May 08, 2022
By Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog
World War II saw massive political gains by the lower classes and average person, but only via their own mass-murder. Many socio-economic demands which go back to 1789 and which animated the Revolutions of 1848 were put in place, finally.
(This is the ninth chapter in a new book, France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values. Please click here for the article which announces this book and explains its goals.)
The three biggest changes were that socialism was now firmly implanted on the global scene, women got the right to vote in France in 1944 and that the Western Liberal Democratic elite were discredited worse than ever.
That forced Western elite, who were now allying with fascists to forestall further socialist and anti-imperialist victories, to make political and economic concessions which they had resisted for a century. These subsequent 30 years – from 1945 to 1975 – are known as the “30 Glorious Years” in French history. During this period a broad economic stability was founded upon the stability, productivity, joy and long-sightedness which can only be provided by worker rights and influence, and by socialist-inspired levers and organisations.
The brief era of “Social Democracy” was officially terminated by the introduction of the euro (1999) and then the European Union (2009). EU citizenship was introduced in 1992 but its official installation was not until 2009, with the elite-only ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, which amended the constitutional basis of the EU, the Maastricht Treaty (1992) and the Treaty of Rome (1957). The Yellow Vests would be the flaming leftist economic and political reaction to this political-economic regression away from Social Democracy. The introduction of this version the pan-European project was a major regression in the threat of modern political history: to reduce the autocratic rights of elite and to increase the empowerment of the average person.
Sadly, it was only 30 years – one generation – before the autocratic and oligarchical elite began to retake power. When they do this effort is called “neoliberalism”, even though the first “neoliberalism” was with the start of 3rd Republic (1871-1940), which restored the immediately discredited and popularly rejected Liberalism of the 2nd Republic (1848-52). The goal of today’s “3rd-liberalism” is to end the Social Democracy era and to redistribute its gains back to the Liberalist 1%.
This book ignores the upheaval of 1968 in France – when a General Strike attracted 8 million workers in a country of 50 million people – for this reason: This is a book is about political changes, and the rebellion of 1968 only produced cultural changes. It was indeed a cultural revolution, but because it was not state-sponsored, as in China, where cultural changes were embraced by leaders like Mao Zedong, the Western Liberal Democratic elite successfully broke any chance of fully democratising from Social Democracy to Socialist Democracy. There’s no denying that this era’s cultural revolution (note the lower case) won advances in everyday culture but that is not the same as formal political-economic changes.
The political failures/cultural gains of this era would eventually reveal the continued rightward shift within the elite of the French left, and this can be illustrated by the path of Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the most prominent of the student leaders in 1968. In his memoirs he wrote that he was not seeking Marxist-inspired equality but simply more control over his personal life. These freedom of expression types of changes can perhaps be encapsulated in the freedom of students to now question their teachers in class. Cohn-Bendit would quit the Trotskyists, switched to the Green Party, became a devoted Europhile, reject the Yellow Vests and is now a close advisor to Emmanuel Macron – it’s an incredibly representative political trajectory of this era. Ecology is a subject completely neutered of class politics (even though the idea of a capitalist/competitive solution to ecological issues, and not socialist/cooperative solution, is an obvious absurdity) and thus is the political outlet most encouraged by contemporary Western Liberal Democratic elite.
However, we should note that for many decades already French socialism was primarily intellectual, and dominated by right-wing socialists: “Before the war of 1914-1918 only 20% of socialist deputies were workers while they had been 80% of the German socialist party (SPD), and they represented the totality of the English Labor party. The socialism of Jaures and Blum is, when it comes to leaders, a socialism of intellectuals and liberal professions,” wrote Romaric Godin in La guerre sociale en France (The Social War in France – 2019). Jean Jaures and Leon Blum were the right-leaning socialist leaders of their respective generations. Jaures is notable in that both Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy both claimed to be continuing his legacy. Also notable is that whether worker or intellectual – 20th century West European socialists failed.
Between the USSR’s fall (1991) and China’s rise (starting in 2008) the French left’s economic ideology was in disunity and disarray at best and total betrayal at worst. Many also went whole-hog over to neo-imperialist culture, espousing right-wing “universal values” and embracing neo-colonial wars in the former Yugoslavia and the Muslim world.
