Austerity Policies In Europe: There Is No Alternative

Asbjørn Wahl is a leading critic both of the failures of social democracy in Europe and the neo liberal economics of the EU favouring new alliances to challenge both. His latest book The Rise and Fall of the Welfare State looks at this in some detail. He advises the Norwegian municipal workers union, chairs The campaign for the welfare state and is the chair of the International Transport Workers Federation panel on climate change.

One of Margaret Thatcher’s infamous slogans was “There Is No Alternative”, known also through its abbreviation TINA. For Thatcher this was a normative slogan, a part of her political, ideological struggle. She wanted to convince people that her neoliberal policies were the only possible, other alternatives have been left on the scrap heap of history. My use of the same wording in the title of this article is not meant to be normative, but rather descriptive. It describes the really existing political situation in Europe today. Thus, it also describes the enormous challenge which the trade union and labour movement in Europe faces, the lack of alternatives to the current neoliberal, austerity policies or, to say it bluntly, the deep ideological and political crisis of the left.

The background of the extreme austerity policies which are now being pursued in great parts of Europe are well known to most people. The financial crisis hit Europe at full strength in autumn 2008. To prevent a collapse of the world’s financial markets governments introduced massive economic rescue packages. These packages were crucial in preventing an economic breakdown after unrestrained speculation economies had been allowed to hold the field for a couple of decades. Most governments took up enormous loans to finance these packages, something which led them into a debt crisis.

Many people expected that the financial crisis, with its ruinous consequences, would mean the final goodbye to neoliberalism, speculation economies and the dominance of free market forces. This policy had led to a dramatic redistribution of wealth – from labour to capital, from the public to the private sector, and from the poor to the rich. The system was thus discredited – and now the politicians surely had to realise that systematic deregulation, privatisation and free-flow capitalism had failed – and had actually been directly destructive. The casino economy had to be stopped. In other words, the time had come for control and regulation. So many people thought.

“In an age of government imposed austerity, and after 30 years of neo-liberal restructuring, the future of the welfare state looks increasingly uncertain.”

But that is not what happened. The governments did not seize the opportunity to ensure increased democratic control and lasting public ownership of the financial institutions. There were admittedly, in the wake of the crisis, a number of proposals about regulating the financial markets and imposing taxes on financial institutions and financial transactions. The elites and the money-grubbers were obviously nervous for the reactions among people. However, actions of a sort which could threaten their interests, failed to appear. Proposals of this kind, therefore, have increasingly been toned down and postponed until the future. This was well illustrated by the G20 meeting in Toronto in Canada in June 2010, where the final declaration contained little more than the well-known neoliberal recommendations about removing further barriers to the free movement of capital, goods and services.

"In an age of government imposed austerity, and after 30 years of neo-liberal restructuring, the future of the welfare state looks increasingly uncertain. .On the contrary, what we have seen are draconian austerity programmes, massive privatisation of whatever is left to privatise and enormous attacks on public sector wages, pensions and trade union rights – particularly in the most crisis-ridden countries. Pensions have been cut by up to 15–20%, while the wage level in the public sector has been reduced by anything from 5% (Spain) to over 40% (in the Baltic). Collective agreements and trade union rights are being set aside – not via negotiations with trade unions but via government decrees and political decisions. This has happened in at least nine European Union (EU) countries (the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland). If the trade union and labour movement is unable to contain this development, it may be facing a decisive and historic defeat in Europe.

How could this happen in a part of the world which has harboured some of the strongest and most militant trade union and labour movements in the world? Why have not opposition and resistance been stronger? How come that most of the proposals of regulation and increased democratic control have vanished like dew before the sun? And who could imagine that quite a few of the enormous attacks on public services, wages, pensions and trade union rights were carried out by Social Democratic governments – in Greece, in Spain and in Portugal, until they all were ousted from their government offices by frustrated voters and replaced by right wing governments?

