Saturday, June 25, 2016

Brexit and the European left

Jamie Galbraith gives his verdict on Brexit in The Day After DiEM25 06/25/2016:

Leave won by turning the British referendum into an ugly expression of English nativism, feeding on the frustrations of a deeply unequal nation, ironically divided by the very forces of reaction and austerity that will now come fully to power. The political effect has sent a harsh message to Europeans living in Britain, and to the many who would have liked to come. The economic effect will leave Britain in the hands of simpletons who believe that deregulation is the universal source of growth.

That such a campaign could prevail – leading soon to a hard right government in Britain – testifies to the high-handed incompetence of the political, financial, British and European elites. Remain ran a campaign of fear, condescension and bean-counting, as though Britons cared only about the growth rate and the pound. And the Remain leaders seemed to believe that such figures as Barack Obama, George Soros, Christine Lagarde, a list of ten Nobel-prize-winning economists or the research department of the IMF carried weight with the British working class.
He identifies the 2015 treatment of Greece as a key turning point for the Brexit trend: "The groundwork for the Brexit debacle was laid last July when Europe crushed the last progressive pro-European government the EU is likely to see – the SYRIZA government elected in Greece in January 2015."

Galbraith thinks it's likely that the political contagion will spread:

And the crisis now erupts everywhere in Europe: in Holland and France, but also in Spain and Italy, as well as in Germany, Finland and the East. If the hard right can rise in Britain, it can rise anywhere. If Britain can exit, so can anyone; neither the EU nor the Euro is irrevocable. And most likely, since the apocalyptic predictions of economic collapse and “Lehman on steroids” that preceded the Brexit referendum will not come true, such warnings will be even less credible when heard the next time.
Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis does his own postmortem in The Right Left for Europe Project Syndicate 06/24/2016. Varoufakis believes that European politicians should be able to walk and talk at the same time. As Greek Finance Minister, he supported Greece staying in the EU and the eurozone. But he also knew that to be able to negotiate a minimally acceptable deal with Germany, Greece's government had to be prepared to leave the eurozone if they didn't get it. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wasn't prepared to do that.

That's part of the background of his commment here, "it is one thing to oppose entering the EU; it is quite another to favor exiting it once inside. Exiting is unlikely to get you to where you would have been, economically and politically, had you not entered. So opposing both entry and exit is a coherent position."

Speaking of his own pro-EU group DiEM25 (Democracy in Europe Movement). he writes:

... we will not be forced by the prospect of the EU’s disintegration to acquiesce to an EU of the establishment’s choosing. In fact, we believe it is important to prepare for the collapse of EU under the weight of its leaders’ hubris. But that is not the same as making the EU’s disintegration our objective and inviting European progressives to join neo-fascists in campaigning for it.
Varoufakis refers to left opponents of EU membership for their individual countries as "Lexiteers." He addresses the arguments of three Lexiteers, whose opinions he obviously takes seriously: Richard Tuck, Thomas Fazi and Heiner Flassbeck. In respnse to Flassbeck, he writes:

Perhaps Flassbeck’s harshest criticism of DiEM25’s radical pan-Europeanism is the charge that we are peddling left-wing TINA: “there is no alternative” to operating at the level of the EU. While DiEM25 advocates a democratic union, we certainly reject both the inevitability and the desirability of “ever closer union.” Today, the European establishment is working toward a political union that, we regard as an austerian iron cage. We have declared war on this conception of Europe.

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