The change began in 1974 with the death in office of President George Pompidou, Charles de Gaulle’s successor in the 5th Republic (1958-today), just a month before the presidential vote.
Neoliberalism starts to win over elites from Paris to Moscow, but the French keep protesting
Pompidou’s death effectively ended Gaullism, which had helped win World War II, presided over the “30 Glorious Years” and insisted on French sovereignty. The closet election in French history saw the victory of the aristocrat Valerie Giscard d’Estaing, a politician who was thus extremely familiar but also a new breed: Giscard d’Estaing was liberal on social issues, rejected Gaullist Euroscepticism and was extremely close with high finance – he served as Minister of Finance twice. We see how the “Bankocracy” has gone from not existing in 1789 France to running the executive branch. He marks the start of the third restoration of extremist Liberalist thought.
Liberals had been waiting decades to restore firm control, and they salivated at the prospect of dividing up the spoils created by the 30 Glorious Years. Using the excuse of inflation cased by a rise in oil prices in 1973, free competition was reimposed after decades of abandonment, austerity was imposed for the first time, salaries were frozen, compulsory salary taxes soared ten points to nearly 30% and the despised CDD work contract was created. (The despised contrat à durée déterminée is a temporary employment contract which renders life in France extremely difficult and unstable. It’s usual length is one month and then it is renewed endlessly, without ever becoming a long-term contract. As the French do not have hourly wages, the CDD can perhaps be thought of as “part-time work”.) Seigniorial dues and tithes were not restored.
It would not be until 2016 that a team of economists at the International Monetary Fund would release a paper which admits that austerity doesn’t work. The economic massacring of the lower and middle class which is austerity would be the reason for the upcoming years recession, although the mainstream history is that it was entirely due to the rise in oil prices.
France was not alone in its first steps towards the restoration of Liberalism. The United States responded to energy inflation with the “Volcker Shock” in March 1980: a huge rise in interest rates which gutted the average person’s primary asset class – the housing market. The UK and Germany turned to wage suppression. It’s vital to note that the same elite capture was also occurring in the USSR. By Christmas 1991 it would be imploded from the top: their elite infamously ignored a high-turnout referendum in March in which 80% of the nation voted to preserve the USSR.
Unsurprisingly, the French voter rebelled: Giscard d’Estaing was voted out in 1981. A socialist-communist backing of Francois Mitterrand’s economic platform – the most socialist economic plan ever promoted in the non-Eastern Bloc Europe – was a repeat of 1936. However, by 1983 he infamously made his U-turn back to austerity (more on this shortly) – French elites had fully accepted the terms of Liberalism.
Yellow Vest: “I worked from the age of 14 until the age of 60, and in my entire life I accepted only 1 month of unemployment insurance. And yet, in the last 4 years I have seen my pension lowered from 1,150 euros to 1,050 euros. My rent is 800 euros a month, so I cannot afford to live, and I will never accept this injustice.”
(Note: this book intersperses over 100 quotations taken from actual, marching Yellow Vests which were originally published in news reports on PressTV.)
By 1986 French neoliberalism was in full swing: the abolishment of price controls, the end of controls on exchange rates and the deregulation of financial markets in order to do what modern Western financial markets do – divert the wealth produced by people who actually work into the bank accounts of the 1%. Mass de-nationalisations began: General Electric Company, Suez, Paribas and Société Générale (banks), Saint-Gobain and Matra (industrial giants).
The average Frenchman would not accept the death of Social Democracy as complacently as in the rest of the West, and that fact is certainly in keeping with the line of West European history since 1789 – the Yellow Vests only confirm this line further. The French responded to the restoration of Liberalism over socialist-inspired ideas with massive, broadly-encompassing and successful social movements: protests against proposed university reforms in 1986 and rail reforms in 1987. The “Touche pas à mon pote” (Don’t touch my buddy) movement marked the introduction of French Muslims into French political movements.
Godin, who is also the economics reporter for France’s top media, Mediapart, wrote: “The error of (then prime minister) Jacques Chirac in 1986 was to think that he could force through a new culture which could sweep away the past, as Margaret Thatcher did across the Channel. However, the French showed their capacity to resist the complete destruction of their social model.”