This has to do with power relations in society and the deep political crisis on the left. It is not common sense but the prevailing balance of power, mainly between labour and capital, that decides what ‘solutions’ are chosen. If reason had prevailed, one would naturally have stopped the meaningless speculation economy via regulations, by gaining increased democratic control over banks and other financial institutions, by prohibiting short sales, hedge funds and trading with various high-risk, so-called financial instruments. One would have limited the free movement of capital across national borders and overturned a taxes, rates and dues system that lets the rich go free and encourages unrestrained speculation.

Within the prevailing power relations, however, this was not the policy of choice. The neoliberals and speculators who contributed most to causing the crisis are still in the driving seat – even when the crisis measures are drawn up and the bills are made out. The result is that the losses become socialised while the gains become privatised – yet again. Thus, austerity policies are implemented that further intensifies the crisis. The interests of financial capital are given priority. As many people have pointed out, the EU’s rescue packages are not primarily designed to save Greece, Ireland, Portugal and other countries that might follow, but the German, French and British banks and financial institutions that these countries had borrowed money from. While what is needed is stimulation of the economy, investments in infrastructures and in productive activities to create jobs, as well as a strengthening of the social security network, we are witnessing the opposite.

The role of the EU in what is now being enacted on the European continent is pivotal. In addition to the democratic deficit that is built into the EU institutions, they have to a great extent acquired their form and content during the neoliberal era. They are therefore dominated by the interests of capital – financial capital in particular. Through the Lisbon Treaty neoliberalism is constitutionalised as the economic system of the EU. The EU Commission, The European Central Bank and The International Monetary Fund (IMF) – popularly known as the triad – are now, together with national governments, using the crisis to further reshape societies to suit the interests of financial capital. For example, the IMF is now prescribing the same measures for the debt-laden EU countries which so far have been placed under administration by the IMF and The European Central Bank, as they have formerly imposed on developing countries and the Central and Eastern European countries via the so-called structural adjustment programmes. This is a recipe for depression and social crisis.

In this picture, the lack of political alternatives on the left is striking. The current deep ideological and political crisis on the broad left can only be understood in the context of the rather socially peaceful post World War II period, the heydays of the social welfare state and the existence of a class compromise between labour and capital in Europe. This historic compromise was the result of a very specific historic development, in which capitalist forces gave concessions to the well organised working class in Western Europe to damp its radicalism and win workers’ support in the cold war against the Soviet Union. However, in the dominant trade union and labour movement these historic specific achievements gradually formed the basis for a generalised social partnership ideology which became more and more delinked from the analyses of the power relations on which it was built. Thus, it also led to a certain depoliticisation and deradicalisation of the trade union and labour movement. The historic role of the Social Democratic parties became to administer the class compromise, rather than to mobilise the working class for further social progress. This is very well illustrated by the fact that the political and ideological crisis really hit those political parties as the class compromise started to disintegrate from around 1980 – and capitalist forces launched their neoliberal offensive.

What we have seen in Europe over the last 30 years is therefore governments which have pursued some kind of neoliberal policies whether they have been right wing, centre or so-called centre-left governments. The Social Democratic Parties in the EU member countries have, without exception, supported all the neoliberal constitutional amendments of the EU, and the entire construction of a Singel Market, which in reality has been a systematic project of deregulation, privatisation and undermining of trade unions and social welfare. The few examples we have seen of political parties to the left of Social Democracy joining governments as junior partners of Social Democratic Parties (the French Communist Party 1997-2002, the Italian Rifondazione Comunista 2006-8, the Norwegian Socialist Left Party 2005-today) have proved anything from negative to disastrous. None of them have been able to contain neoliberal policies, and they have therefore lost confidence among workers.

Most of the European trade union confederations are clinging to what in EU language is called the ‘social dialogue’. This means that they act as if the post World War II class compromise is still intact, and that bi- and tripartite cooperation between labour, capital and the state is still the most effective way of promoting the interests of workers. That the class compromise has come to an end, and that the social forces with which they seek dialogue are attacking public services, wages, pensions and the very fundamental trade unions rights day and night, do not seem to weaken most European trade union organisations’ belief in social partnership and social dialogue as the main way forward.

