S.P.SHUKLA | 26 JUNE, 2016
EU Raj, Brexit and the European Dream: Can The Vote be Turned into an Opportunity?
The corporate capital dominated press is aghast .So are the commentators of the progressive left- liberals of Europe at the "leave" decision of Britain by a margin of four percent.
The young aspirational Britain too is wringing its hands for it rues the impending diminution and dissociation from wider, plural and , hopefully , more prosperous, European entity.And the tendency is to equate or juxtapose the " leave" voters with xenophobic, ultra nationalist, right wing tendencies emerging in Europe.
The underlying message is that the( only) way to fight this reaction is to continue to accept the Euro Raj with or without formal acceptance of Euro as the common currency. And strengthen it further to convert it into a political entity proper with coordinated, if not unified, foreign policy and other attributes of sovereign exercise of political power.
The lament gets shriller, and frustration deeper because , unlike in case of the once threatened Grexit, Brexit has the potential of greater contagion in the EU raj. This with the emergence of anti- austerity labour movements in Portugal, Spain , Italy and, now, France, on the one hand, and also, on the other, the spreading influence of ultra nationalist, xenophobic parties in France, Netherlands, Belgium and Germany..
The concern about the growing influence of extreme right wing politics is genuine and can not be overestimated, whether in England or the continental Europe.And there can not be two opinions about fighting and defeating this tendency.
The question is whether EU Raj Is the only way or even a viable or reliable way to achieve this goal.The related point (sub- question) is what tendency the" leave" voters represented.
The emergence of the concept of a consolidating western Europe dates back to the Treaty of Rome in 1950 and the Marshall aid programme for reconstruction and development. It was part of the cold war strategy of building a bulwark against USSR.
Then followed the European Communities of Coal and Steel and the setting up of European Economic Community and Commission.
The culmination was the imposition of a common currency i.e. Euro and stripping nation states' autonomy in respect of the vital instrument of exchange rate policy and severely restricting their freedom in regard to use of other two crucial instruments of fiscal and monetary policies through Maastricht Treaty and the powers of the European Central Bank.
The territorial expansion of the Euro raj in terms of the number of countries proceeded apace and economies of different stages of industrial development and different wage and living levels joined in. This too was taken as a sign of success and evidence of correctness of the strategy of faster and deeper integration.
This exercise was prompted , orchestrated and accomplished as part of the requirement of the global finance capital. Just as the cold war strategy inspired the earlier stage of European integration. This aspect is as much a part of reality , perhaps a more relevant part in our times, as the other aspect being stressed viz; the genuine concern about destructive nationalism which led to the horrible tragedy of two world wars and the idea of integrated Europe to eradicate its root cause.
A genuine internationalism is an antidote to destructive nationalism. But if that internationalism is spawned by the requirement of global financial capital, it assumes a different dynamics and objective. Just as consolidation of western Europe as part of the cold war strategy led not to peace and constructive internationalism but to accentuation of arms race and repeated and open armed conflicts and wars by proxies in territories of the third world.
The framework of global finance capital is neoliberalism. It cannot but lead to inequity and exclusion and popular discontent.Its potential to tide over or suppress the inherent tendencies through exploitation of labour in lower wage economies and creating global reserve army of the unemployed to depress real wage levels in developed economies and through repeated creation of "bubbles " stands considerably eroded and the persistence of recessionary trends in global economy is evidence of that.
The net result is greater inequality and exclusion. Also, greater economism in labour movements. And finally a more conducive atmosphere for narrow identity politics.And on the fringe, the rise of xenophobic politics.
The state, including Euro raj , in such a situation, develops a tendency to crush the popular discontent and challenges, enforce austerity policies in the name of financial discipline and make the ground as safe and profitable as possible to "investors" (read "finance capital").
The neoliberal framework thus promotes and strengthens anti- democratic tendency of the state, on the one hand, and encourages narrow identity -based, divisive politics at the popular level, on the other.
In the worst case scenario, the state may internalise the xenophobic and fascistic politics to protect the interest of the finance capital. To the extent the finance capital is international or global , one can literally call it an exercise in promoting internationalism. But this dynamics is the opposite of the dynamics inherent in genuine internationalism, inspired by the dream of human emancipation. And through perpetual expansion and deepening of the process of democratisation at the national level and further strengthening of the process through international solidarity and cooperation.
The two processes are incompatible. To expect that the former somehow will lead to the latter is self -deception.
So, are the " Leave" voters disillusioned by the Euro raj, consciously or instinctively committed to jettison the pseudo- internationalism of the EU raj ,or are they representing the fringe element spawned by the neoliberal policies?
By the numbers they have gathered , they certainly are not the fringe. Also, considering the deep seated democratic commitment of British politics, it seems unrealistic to infer that there is such a tectonic change in their politics that a xenophobic fringe has become the mainstay.
A genuine quest in the youth of a wider , plural European cultural identity can not also be overlooked. All in all , it may not be a sound judgement to treat " Leave " voters as victims of xenophobia.Their vote is a vote of no confidence in the EU raj which promised prosperity and internationalism but the promise remained confined to the City and created schisms in polity and society.
The "Leave" voters do not have any credible alternative to offer. But nor do the "Remain " voters have that. They (including both Labour and Conservative " “remainers")are merely asking for some tweaking of the EU raj rules here and there which they did not succeed in getting anyway.
The real challenge posed by Brexit to Europe and all progressive and left liberal political tendencies in Europe is this : Does Europe have an alternative? Do they care to think of an alternative to the ruling paradigm of neoliberalism?
Greece was too small and too weak and too embedded in the Euro raj to pose the question. And that can not be held against it.
But England is different, even a diminished England. Despite the deindustrialisation and dissipation of oil and gas reserves, it has eminent global status in financial services, insurance, architectural services, education and a wide field of cutting edge technologies.
Never mind the " Leave" vote, it has the wide European land mass and people (including Russia )close to it.And it has unquestioned democratic credentials. And its long history of generating and nurturing progressive thinking and political praxis is an asset.
All it has to do is to shake off its self - elected camp- follower role vis a vis USA. And look afresh at its own history, the history of Europe and explore and forge links with the changing world outside which is getting fast disillusioned with the ruling paradigm of neoliberalism.
It would be poetic justice par excellence if the cradle which nurtured neo - liberalism and popularised the false theory of TINA also becomes the birthplace of the challenge mounted against it and starts thinking of an alternative.
Both "Leave" and "Remain" voters should rediscover the dream of Europe which gave to the modern world the inspiration of genuine internationalism founded on the ambition of human emancipation.
EU is a recent construct, a fragile and regressive political construct, a distorted version of the original European dream which is at least as old as 1848 when the working people of Europe were valiantly challenging the onslaught of the bourgeoisie and preparing the ground for laying the seed of genuine internationalism. And that dream can be rediscovered in its contemporary form only if and when the neoliberal paradigm is challenged.
Will the left- progressive political forces in England do it?
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