In France from 1986 until 1995 efforts at restoring liberalism were stopped by massive social movements: against worse work contracts in 1994, retirement and social security cutbacks in 1995. The 1995 General Strike was the largest since 1968, and the political introduction for a new generation. Starting in 1992, the excuse of the need to “qualify” for the euro currency – and thus right-wing rollbacks were needed – was unconvincing to the average Frenchman as well.
From 1995-2007 the attempts at major neoliberal reforms were less ambitious and, crucially, began to offer some monetary redistribution efforts as compensation for right-wing deforms. This is partially explained by the inflation which immediately followed the introduction of the euro in 1999. The reforms of 1994 would fail again in 2006 when they were attempted to be rammed through, due to more protests.
But by 2002 the leftist voter had partially revolted against the traitorous French left – the National Front made it to the 2nd round at the expense of the ever-more un-socialist Socialist Party. The far-right party – totally neoliberal in economics – was led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, a former intelligence officer in Algeria. Like with Cavaignac in 1848, once again Algerian colonisation has provided the entry point for the most extreme-right and anti-socialist elements in French domestic politics.
The National Front’s advancement to the runoff was precisely due to the left’s now two decade-long embrace of neoliberalism despite the rejection of neoliberalism by its constituents. The French mainstream media like to blame Mitterrand’s party-gerrymandering, but that’s a distant secondary reality from the fact that voters opposed this third return of liberalism. However, unlike in 1852 there was no Bonapartism to send Liberalists packing, and unlike in 1945 liberalists had not yet had a long-running economic crisis deep enough and/or war to fully discredit them.
The 2005 French European Constitution referendum was essentially a referendum on neoliberalism, and it lost by a 55-45% margin. The majority of the French Socialist Party would vote yes, and that effort would be led by future president Francois Hollande. Three days later the Netherlands would also vote no, by a 62-38% margin. Aghast, Western Liberal Democrats decided that this would essentially be the end of putting the concept of the European Union to popular votes.
Yellow Vest: “The government doesn’t listen to us at all. The economic situation keeps getting worse, the prices are rising, and the government’s response is to attack the Yellow Vests to keep us from telling the truth.”
In May of 2007 neoliberalism made a huge inroad in France with the election of Nicolas “l’Américain” Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian nobleman. Sarkozy was the first French politician since World War II to break totally with even lip service to being an anti-monarchist in style and ideology. Giscard d’Estaing at least made regular and often poorly-received efforts to shed his aristocratic pretensions and appear close with the average person. The pernicious influence of monarchy was still grasped in France then, but the new millennium has seen Western culture re-cultivate the idea that greed is good and that the aristocracy are our betters.
Sarkozy would make France the first major European power to approve the new Lisbon Treaty, which put the installation of the European Union into the hands of the elite: the Maastricht Treaty was reformed to allow the installation of the EU via the approval of national parliaments and not popular referendums. French Socialist MPs overwhelmingly voted in favor of this coup in plain sight.
The method (oligarchical approval) and context (an economic collapse unseen since 1929) of the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty cannot be stressed enough, as it unmistakably reveals that in the history of Western Liberal Democracy the installation of EU was the latest in a never-ending line of autocratic decisions by their oligarchical elites. Again, by understanding modern political history (which began in 1789) as a move away from autocracy and towards democracy we see how the EU is a regression and not a progression.
Only Ireland was able to achieve a popular referendum on the Lisbon Treaty: when the first vote produced a rejection a re-vote was forced the following year, when it passed. Every other member approved the installation by a vote in their national parliaments, as well as six royal assents.
This is a precise repeat of when the parliamentarians of the French 2nd Republic, the continent’s first Western Liberal Democracy, committed coups against the people via voting to submit the 1848 Constitution to the majority approval of parliament, and then to gut the primary advance of the 1848 Revolution, universal male suffrage. The populist reaction then was the democratic approval of the re-installation of Bonapartism in 1852, with Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, who restored universal suffrage and ended the disastrous first foray of Western Liberal Democracy.
The vast majority of nations would ratify the Lisbon Treaty between February and July of 2008, a disastrous year. The collapse of Lehman Brothers investment firm that September is the official start of the Great Recession, but the US Federal Reserve held its first emergency weekend meeting in 30 years back in March, to negotiate the shocking collapse of the Bear Stearns investment group. Thus, it’s not as if European elite weren’t aware of major issues brewing. Four countries, including Germany, would not fully ratify the treaty until after the fall of Lehman Brothers. We can certainly call it an amazing coincidence: how the elite Liberalist politicians successfully forced through the European Union mere weeks before economic collapse struck?