The enormous austerity policies and the attacks on the trade unions are, socially and politically speaking, a deadly cocktail – and the historical evidence, especially in Europe, is extremely frightening. Anyway, the social struggle and the fight for social welfare in Europe are entering a new phase. The crisis polarises differences and provokes confrontations particularly at the local and national level. General strikes are back on the union agendas in many countries, particularly in Greece, where the population is being exposed to draconian measures that threaten their general economic and social living conditions. In Portugal, Italy, Spain, France, Ireland and Great Britain general strikes and mass demonstrations have also been carried out, though with differing degrees of strength and intensity. The outcome of these struggles is, however, extremely uncertain. The European social model, such as we know it from its heyday, has at any rate been abandoned in reality by the European elites, even if they continue to pay lip-service to it.

A solution to the crisis, built on solidarity, will require massive mobilisation in order to change the balance of power in society. Only if the trade union and labour movement is strong enough to pose a threat to the existing economic order, will the speculators and their political servants start to give in. That is why support for those who are now fighting to contain this cutback policy is so crucial. The restructuring of the political left seems to be part of the task. Either the trade union and labour movement will manage to defend the social progress gained via the welfare state, or it risks being left with a right-wing authoritarian and socially degraded Europe. A great part of the social progress of the last century is at stake.

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Asbjørn Wahl will be travelling to Scotland to speak at SCOTTISH SOCIALIST VOICE FORUM – HOW CAN WORKING  PEOPLE BENEFIT FROM LEAVING THE EU? The event will be addressing the questions:

If the EU was, as some suggested, the sole impediment to widespread public ownership  can we now in leaving return our railways, postal services and energy industries to public hands?
Can Government money now be used to create skilled jobs in industry and to combat climate change for example?
Can we now break with the rigged EU market and create an economy serving the peoples need for universal healthcare, quality jobs, decent homes and social security rather than feed ever greedy corporate profiteering?

Saturday 28th April 10am-2pm
The Eric Liddell Centre, Morningside Road, Edinburgh

Panelists will include :
Asbjorn Wahl, Norwegian author, activists and trade union leader
Margaret Cuthbert, eminent Scottish economist and academic
Colin Fox, SSP national spokesman

Comments (28)

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  1. Jamsie says:

    Well!!!!
    I have just read perhaps the most hard hitting and informative piece ever to be posted on this site.
    It resulted in a very sharp intake of breath I can tell you.
    Regardless of whether your political outlook is right, centre or left I don’t think there can be any real doubt as to the damage the EU in it’s current from is causing so social structures across the continent.
    This perhaps more so than any better together arguments identifies clearly that we are better off out of the whole cluster feck that is the EU.
    What say the indy left leaning socially progressive types now?
    When you look at the SNP what do you see?
    They are fully bought in to the EU and it’s neoliberal ideology are they not?

    1. Paul Carline says:

      Agreed. So here’s the dilemma. Scotland needs to be independent to stand a chance of deciding its own future. The SNP is still seen as the only viable vehicle for achieving independence. But as Jamie correctly observes, the SNP is a neo-liberal party with a few ‘soft’ edges. Assuming independence happened, the SNP would want to reverse Brexit and get Scotland back into a corrupt, undemocratic, globalist structure whose purpose has always been to demolish national sovereignties as part of the New World Order agenda.
      Some, perhaps many, people – including myself – voted for Brexit because they had realised just what the EU was really about – not because they were Europhobes. We wanted a European community based on solidarity, a community that would oppose the warmongers and neoliberal and draw inspiration from Europe’s unique philosophical, cultural and moral heritage.
      It’s now clear that Brexit is not actually happening. Some have dubbed it “Brexit without the exit”. The faked Skripal incident and the equally faked latest alleged chemical attack in Syria serve a number of purposes – including acting as smokescreens and diversions from what is really going on in terms of the relationship between the U.K. and the EU; in particular the creation of a joint EU/NATO military force that would not be subject to parliamentary control. We are already seeing the arguments being presented in the context of a possible attack on Syria (which would of course be yet another war crime). The plan to break Syria up has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘humanitarian’ aims. It served numerous interests – not least Qatar’s wish to install a pipeline through Syria for its gas exports.
      The primary tactic of the neoliberal globalist forces is “divide and rule” I.e. prevent a united opposition to their plans. As long as people believe the lies of the mainstream media there will be no united opposition – only a modern form of the Tower of Babel where there is no common language of humanity, of solidarity, of justice – and of the peaceful resolution of differences. The grand irony is that the West’s current ennemis du jour – Russia and its remarkable president and his impressive spokespersons, like Zakharova – are the ones actually striving to convey that message of peace and solidarity through the lies and distortions and false flags of the claimed defenders of freedom and democracy, whose real slogan is ‘might is right’.

