The Lifeboat News
[ Message Archive | The Lifeboat News ]

    Mathew Rose – Europe: Not reading the writing on the wall Archived Message

    Posted by Keith-264 on September 11, 2023, 6:41 pm
    September 5, 2023

    This piece originally appeared in the BRAVE NEW EUROPE Community Newsletter, which is published exclusively for our authors and donors. Some of them felt we should post this on our website.

    The whole of Europe appears to be in crisis: politically, geopolitically, economically, the climate, socially. You name it, we’ve got it. Oddly, no solutions appear to be on the horizon. To the contrary, it appears real solutions are not being sought.

    This comes as no surprise as the sole goal of Europe’s neo-liberal political class and corporations is an inexorable income distribution from the bottom upwards, which we see not only in the increasing inequality, but also in the failure to stop climate change. Their panacea is austerity and tax reductions for corporations and the wealthy. These are one trick ponies, which has now become a liability.

    Since the introduction of neo-liberalism as its lode star, European governments have thrown everything out the window that made us strong, which consisted mainly in investing in their citizens and economy. That consisted of innumerable sorts of policies ranging from education, health, housing, environment, public supply to technical innovation. This was superfluous for “the market” unless it could be commodified or financialised. Thus these have been radically reduced and much of what remains has become inefficient and expensive through privatisation. The current economic and geopolitical developments are incomprehensible for these politicians.

    Let us begin with the geopolitical. To sum up Europe’s policies since it recently subordinated its international policies to those of the US can be best described as shooting oneself in the foot – actually both feet – and a leg as well. As Chas W. Freeman explained in an interview, the European sanction programme against Russia was a mistake comparable to Putin’s initial invasion of Ukraine. European economies are currently in shambles and there is no end in sight. The only reason the situation is not worse is that many European governments and companies, especially in Germany, are ignoring or getting round the sanctions. Then there is the US China conflict. The EU, especially Germany, which makes up round 25 percent of EU GDP, has a neo-mercantilist economy. One of its most important export and external investment partners is China. It does not matter if you wish to call it sanctions, decoupling or de-risking, the negative effects of this policy have the potential to dwarf the Russia sanctions.

    With the Ukraine war Europe has bound an albatross around its neck. The US has apparently decided for a never ending war, with Europe expected to mostly finance the conflict and reconstruction. Should the Americans decide to concentrate all their efforts on its conflict with China, then Europe will be burdened with a dysfunctional, destroyed nation for decades to come – or abandon Ukraine to its fate as they did with Afghanistan.

    Add to this that the sanctions against Russia alarmed so many nations outside of the rich white nation alliance that they are being unified as we would never have imagined two years ago. Alone the expansion of BRICS is a landmark development that appears to be providing the Southern Hemisphere with a geopolitical fillip, including ending the USA’s hegemony over the region. It has also intensified the efforts of these nations to reduce the significance of the US dollar and decoupling from Whitey’s financial dictate.

    We are for example witnessing France’s colonies attempting to liberate themselves, which may include leaving France’s financial domination via the CFA Franc and a reorientation of their exports to other nations offering them a fair deal, which is no great feat as European and American installed client oligarchies have mercilessly plundered the nations they rule. While the EU and Macron are incandescent, they appear helpless. The US is not supporting them, not even calling the military takeover in Niger a coup, being more concerned about maintaining its major drone base there. This and having your gas pipelines blown up appear to be the sort of treatment from its hegemon Europe will have to become accustomed to.

    With its Belt and Road Initiative the Chinese, the first alternative to American and European imperialism in decades, are making inroads into markets important for Europe. The EU is finding itself being pushed by China into a distant second or third place with regard to trade in many nations of the Global South.

    Europe has little to offer these nations beside the old imperialism dressed up as “aid” and “partnership” as well as a lot of moral posturing. On the diplomatic front its leading diplomats are the EU’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep “We are the garden, they are the jungle” Borrell, and Germany’s embarrassing foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, whose Feminist Foreign Policy, with her inordinate fuelling of the Ukraine war instead of seeking a diplomatic solution, does not differ from patriarchal foreign policy. These are not serious actors in a crisis of this dimension.

    European leaders – in and outside the EU – cling to the corset of their current neo-liberal economic and social policies. The only change condoned is a steady increase in profits and wealth for corporations and the wealthy. This of course means taking wealth from less well off, which is a problem that is solved by force, as we often see in France, or lies and polemic supported by state and mainstream media. Solutions there are none – or as the French say Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (The more things change, the more they stay the same).