The Treaty would be fully ratified in November 2009 amid mass bankruptcy, home foreclosures, unemployment and that slogan which is the essence of British conservatism: “Keep calm and carry on”. The pan-European project was now complete and – as we’ll see – largely unchangeable. The European Union thus joined only Saudi Arabia, Israel, San Marino and the UK Commonwealth as having citizenry but no constitution.
The European Union thus was born amid the Great Recession – it has never been willing or able to end it.
The next chapter will deal with three related events – the Great Recession, the European Sovereign Debt Crisis and the Age of Austerity – which left the French populace too skeptical, resentful and experienced to allow the extremist Liberalist policies and autocratic personality of Emmanuel Macron to go uncommented upon, as he apparently had assumed.
This chapter has thus far shown how the French people, but not the elites, successfully fought the 3rd restoration of liberalism which so many other countries embraced even before the implosion of the Soviet Union. We should now turn to these new Liberalist structures.
I should note that in this era of Socialist Democratic collapse the last great progressive revolution of our contemporary times – the Iranian Islamic Revolution – victoriously emerged from the ashes of the Western-imposed Iran-Iraq War in 1988. They found very few sympathisers to the socialist-inspired country it had just forged, and then 9/11 would create not just skepticism but violent animosity towards seemingly all things Islamic.
The European Union – capitalist cartel or France’s idea of a progressive & united continent?
Yes, it’s pathetically easy to dismiss any discussion of the European Union as being merely an extension of aristocratic autocracy: since 1992 there have been eight national referendums which rejected key aspects of the European Union only to be either ignored or subverted by oligarchical elites. Nonetheless, if we insist (rightly) that another version of the pan-European project is possible then we need to see how France has repeatedly proposed an alternative vision of a united Europe, and one which wouldn’t have been embraced by the liberalists of 1848 or 1871.
Just as Lenin saw that the principal feature of modern capitalism is monopoly, so the EU began in 1951 as an undemocratic cartel to fix prices for coal and steel. The European Coal and Steel Community also included a multinational bureaucracy which was empowered to ignore national parliaments and laws.
Was the EU always intended to be just a capitalist cartel? It’s possible, but we cannot completely ignore France’s historical trend since 1789, which is to be more often than not at the progressive forefront of the West.
In the WWII postwar reckoning France was excluded: de Gaulle was famously not invited to the Yalta Conference in February 1945. Thus, France immediately saw that the US and UK liberalists were only dealing with the head of Western leftism since 1917, the USSR. After the Labor Party defeated Winston Churchill in July 1945, just two months after the defeat of the Germans, the rabidly anti-socialist US called off the in-progress plan to de-industrialise Germany and instead tapped West Germany for their imperial collaborators in Europe. That is why Germany is the industrial powerhouse of Europe today even though they provoked and lost WWII: Western Liberal Democracy’s alliance with postwar fascists couldn’t be more clear. This was a crucial historical decision which laid the foundation for German domination of the Eurozone and EU today. Many would add that it is a US domination of the Eurozone and EU, and via their longtime dependant in Germany.
By the 1960s French elites were well aware that they could not compete industrially with America’s creation of a German Frankenstein, so in their conception of a pan-European project they wanted to join with – not conquer – Germany. In some ways this is a continuation of the Franco-German elite alliance in 1871, but there is a very different factor this time: the imperialist United States.
Historically, no country’s elite has pushed harder for European unification than France, and that’s because the European Union was seen by many French elite as something which could serve as a Franco-German bulwark against imperial domination – that of the United States. The idea of total French enmity with Germany since 1871 is a short-term view – the two neighbors share a tremendous number of cultural similarities, values, multiple regions and several millions of Franco-German citizens in Alsace, Lorraine and in Alpine regions. France uniquely combines both the cultures of Latin/Mediterranean Europe and Northern Europe, after all. Some further add that France is a Latin country but run by a Northern elite. European unification was seen by many in Paris as an effort to preserve the sovereignty of both nations and to create a counterbalance to the obviously domineering US. In this way we can say that the European Union was the latest in two centuries of effort by France to unite Europe in a more progressive way – the problem is the awful, undemocratic structures which this version of a pan-European project would ultimately adopt.