      1. Jamsie says:

        Sorry Paul there is no dilemma.
        Scotland has already decided it’s decided it’s own future and the polls show that decision is not about to change.
        Scotland wants to remain part of the UK.
        The SNP is no longer seen as the viable movement to change this, that “honour” now falls to the wider indy movement and therein lies the issue of contradiction.
        The SNP are clearly splitting into two camps – there is the yes/remain in the EU and there is the yes /leave the EU.
        Because Mr and Mrs Sturgeon cannot reconcile the differences between the two the yes/leave are leaving the SNP and returning to parties who although they do not support indy do support Brexit.
        Now we have the progressive left saying that the EU is neoliberal and they oppose it so what will that do to the wider indy movement i.e. those progressive left wing non-core SNP indy supporters.
        Will they follow their socially progressive consciences and turn away from the indy movement?
        I suspect some of them will.
        Which leaves the SNP in a position where they are further weakened and are even less likely to risk calling another referendum as they know they would most likely be defeated.
        They may once have been the most viable vehicle for independence but as people are realising that possibility is fast disappearing before their very eyes hence the cranks shouting for another referendum before Brexit takes place.
        That won’t happen either as she has boxed herself in with the continuity bill and it’s doubtful legality.

  2. George Gunn says:

    Asbjorn Wahl has set out the challenges facing the progressive forces in modern Europe. As far as Scotland is concerned we have to claim our independence once the agony of Brexit is done. Only as an independent country can we evolve policies which will protect our citizens from the greed, corruption and violence so beloved of this Tory regime, the speculators and their spin doctors. An organised and radical labour movement is crucial to this. There is really no point in castigating the SNP for not being the torch bearers of the left. Scotland is small enough and robust enough to manufacture and develop social and political structures which can maintain the only union which matters – that between the people and their democratically elected representatives. What Westminster epitomises is the corruption of the past. We in Scotland have to imagine and create the integrity of the future. This is an important article and should be read by everyone interested in an alternative future, free of corruption and war.

    1. Jamsie says:

      We in Scotland have already imagined the integrity of the future and voted on it.
      And the polls consistently report that that view has not changed.
      The wish is to remain part of the UK which means that we will not be subject to the corrupt influence of the EU.
      It will be interesting to see if the yes/leave faction increases further when this message gets through.
      The contradictions in SNP thinking are laid bare so I would think it will.

  3. Redgauntlet says:

    Bella has become a place for anti-EU zealots… I guess reflecting the mood of our times…

    I agree with many of the criticisms of the EU, but I can’t help but laugh when people write it off as being a paradigm of neo-liberalism.

    Because, what are we comparing it to? America? China? Where is the model that we should be aspiring to? The EU is a bastion of democracy and human rights, and social democracy compared to China or America. Right?

    Or are are saying China and the US are more progressive than the EU?

    If the EU is so much more right-wing than – than where? – than Britain, let’s say, how come the UK opted out the Social Chapter? And why are Tory Brexiteers lining up to shred EU environmental standards after Brexit?

    Are we going to get a post Brexit Britain which is to the left of the EU? Can anybody seriously believe that?

    The EU provides a fundamental framework of stability between national countries. What would happen if the EU disappeared tomorrow? There would probably be some kind of European war before too long…
    …the history of Europe is the history of never ending ethnic and national wars…

    Europe is a patchwork of different nationalities and different linguistic communities in different countries. The EU was created to prevent another European war taking place, by inextricably tying up the national interests of France and Germany. It worked. We should build on what we have, not leave the EU.

