[P2P-F] Fwd: [NetworkedLabour] Panitch: The Denoument

Michel Bauwens michel at p2pfoundation.net
Wed Jul 15 09:10:15 CEST 2015

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From: peter waterman <peterwaterman1936 at gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Jul 15, 2015 at 2:00 PM
Subject: [NetworkedLabour] Panitch: The Denoument
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 [image: Socialist Project - home] <http://www.socialistproject.ca/>
*The   B u l l e t* <http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/>

Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 1143
July 15, 2015
 [image: Socialist Project - home] <http://www.socialistproject.ca/>

  The Denouement
 Leo Panitch

For many decades, the view was widespread on the left that there was a
distinct European variety of capitalism which could be positively
contrasted with the Anglo-American more ‘free market’ variety. The labour
movements of northern Europe were usually seen as being the decisive force
behind greater state economic involvement, more capitalist cooperation with
unions, and more egalitarian social welfare and labour market regimes. The
development of the European Union added a further attractive dimension to
this, especially for internationalists. It was considered retrograde to
want to stay out, let alone get out, of the European ‘project’ at each
phase of its development, with many seeing participation in its
institutions as the decisive terrain for the left's engagement.

The hyper-austerity policies European states have pursued since 2009,
contributing to the powerfully lingering effects of the first great global
capitalist crisis of the 21st century, already shattered a good deal of the
left's illusions about Europe. The denouement of the Syriza strategy in
Greece appears to have written *finis* to it.

The writing was on the wall already as the European left searched for an
exit from the global capitalist crisis of the 1970s. This was especially
the case when the Programme Commun
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_commun> forged by the French
Socialist and Communist Parties ran up against the implicit neoliberalism
embedded in the Treaty of Rome's ambitions for free trade and free capital
flows across Europe. With the massive capital flight that pursuing
Keynesian measures led to in the face of German and American monetarism, it
was the German Social Democratic leader Helmut Schmidt
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmut_Schmidt> who forced François
Mitterrand <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois_Mitterrand>'s
famous U-turn by telling him capital controls were impossible unless he
abandoned the European project. The roots of the arbitrary 3 per cent
ceiling on fiscal deficits in today's European Stability Pact go back to
the ceiling first imposed on the Mitterrand government in the early 1980s.
European Common Market?

Those in the Bennite <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Benn> wing of the
British Labour Party who stood opposed to the referendum on entry to the
Common Market in the mid-1970s, did so not because they were narrow
fish-and-chips nationalists as they were accused of being, but because they
recognized the limits joining Europe would impose on their Alternative
Economic Strategy. The opposition to joining Europe on the left of the
Swedish labour movement which advanced the radical wage earners fund
proposals was rooted in the same recognition.

Those who subsequently looked to the emplacement of a Social Charter at the
core of the process of Economic and Monetary Union were consistently
disappointed on the march to the establishment of the euro common currency
regime. The European Left Parties, led by Die Linke and the other
representatives in the European Parliament representing the full spectrum
to the left of the social democratic party bloc, have given top priority to
completing economic union with a political union whereby fiscal and social
policy would be centralized alongside monetary policy. This would leave
less, rather than more, room for manoeuvre for the balance of class forces
to be effectively registered in each European state, and especially in the
smaller ones.

It is very significant that so many on the left who oppose neoliberalism,
from those clinging to the legacy of Keynesianism to those carrying on the
tradition of revolutionary internationalism, should have now joined their
voices in supporting a Grexit, and broadly criticized the Syriza leadership
for not having prepared for it. One might ask what they were thinking
when Alexis
Tsipras <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexis_Tsipras> stood at the head of
the European Left Party ticket in the European Parliamentary elections last
year, with so many of them cheering him on.

Those of us who in discussions with Syriza leaders and activists tried to
show that the EU, not just the EMU
had neoliberalism in its DNA, were nevertheless confronted with all the
searching questions that Antarsya outside the party and the Left Platform
inside the party never could answer. How much would advancing the prospect
of this break forestall Greeks voting for Syriza with its promise to form a
government to stop the economic torture within Europe? And how much of
voters' discomfort with the possibility of a break was based on a sense
that the balance of forces internationally was such that Greece would be
economically and politically isolated, or dependent on even more unsavoury
regimes than the European ones? There was on top of this a cultural and
emotional, almost psychological, commitment to Europe among large swathes,
not just of the Syriza leadership, but of its political base.

It was always clear that a crucial element in the Syriza leadership would
never go further than the Europeans would let them, and moreover believed
that this is what Syriza's supporters would want them to do. There were
others, outside the Left Platform, whose position was more conditional, and
were open to a Plan B, but understood that the political conditions for it
had to be created. This required not only convincing their supporters it
might be necessary but developing their capacities to engage in the
economic conversion and reorganization of ways of life to adequately cope
with Grexit. That could not be done without making Plan B public, however,
which would undermine the ability of Syriza to get elected in the near term
and to form a government to stop the economic torture within the EU.
February to June: Suspended Animation

Not only the party but also the social movements were in a state of
suspended animation from February to June as everyone waited for the
outcome of the negotiations. This was not something engineered from the
top. One very senior minister privately expressed to me his disappointment
that the social movements he had expected to light a fire behind him had
become largely immobilized. Indeed, the 20 page political resolution passed
at Syriza's refounding conference in the summer 2013 had concluded by
saying that the party was not a slingshot that would impel its leaders into
the state and leave them there but rather the enabler of a “diverse,
multidimensional movement of subversion
<http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/860.php>” without which those in the
state would not be able to accomplish much by way of political, economic
and social transformation. That there was little spontaneous evidence of
this was no doubt a relief to some in the government; but to others it was
troubling. There were especially some highly capable Syriza leaders who
deliberately remained in the party apparatus in order to facilitate this.
But the difficulty of doing this was not just a matter of the rest of the
leadership's preoccupation with the negotiations but also the lack of
capacity among Syriza activists for animating the creative plans from below
to which the state would need to respond.

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