The foundational Élysée Treaty of friendship between France and Germany, signed in 1963, was a clear attempt to separate West Germany from the Anglosphere. The US was livid at France’s attempt at undermining the US-imposed postwar order: “I can hardly overestimate the shock produced in Washington by this action or the speculation that followed, particularly in the intelligence community,” said top US diplomat and banker George Ball.
The French understood that the 1944 Bretton Woods monetary system (when accounts began being regularly settled not in gold but in dollars) was not meant as a balanced system of international trade and financial flows but as an instrument of US domination via the dollar. Europe’s participation meant it supported American living standards and subsidised American companies. That the US could print unlimited dollars for unlimited imports was famously deemed an “exorbitant privilege” by France, but postwar France could do nothing about it until 1965.
The US deficit exploded in the mid-1960s, mostly due to their imperialist wars in East Asia. France and de Gaulle openly demanded a reform of the Bretton Woods system, a return to the gold standard and began repatriating French gold from New York City banks. “Perhaps never before had a chief of state launched such an open assault on the monetary power of a friendly nation,” wrote Time magazine in February 1965. In 1967 France was the first to withdraw from the West’s London Gold Pool, hastily constructed in 1961 to defend Bretton Woods. Unlike the UK and Germany, France was not always so subservient to the United States.
The truth which financial media never wants to tell is that France had a genuine commitment to a pan-Europeanism guided by a mixed socialist/pro-growth/not-rabidly-capitalist economic plan. This mirrors France’s own postwar “Mixed Economy” model, in which the state gives short- and long-term targets for industry to meet, and aids them to achieve it. There’s planning and state ownership – not at the level of a communist state but enough to enrage liberalists. There is also a commitment to a social safety net because endless austerity is simply not sustainable if French elite wish to avoid further revolutions. France’s Mixed Economy is also not at the level of Japan, where the state’s role was much larger (until the Plaza Accord of 1985, signed by Japan, the US, France, West Germany and the UK), and where economic success was spectacularly greater.
France’s contemporary effort to fight far-right economics and austerity did not begin with Francois Hollande’s 2012 election campaign campaign but began three decades earlier. So why did Mitterrand’s anti-3rd liberalist “Common Project” culminate in a U-turn in in 1983? Of course, just like in 1936, 1871 or 1848 the primary reason is that Western Liberal Democracy is an oligarchy which refuses to listen to the majority will of the people (as in a normal democracy). But in 1983 the power of a completely united globalist rich class – one undivided by royalist squabbles or support for the national sovereignty proposed in fascism – could be wielded as one. This same tool – the “Bankocracy” of international high finance – would also be used to provoke the 2012 European Sovereign Debt Crisis.
Despite a huge democratic mandate to end Giscard d’Estaing’s austerity and restore growth polices, France was immediately foiled by high finance and currency speculators. Capital flight from France to Germany immediately took place and long-term borrowing rates (10-year bond) went from 9.6% in March 1979 all the way to 17.3% in May 1981, when Mitterrand was elected. Government bonds, as Marx foresaw, are the indispensable lifeblood of the biggest economic actor in any capitalist country: the government. After devaluing the franc three times Mitterrand was forced into submission. He made his U-turn and by March 1986 10-year bonds were at 9.3%.
Yellow Vest: “The British have shown us that it is possible to obtain a referendum on leaving the European Union. However, the French media refuses to ever discuss the issue at all, but many in France will not stop demanding a Frexit.”
What happened was that Germany and the Bundesbank, knowing that Western high-finance was philosophically in their corner and willing to destroy France’s democratic will with every dollar they could borrow, joined with global high finance and professional currency speculators to strangle France into backtracking on socialist-inspired policies. If high finance cared at all for democracy they would have supported France’s anti-austerity plan. However such an idea is as absurd today as it was to socialists, fascists and even the apolitical in the 1930s, and also to those opposing the nouveau riche backers of the House of Orleans in 1830’s July Revolution.