    Finally, there is no “EU” as such. The EU merely reflects the political colours of the national governments of the day who are in power.

    When Mitterand and Kohly were running France and Germany, the EU was broadly speaking, perceived to be progressive…

    But today, the Left is out of power, with the exception of Portugal and Greece…and neo-liberalism is indeed all pervasive.

    Ergo, “the EU” is more right-wing than it was.

    If the four big European democracies voted for the Left, the EU would become more Left wing again…

    There is no overarching structure which is over and above national governments called “the EU”.

    And it is a fiction to say

    1. Jamsie says:

      “Asbjørn Wahl is a leading critic both of the failures of social democracy in Europe and the neo liberal economics of the EU favouring new alliances to challenge both. His latest book The Rise and Fall of the Welfare State looks at this in some detail. He advises the Norwegian municipal workers union, chairs The campaign for the welfare state and is the chair of the International Transport Workers Federation panel on climate change.”
      Eh?
      This guy clearly identifies with the EU being a paradigm of neo-liberalism.
      Is he wrong?
      No one has suggested that the EU is more right wing than the UK although reading from your own postings on here one could easily take it that some parts of it are.
      Spain for example.
      The most salient issue for most people on this site I hope you will agree is the subject of whether Scotland should break the ties of the union with the UK and become independent.
      The site is tolerant enough to allow people who do not agree that this is a good thing to express their view.
      Recent articles posted on the site have had particular relevance to the stated views and policies of the wider indy movement including particularly those of the SNP and this particular chap has gone a long way to expose as a progressive thinking type the blatant contradictions that are harboured in the remain ( which in Scotland ) largely also features the indy and SNP camp.
      Do you see how I separate the indy and the SNP camps?
      They both might want the same but there are fundamental differences between them.
      I am not an anti EU zealot – never have been.
      I travel extensively in Europe and enjoy some of the benefits the EU has given us.
      On the other hand there are a number of issues where the EU has imposed political ideology and furthermore some conditions which result in abnormal and unfair costs being borne by the taxpayer in this country.
      Because of the political ideology of the unelected EU proponents these have become red lines which are now unacceptable to most the people of these islands which our politicians were aware of and chose to allow them to have a say.
      The whole process has been antagonised by the failure of politicians on both sides to seek and accept compromise because of so called red lines but which could have been so easily attainable.
      Neither side comes out of this well but at least the people of the UK have had the opportunity to state their opinion and now seem to have a government who are prepared to act on it.
      And Scotland as part of the UK which it chose to be and seems to want to continue to be will adapt to the change as a result of this

      1. Redgauntlet says:

        Jamsie, the problem is not the EU.

        The problem is the Left. If we had a strong transnational European Left movement – which is what Varoufakis is trying to do – then the EU would become more Left wing, inevitably.

        As the author notes, the Left either has no ideas, or doesn’t know how to articulate its ideas. The Left has gone AWOL, though Portugal is a good example of how a Left wing government can reduce debt while simultaneously addressing social equality.

        So too is the mayoress of Madrid by the way, Manuela Carmena, the ex-communist, who has vastly reduced Madrid’s debts while spending more on the poor and the needy, and on culture and libraries.

        As for Spain being more right-wing than Britain, or better said, the Spanish right wing being more right wing than the Tories, well that is true.

        But what do you want “the EU” to do about it? Who exactly is meant to speak out? There is no EU President. The President of the Commission is the highest level bureaucrat in Brussels. He is not democratically elected, he is democratically appointed. He doesn’t have the authority to speak out.

        The mechanisms which the EU provides for raising concerns about Rajoy’s fanatical ultra nationalist neo-Francoist government are a) the European Parliament and b) the European courts.

        Those are the mechanisms available. If we want more powerful or better said, quicker and nimbler and more political answers, we need more EU, not less. We need a democratically elected European President.

