June 9, 2019


Four Reasons the European Left Lost (WOLFGANG STREECK, 6/05/19, Jacobin)

[W]hen should the Left expect to make electoral progress among European workers and reformist sections of the middle class, if not now? There is an urgent need to explain the Left's disastrous failure to do this. Four reasons come to mind -- certainly, there are more.

The first and most basic reason is the seemingly total absence of a realistic anticapitalist, or at least anti-neoliberal, left-wing political strategy related to the European Union.

There is not even a debate on the crucial issue of whether the European Union can at all be a vehicle for anticapitalist politics. Instead, there is a naïve or opportunistic acceptance -- and it's hard to say which is worse -- of the feel-good "Europeanism" so popular among young people and so useful for both Green electioneering and European technocrats seeking legitimacy for their neoliberal regime.

In particular, on the Left, there's no mention of the way in which the European Union's de facto constitution limits the political space for any anticapitalist or even pro-labor program, with its safely enshrined free markets (the "four freedoms"), the de facto dictatorship of the European Court, and the balanced budget provisions under European Monetary Union, imposing austerity on countries and citizens.

In particular, any critical discussion of the European Union's central social policy -- the free movement of labor between the now economically extremely different member countries -- is strictly avoided, combined with hints of sympathy for open borders generally, including those with the outside world. This does nothing but validate the image spread by the Greens and the center-left middle-class parties of Europe being mainly about young people traveling without border controls and not needing to change money.

Moreover, this goes in tandem with entirely illusory policy projects, for example a European minimum wage. Only after insistent questioning is it admitted that a European minimum wage would in fact have to be differentiated by country. Predictably, this proposal has found no support whatsoever either in the poor countries of the union, where people find it too good to be true, or in the rich countries, where workers in particular fear that somehow they are the ones who will have to foot the bill for the Left's "European solidarity."

The EU is a capitalist project, a trade union.

Posted by at June 9, 2019 10:25 AM