France could not boldly defy high finance and keep devaluing their currency until growth took hold for another crucial reason: they would have had to abandon the 1979-inaugurated European Monetary System (EMS), the financial predecessor of the euro. This was an adjustable exchange rate agreement which linked 10 Western European currencies to prevent large fluctuations. It was France’s brainchild for their long-term goal: wooing Germany away from the US and towards a genuinely European integration. Preferring to stay in the EMS meant violating the people’s democratic will demanding an anti-austerity agenda – this process would obviously be repeated ad nauseam.
By 1993 the European Union would begin, which replaced the European Economic Community, which in 1957 had replaced the original European Coal and Steel Community. The euro currency would arrive six years later – the new structures would fully end the Social Democracy era.
In 2012 Hollande was the hope of an entire “Latin Bloc” against Germanic austerity, once again, but he would do the exact same U-turn. However, he showed far less resolve than Mitterrand and faced far less pressure: 10-year bonds stood at 2.75% when Hollande was elected and and they fell immediately – high finance seemed to know the longtime Europhile Hollande’s anti-austerity promises were election nonsense. French 10-year bonds stood at 0.81% when he left office, in total disgrace and with the Socialist Party perhaps permanently smashed.
More important than the EU – the Eurogroup
Part of the problem of talking about the “pan-European project” is that you have multiple bodies which overlap. You also have some nations which are part of one, but not another. Or which pay into one body, but abstain from another.
The Eurozone is more important than the European Union because it controls the money in the world’s second largest macro-economic bloc behind the US (in 2008). By comparison, the EU is mainly a regulatory body, and their modest annual budget – about the size of Denmark’s – reflects that.
All serious studies of the eurozone – from Nobel Prize-winning economists, such as Joseph Stiglitz, to those with insider knowledge of how it operates, such as former Greek Finance Minster Yanis Varoufakis – stress that there is nothing in its structure which allows for the possibility for change. That’s a pretty vital and damning conclusion to be consistently reached, especially when post-1991 Europe loves to stand on its hind legs and lecture the rest of the world about democracy. Objective studies reach another regular conclusion, and it’s one which is shared by the lower- and middle-class: the euro has totally failed in its promise to bring about prosperity and economic security.
The Eurozone was a clear replication of the German Zollverein, led by Prussia during the 19th century, which was the world’s first example of independent states creating a full economic union without also creating a political union. Germanifying an area of German-speaking peoples and cultures is one thing, but trying to replicate that for all of Europe has only led to dramatic inequalities.
The Eurozone thus embodies the victory of Germanic economic ideology in tandem with the victory of English oligarchic parliamentarianism in political ideology – this is perhaps the simplest essence of Western Liberal Democracy: England’s Glorious Revolution of 1688 combined with the Germanic commitment to the economic autocracy of the elite. The French are often called the intellectuals of Europe, but it’s far more accurate to call them the ignored intellectuals of Europe: the history of Europe since 1789 is the defeat of French intellectual egalitarianism and the victory of the aristocratic thought of Anglo-Germanic intellectuals.
To examine the Eurozone you have to bring up something which mainstream media is instructed to ignore – the Eurogroup.
The Eurogroup rules the Eurozone and its 19 member states, and it also governs the “bailouts” to member nations like Greece. The Eurogroup is, at face value, an informal monthly meeting of the finance ministers of the euro member countries.
However, it is no exaggeration to say that the Eurogroup is the banker cabal hidden in plain sight. It is truly the expression of the autocratic and oligarchical forces which go back to 1788. Gone are the Bourbons and Orleanists, though of course they remain on the boards of banks and hedge funds.
In his 2017 book And The Weak Suffer What They Must? Varoufakis provided a wealth of insider knowledge on how the Eurogroup operates.
“Moreover, the Eurogroup, where all the important economic decisions are taken, is a body that does not even exist in European law, that operates on the basis that the ‘strong do as they please while the weak suffer what they must’, that keeps no minutes of its proceedings, and whose only rule is that its deliberations are confidential – that is, not to be shared with Europe’s citizenry. It is a set-up designed to preclude any sovereignty traceable back to the people of Europe.”
What can we say of Western Liberal Democracy when their most advanced economic achievement is governed by an entity with no rules, no records, no democratic process and no democratic accountability? It is truly a return to 1788 – the time when the average person had no say in politics or economics. Every French person should be able to recognise in 21st century Western Liberal Democracy the autocratic domination which even the many European kings of today recognise is no longer unacceptable.