        That idea was in the EU Constitution, which was rejected by France, Ireland and the Netherlands and was withdrawn, to be replaced by the Lisbon Treaty…

        The same people who say “the EU should do more about Catalonia” are the same ones who refuse to grant any more sovereignty to the European project, in the form of an enhanced EU, enhanced in terms of the democratic accountability of its institutions, but also its weight on the political stage…

        People who think the President of the Commission holds more power than, say, Rajoy, just don’t understand how the EU works…

        1. Jamsie says:

          I see your point and accept that probably more so over here the broad brush paints the whole European project and all of it’s associated paraphernalia together as one.
          But that is how they wish to portray themselves and that has been stated over and over – i.e. that the EU is of singular political mind.
          From the perspective of most people in the UK I would venture to say that when you have people like Juncker, Tusk and Barnier laying down red lines which are patently unacceptable then Merkel and others repeating the same message it does not seem so much as a negotiation but a take it or leave it.
          Then in the background the non political voices who I suppose represent the neo-liberal capitalists are saying no this is not the answer we need to look beyond the politics to the economies of the countries involved and ensure that trade will not be affected or at least the damage should be minimised.
          Pragmatism will be required to overcome ideology and dogma if a successful conclusion to the Brexit arrangements is to be reached.
          Take the Irish situation for example – the UK has already said that a border on the island will not be required but the EU still requires a border of sorts.
          Why?
          The Irish don’t want one.
          How will a border in Ireland protect the EU from rogue imports from the UK?
          What will these rogue imports be – do you really think UK standards in food hygiene or any other area currently covered by EU legislation will fall below those already in place just because of Brexit?
          It is a fallacious argument which the EU could easily put to one side and let the countries involved sort out.

          1. Redgauntlet says:

            Jamsie,

            It’s not actually true that the UK wants open borders with Ireland or the EU. That is a lie which the Brexiteers are peddling, a dangerous game of bluff over Ireland.

            The Brexiteers wants open borders on goods and trade, but not on people…. that’s the whole point of it for them. They want to take back control of their borders so they can control immigration. If there is no border with Ireland, any European can walk into Britain…

            Rees-Mogg claims to not want a border with Ireland, but it is merely a negotiating tactic. He is preparing the ground for the return of a hard border. Clearly…

          2. Jamsie says:

            I am not sure where you get the idea that any European could walk into Britain from the Republic of Ireland.
            Ireland is currently outside the Schengen agreement.
            But UK citizens do not require a passport to travel to Ireland but should carry some identification according to the recommendations and similarly Irish citizens do not require a passport to visit the UK – anywhere – with the same recommendations based on what was previously known as the Common Travel Area.
            From memory this also included the Channel Islands.
            Anyone entering or leaving Ireland from outside the Common Travel Area needs to show a passport (and visa if required) or if an EU citizen an ID card.
            Information within the Common Travel Area is shared by the respective Irish and UK authorities and whilst it would be possible for someone to enter Northern Ireland unnoticed they could not gain access to the mainland or any other part of the Common Travel Area as the means of travel i.e. airports and ferries have stringent procedures currently in place to prevent unauthorised travel.
            This is policed by massive fines on the transporting company.
            I recall when the ferry ran from Bally castle to Campbelltown there was some concern that this could have been a route for people smugglers but this was considered improbable due to the locations of the ports and the restrictions on numbers allowed on the vessel.
            Even Redbay fast boats run between Northern Ireland and Campbelltown with passenger counts of 6 or 8 so it is quite easy for the incoming visitors to be monitored.
            The problem the EU have with the border is goods leaving the UK entering the EU tariff free.
            As I said Ireland is not bothered about this but Brussels seems to be.

  4. Redgauntlet says:

    Look, take the Greek debt crisis for example.

    That shameful and failed example of zealous neo-liberalism is commonly attributed to “the EU”, but “the EU” had little or nothing to do with it. and by “The EU”, I mean a common space for free movement of goods, services and people, following a common set of rules overseen by various institutions such as the European Parliament, the European Court and the European Commission.