    Another facet is the political There is no Alternative. It does not matter which party citizens in Europe vote for, policies remain unaffected. Scottish voters wanted a party that promised independence and social justice, but ended up with the SNP, a corrupt neo-liberal government that did all it could to avoid a new independence referendum. The Greeks voted Oxi and got EU/IMF neo-liberal policy on steroids. The Italians have voted for parties of the left, centre, right, and far-right, all promising change and ended up with the same neo-liberal policies. The Germans recently received a three party coalition government promising change and found themselves with still another neo-liberal government that does all it can to avoid any meaningful improvements for the majority. British voters appear to be fed up with the egregious corruption of their Tory government and their hyper neo-liberal policies. The opposition Labour Party, due to win big in the next general election, has already declared it will not change any major Tory policies. As members leave the party in droves, the party is becoming increasingly reliant upon corporate finance. There is truly no alternative. In return European voters have been gifted with identity politics, a wall on its border, and now a war.

    There is another element of the current crises that is being ignored, the psychological. Government polices are no longer based on societal reality. They have created a parallel reality bombarding their citizens with propaganda, not only in social media, but by state and corporate media as well. This second pseudo-reality makes their ability to act as informed responsible citizens virtually impossible. Instead it leads to lability as they charge from one nostrum and political party lie to the next. The Netherlands is probably the best example of this. Just have a look at their polling. Large numbers of voters jump from one party to the next, some newly created, in the course of weeks. In many East European nations one recently established political party replaces the other in government. Their corruption is boundless, their obedience to the EU impeccable, their citizens disillusioned

    In Germany the far-right AfD has doubled its poll results from ten to twenty percent. Should the leftist politician Sarah Wagenknecht establish a new party, the prognosis is that it will garner round 20 percent of the votes. In that it will attract many voters from the AfD, together they could still secure round 30 percent of the votes. Add the twenty-five percent of voters who do not cast their votes, then all six establishment authoritarian liberal parties in Germany together are not supported by even half the German voters.

    The question is if political change is possible. With the propaganda tsunami of state and corporate media and the massive financial corporate support of political parties and politicians – legal and illegal – any political change is currently not in sight. The admonishment of Europe’s corrupt political class that if they are not elected the far-right will take over is rapidly losing credibility as a threat. Besides, fascism is the logical goal of neo-liberalism. I cannot remember corporations really caring about the far-right being in power. For them it is preferable, as it ensures political stability.

    Economically Europe seems to be lost at sea. Real wages are sinking. Unemployment appears to be on the rise again. Governments and central banks cannot get inflation under control. Recession could well be here to stay for a long while. The old policies, austerity and reducing taxes for the rich and corporations are all that is on offer. That always works in neo-liberalism, doesn’t it? Even Joe Biden paid lip service to an ideological sea change when he declared “Trickle down has never worked.” You won’t hear any European establishment politicians uttering such heresy.

    Germany’s economy, which is de facto the EU economy, is in serious difficulty. Its economy was based on cheap Russian fossil energy and raw materials, a unipolar world under the aegis of the USA, the Chinese market, globalism, and the internal combustion engine. All of these are not working out currently. While German media gloats over China’s sinking exports, no one mentions that sinking German imports to China will follow, which is not promising for a neo-mercantile nation. China is one of Germany’s most important trade partners, where Germany sends over 100 billion euros of goods each year´and has massive investments. Then there is German Schadenfreude that the Renimbi is falling against the euro. When cheaper Chinese goods force EU companies out of further foreign markets and the Chinese buy fewer EU goods because they are too expensive, we shall hear from the same media about China’s aggressive devaluing of its currency. The fact that China’s economic slowdown is spreading throughout Asia, also important customers for German exports, is also being ignored.

    Sorry to quote Margaret Thatcher here (blame it on Chris Dillow): “An economy will work best when it is built on a framework of clear and predictable rules on which individuals and companies can depend when making their own plans.” The fact is that most European governments do not have a plan much less a practicable framework. In fact they do not have a clue about what they are doing economically and hope that their central bankers and corporate paymasters do and things will be OK somehow. The former haven’t a clue either (have we forgotten Jean-Claude Trichet’s suicidal response to the GFC in 2011?). The latter however do have a clear policy: profit and greed. Predatory capitalism isn’t failing us. We were never part of its success strategy.

    The writing is on t he wall, but no one seems to want to read it.

    Message Thread:

    • Mathew Rose – Europe: Not reading the writing on the wall - Keith-264 September 11, 2023, 6:41 pm
      • Ahem : ) - t September 11, 2023, 6:45 pm