Thanks to the whistle-blowing of Varoufakis we also know that there is also essentially no discussion at Eurogroup meetings: The Troika (the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission) initiates, dominates and outlines the terms and then the finance minister-members vote. The overwhelming majority of participants in this group which governs eurozone economic policy (and thus social policy) are bankers, former bankers or intimately tied to high finance.
When bankers run economic policy, one shouldn’t be surprised if the resulting social policy is for the benefit of bankers and their biggest aristocratic clients. Yes, the EU is obviously a Bankocracy, but Bankocracy is simply the modern form of rule by an oligarchy of the rich and powerful. It is as if the new banker class in 1830’s France didn’t just put the House of Orleans on the throne and boot out the House of Bourbon, but as if the new banker class assassinated all Houses, restored serfdom and declared that they had a divine right to rule. Their obvious goal is the rollback of mere Social Democracy, and to reattempt a destruction of any Socialist Democracies.
The Eurogroup is not an EU institution and cannot declare any legally-binding decisions. It can never be blamed for a bad decision, nor held accountable, because it is not answerable to any parliament or body politic whatsoever. Many are increasingly asking in France and Europe: What’s the point of voting for any national or EU politician if they have little to no chance of influencing policy? Many don’t even realise that the highest level of policymaking is actually the Eurogroup.
Yellow Vest: “In France’s 5th Republic when someone is elected president they can do whatever they want for five years because we truly have no way to influence them. This is why the Yellow Vests are insisting that Macron accept regular citizen referendums on his policies, because he is destroying French society.”
(Of course, what will occur when citizen referendums oppose the decisions of the Eurogroup? The European Union will step in and either totally ignore the referendum, call it illegal or regulate them away.)
It is self-evident that that when politics does not rule – where there is no law or regulation – the rich are the rulers. It is also self-evident that in a climate of total deregulation the richest nations and persons will benefit the most, thus inequality will increase. It is also self-evident that when billionaires and hedge funds own the bulk of a deregulated and denationalised media there will be very little discussion of the Eurogroup in the mainstream media. This is what has happened throughout the history of the Eurogroup, which operated without formal recognition until the Lisbon Treaty.
Unsurprisingly, the US pioneered the concept of mass deregulation in the early 1980s, which they foisted on Europe as much as possible when their academics, think tanks and intellectuals helped oversee the writing of the new structures of the pan-European projects. It is thus no exaggeration to say that – coming after the so-called “end of history” and Liberalism’s alleged total victory following the fall of the USSR – the Eurogroup has achieved the American dream of total deregulation even more than in America.
For the Eurogroup to become remotely democratic and not autocratic/oligarchic a Eurozone constitution would have to be created, an executive would seem useful, a legislative branch would be indispensable and approval power over national budgets would seem necessary. Only the last is already in existence, but why would they add any Liberal or Socialist Democracy to this Bankocracy? Answer: they never will create this in any sort of equitable format.
Such facts make it clear why the Eurogroup cannot be considered compatible with democracy, and thus cannot be supported. One might support creating a new Eurozone or changes to the Eurozone structure, but supporting the current Eurozone is simply indefensible. The European corollary to the post-1991 dictum of TINA (There Is No Alternative (to imperialism and liberalism)) is that there is no alternative permitted to this version of a pan-European project.
Because change is impossible the elites’ goal is thus forced ignorance and silence, and when that fails, deflection: “To believe that Europe’s problem was debt. Not the architectural design of the Eurozone. Not its unenforceable rules. But debt. Debt was never Europe’s problem. It was a symptom of an awful institutional design,” wrote Varoufakis.
From 1999 until 2007 it’s said that the Eurozone had a short period of success in redistributing wealth. This is based on the fact that rich Eurozone countries decided to loan to their Eurozone brethren in poorer countries. As is always the case in capitalist countries, and as was seen in previous recessions, and as is evidenced in the history of countless Western Third World client states – once economic troubles hit these loans were called in and could no longer be repaid, creating even more crisis.
Liberalism fully restored for the third time – exact same result: immediate failure
The 2009 European Sovereign Debt Crisis will go down in history as the time when the EU both started working and then immediately started dying. The response to the crisis by Brussels and the newly rammed-through governmental structures made clear that the economic solidarity which would be required of richer nations to make “more Europe” work simply does not exist.