    The Euro Zone members States – described wrongly in the press as “the EU” – the European Central Bank and the IMF bailed out Greece. The so-called troika.

    So, the Spanish and French and German tax payer lent money to the Greek State so it could pay its debts, for the sake of the stability of the Eurozone. It should be noted that if the IMF had bailed out Greece on its own, the effects would have been just as bad – again, the EU is neo-liberal? Sure, but compared to what?

    According to Varoufakis, most of the big debt repayment issues relating to Greece were decided by the so-called “Eurogroup”.

    Who and what is the Eurogroup? The Eurogroup is made of the Finance Ministers of the national governments of the Euro Zone.

    So, the French, German, Italian and Spanish finance ministers, all of them right wing, opted to put out a fire with petrol by applying harsh austerity measures to Greece.

    If the voters of Spain, France, Germany and Italy had voted for the Left, and the Eurogroup had been made up of left wing finance ministers, they might have opted for a totally different approach, such as pushing more EU funds into Greece, and allowing it to re-structure its debt in an orderly way, or indeed, writing off some of that debt.

    But none of that happened due to the failure of the Left to win power in Spain, Italy, France and Germany.

    My question: what does that have to do with a common area of rights, movement and trading called the EU?

    1. Jamsie says:

      I suppose Merkel could be described as a liberal conservative holding centre right views but to describe Germany and it’s politics as being right wing is a bit strange given the SDP strength.

  5. w.b.robertson says:

    So read and study what the man writes…and you still want to cling to this thing called the EU? You want independence…but you still want it still to be part of Brussels? Come on. As my grandchildren might put it – Get Real!

  6. SleepingDog says:

    Political left and right, and the concept of class, are ideological constructs and should be avoided where they do not provide explanatory support. As, perhaps, here.

    An authoritarian environmentalism would insist on another type of austerity, for example, perhaps a flat per-capita cap on consumption. I would suggest that Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics is not usefully described on a left-right or class basis.
    https://www.kateraworth.com/doughnut/

    Parts of the trade union movement could be described better as vested interests rather than supporters of social progress: standing firmly behind the arms industry and dirty power. In other words, some trade unions are part of the military-industrial complex.

    In terms of exhausting the planet’s resources, we are already (on some calculations) past several peak resources. Austerity by exhaustion is another kind.

    There are many dimensions in politics: libertarian-authoritarian, open-closed, dove-hawk, isolationist-internationalist and so on. All can vary depending on and within area of social policy. To describe a crisis on “the left” means as much to me as saying there is a crisis in “authoritarianism” or “dovishness”. That is to say, not much sense.

  7. Redgauntlet says:

    Asking the British people to vote on leaving the EU is like asking them to vote on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity…. people just don’t understand what it even is.

    Even worse, many political commentators don’t seem to understand what it is either. Good writers like Ian MacWhirter and Lesley Ridoch calling for the EU to “do more” in Catalonia.

    Who exactly are they talking about? Which person, in which post? Who? The EU is not a government. There isn’t a Minister of Justice and a Home Secretary and a Head of State…

    And then people say it is “bureaucratic”. Well, how could a bureaucracy not be bureaucratic? The Commission is a bureaucracy. That is what it actually is. Like the Civil Service is a bureaucracy.

    The EU doesn’t have a TV station, or a newspaper or a media group behind it, hence, nobody articulates what it actually does. It’s not a political animal, it’s a bureaucratic animal.

    The political sovereignty resides entirely within the Nation States… they agree upon some common internal rules which the Commission implements and monitors.

    You guys want to tear that all up, and every country having its own rules and weights and measurements and standards again? Why? What will that change?

  8. Crubag says:

    To be fair to the IMF, they wanted to go further on debt forgiveness for the Greeks. They didn’t see the debt levels as sustainable

    The EU institutions, under German pressure, resisted. For them it went beyond what was practical to what was ideal. And they didn’t want the moral hazard of countries thinking they could spend with the Germans having to pick up the bill.

    Greece isn’t fixed yet, and we still have Italy to come. Merkel is in her swansong and Schauble has gone, but Germany looks as least as likey to move right as left.

