Because it was the only Allied power that had netted the WWII booty – Europe was reconstructed in lines where the European Common market became its appendage in global capitalist expansion to what was then called the Third World. This was what imperialism looked like in 1960s-80s.
If one though that the Soviet Union would be the balancer in this equation, its Stalinist formulation of
State Capitalism, coupled with its post-Khrushchev line of “socialism in one country”, had destroyed the possibility of a world where it could be said, “Workers of the World, Unite” in real terms.
Crucially, the rise of finance capital in all its hues, and periodic and systemic decline of capitalism because of the former’s excesses, as viewed in the most vulnerable areas of even the developed world, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland.
It has given rise to a yet not fully articulated demand. A Globalist agenda of an intermediate stage where creation of wealth that is egalitarian and humane in terms of the production and need, not just for the underclasses of the West, but of Africa, Central and Latin America and of course, Asia.