The parallel of its literally-immediate democratic discrediting with France’s 2nd Republic should be striking to all readers of this book, and should remind that Western Liberal Democracy has only produced failure. This is especially true when the outlet of imperialist war is not an option for this structure – France’s 3rd Republic (when Liberalism was re-imposed) took advantage of this option to the maximum, as the 3rd Republic’s imperial empire was one of history’s most expansive.
As the European Sovereign Debt Crisis turned into the Age of Austerity Europe’s richer nations got what they wanted from weaker Eurozone countries – ports, airports, water departments, laws favouring their own industries against local industries, etc. They did this all while claiming that Western Liberal Democracy was so much more just than any ideological competitors!
Pro-capitalist American media may be persuaded by the German accusation of profligate smaller countries, but most of Europe saw the democratic will of nation after nation get strangled until their national politicians surrendered. Around the continent (and the UK) many realised that the EU and Eurozone was sucking the lifeblood of White locals the way White colonialists used to suck the lifeblood of Brown locals. Some understood that the forcing of the governments of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and other weak countries to assume the private debts of French and German banks was simply a repeat of what happened all over the 3rd World since the late 19th century – neo-imperialism was not just for Brown puppets anymore, but White puppets too.
2009 thus became the historical bookend to 1871’s siege of Paris, when the elite of France and Germany colluded to destroy the first flowering of Social Democracy and Socialist Democracy in the Paris Commune. French and German banks were the most leveraged in Greece; are the two biggest funders of the European Central Bank; were the most insistent that promises of borrowers to their bankers are sacrosanct while the promises of national politicians to their voters are not. The victory of the neoliberal and neo-imperial EU empire was thus fully imposed, and – amid the heat – Bismarck and Thiers looked up and smiled.
None of this was missed by the as yet unformed Yellow Vests.
Upcoming chapter list of the brand-new content in France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values. The book will also include previous writings from 2018 through the 2022 election in order to provide the most complete historical record of the Yellow Vests anywhere. What value!
Publication date: July 1, 2022.
Pre-orders of the paperback version will be available immediately.
Pre-orders of the Kindle version may be made here.
Pre-orders of the French paperback version will be available immediately.
Pre-orders of the French Kindle version may be made here.
Chapter List of the new content
New book announcement – ‘France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s best values’ – March 15, 2022
Introduction: A Yellow Vests’ history must rewrite both recent & past French history – March 20, 2022
The UK’s endless reaction: 1789 & feudalism’s end creates modern conservatism – March 25, 2022
Glorious Revolution of 1688: England declares ‘death to all other revolutions’ – March 29, 2022
Modern political history makes no sense if Napoleon is not a leftist revolutionary – April 2, 2022
The ‘Counter-Revolutions of 1848’ stillborn child: Western Liberal Democracy – April 7, 2022
Louis-Napoleon: The revolutionary differences between Bonapartism & Western Liberal Democracy – April 11, 2022
The Paris Commune: The true birth of neoliberalism and EU neo-imperialism – April 17, 2022
Where the West is stuck: The fascism of the 1930s and the ‘fascism’ of the 2020s – April 23, 2022
On ‘Leon Trotsky on France’ in order to reclaim Trotsky from Trotskyists – May 2, 2022
Growing up Yellow Vest: Seeing French elites, not French people, conquered by neoliberalism
The radicalisation by Europe’s ongoing Lost Decade: the Great Recession changes France
To Yellow Vests he’s the radical: Macron and ‘Neither Right nor Left but the Bourgeois Bloc’
Yellow Vests: At worst, the most important French movement for a century
Who are they, really? Ask a reporter whose seen a million Yellow Vest faces
Yellow Vest Win: Ending the West’s slandering of all popular movements as far-right xenophobes
Yellow Vest Win: The end of Western anarcho-syndicalism & unions as leftism’s hereditary kings
Yellow Vest Win: The end of Western parliamentarianism as the most progressive government
Yellow Vest Win: Reminding us of the link between fascist violence & Western democracy
What the Yellow Vests can be: a group which can protect liberalism’s rights, at least
The 2022 vote: The approach needed for ‘Before’- what came ‘After’ polls closed
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.