  9. Mathew says:

    Meanwhile the AMOC starts to shut down.
    15% drop in strength since mid 20th c is equivalent to nearly 15 Amazon rivers! Might just have implications for Scotland.

    1. Jamsie says:

      Not sure what the Aston Martin owners club closing down does to Indy or the EU.
      Only kidding.
      The Gulf Stream weakening like all climate change needs to monitored but as to what can be done about I am not sure.
      Global warming is apparent now because we have the ability to monitor against recent records but in the big scheme of things who really knows whether this is cyclical or not.
      Scientist have become a bit like accountants where these matters are concerned and prudence seems to be the watchword when they tell us the effect is irreversible.
      I am not convinced they really know that this is the case but given the data we would be foolish not to put in place some mitigation.
      How much is the debate which needs to be had as green taxes affect the poorest worst given the narrow application of them on energy users.

      1. Mathew says:

        No, in the big scheme of things it really isn’t in any way cyclical.
        No, Scientists are not like accountants.
        Yes, it would be foolish not to put in place some mitigation.

        1. Jamsie says:

          Mathew
          You clearly feel strongly about this and I do too.
          The cyclical effect over our short life spans is probably not the conclusive data for analysis.
          Rather possibly over several hundred or perhaps thousand years it could be taken as a trend.
          Sorry but I disagree about Scientists.
          Mitigation is good if it has been realistically targeted but the effect of a global cost on energy which affects the poorer people on society does not work for me.
          Firstly because I don’t think all of what is raised is used for what it should be and secondly because in my opinion the estimate of how climate change is actually affecting people’s lives is perhaps over egged.

          1. ” the estimate of how climate change is actually affecting people’s lives is perhaps over egged” – that’ll need some explanation

          2. Jamsie says:

            Ach I think you know exactly what I mean, but will be happy to extrapolate.
            Unfortunately tonight I have a few things to do for my work so it will be tomorrow before I respond.

          3. Mathew says:

            Jamsie, we already have good data for long term temperature trends. Scientists have been studying tree rings and ice cores for decades to build up this picture. For the last 12,000 years the Earth’s climate and temp have been very steady and predictable and this allowed humans to develop agriculture and our various civilisations. Around 200 years ago temperatures started to rise and by mid 20th c temperatures were rising steeply.
            The science of how CO2 can warm the planet is over 100 years old. It’s been tested and re-tested and found to be infallible. It says that if you start to emit large quantities of CO2 (say by burning fossil fuels) then the world warms accordingly. Around 200 years ago we started burning coal in huge quantities and later moved on to oil. Currently we are emitting around 36 billion tonnes CO2 annually.
            So climate change is not part of some cycle. It is caused by human beings. Nor is it over egged. The official line from the Paris COP was that we are going to attempt to limit the temperature rise to 2 degrees C. This is impossible, not gonna happen. We are almost certainly going to go to 4 degrees above baseline, possibly more.
            I entirely agree that the Worlds poor should not be made to pay for tackling climate change. Instead make Exxon, Shell, BP etc pay for the mess they helped to cause.
            Welcome to the Anthropocene!

  10. Steve Cairns says:

    TINA says. The inequality within Europe is not going to help redress the real problem, which is inequality between Europe and (most) of the rest of the world, but don’t pretend it IS the problem. Most of the wealth of the 1% consists of ones and zeros being created and shifted between financial institutions… that wealth can never be consumed, only devalued or invested. It’s a Ponzi scheme. 1% are few enough that the environmental impacts of their lavish lifestyles are limited, even if those of their decision making and influence are not.

    The poorest in the world are many, but not a majority, they consume almost nothing. They generally live in the most environmentally depleted places. Do not talk about “waiting times” those who must carry a sick child 14 hours to then to then literally beg to see a doctor.

    We, the middle and industrialised working classes are the problem. We consume too much. Too much fuel, too much meat, too much dairy, too many cars, too many holidays, too many flights, too many clothes. All with too much convenience and wrapped in too much plastic.
    We need more austerity not less. There really is no alternative.

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