The Eurozone Crisis - An Opportunity For the Left?

by Robin Hahnel, Alex Doherty

Robin Hahnel is Professor of Economics at Portland State University. His most recent book is Economic Justice and Democracy and he is co-author with Michael Albert of The Political Economy of Participatory Economics. He spoke to NLP's Alex Doherty on the continuing crisis in the Eurozone. 

The election of Francois Hollande and the strong showing of the left in the recent elections in Greece has led to hope that a shift away from austerity policies may become politically possible. What is your view?

Austerity policies are not only terribly unfair, they aggravate the problem they are supposed to solve by shrinking economies which only makes it harder to pay off debts. Left, progressive, and competent macroeconomists have been pointing this out to no avail for over three years. Financial markets are now clearly of the same opinion. Lenders are now raising risk premiums for all countries whose economies are being shrunk by austerity policies irrespective of whether or not their governments are “behaving,” i.e. fulfilling all austerity obligations to the letter no matter how onerous, or “misbehaving” i.e. failing to enforce every last austerity measure negotiated. Unfortunately, those in charge of the European Commission and the European Central Bank have paid no attention to those speaking out against austerity, and instead have insisted on repeated the same mistake Herbert Hoover made eighty years ago.

As the human, social, and economic toll from austerity has increased, as the futility of the measures has become more apparent, and most importantly, as anti-austerity forces have become better organized, opposition has gradually increased. Like any popular movement, the strength of the anti-austerity movement ebbs and flows, and is sometimes stronger in one place than another. But the trajectory is clear: The movement opposing austerity is in ascendancy throughout Europe, and it is becoming ever harder for those imposing austerity to “stay the course.” We have now entered the phase where some among Europe’s ruling elite are changing their rhetoric. Whether this leads to a real shift away from austerity policies remains to be seen.

The opposition to austerity takes different forms. Some punish politicians and parties associated with austerity at the polls switching their votes to formerly fringe parties who voice opposition to austerity in their electoral campaigns. Others march in the streets and go on strike in attempts to force those who govern to change course. And some react by calling for “system change” and beginning to build the new world they believe is not only possible, but increasingly necessary.  As more and more young people become openly hostile to the “ancien regime” ruling elites become increasingly frightened and waver between concessions and repression. The recent elections in Greece and France are the latest political setback for pro-austerity forces. It will take more electoral defeats, more mass mobilizations and strikes, and an ever growing threat of radical system change to bring about a shift from austerity to pro-growth policies. Victory for the anti-austerity movement is not just around the corner.

The election of Hollande has led to comparisons with the election of the far more radical Mitterand government in 1981 which quickly abandoned its leftist program in the wake of pressure from international finance. What lessons does this have for us today?

The euro zone could easily survive economically without Greece. France, on the other hand, is the second largest economy in the euro zone and a major player in EU politics. However, I think the election of Hollande in France is much less significant than the rise of left parties in the Greek election. Every center right or center left political party that has presided over forced austerity in the EU during the past three years has been voted out of office. Nicolas Sarkozy is the latest center right victim to fall to popular anger against austerity. Had the French Socialist Party been in power when the crisis hit instead of Sarkozy, I suspect it’s leader would have imposed austerity – as “regrettable but necessary” – just as Papandreou did in Greece and Zapatero did in Spain. In which case, instead of Sarkozy being shown the door by French voters it would have been the French Socialist Party that would be on its way out instead right now.

The question is what lessons Mr. Hollande has learned from the fate of his fellow socialists, Mr. Papanedreou and Mr. Zapatero? What lessons has he learned about what austerity does, and does not accomplish? For that matter, what lessons has he learned from the government of Francois Mitterand the early 1980s? I seriously doubt he has learned the lessons I think he should have. Anti-austerity rhetoric is cheap from an opposition candidate. Is there any reason to believe Mr. Hollande will walk the walk now that he is in charge after he talked the easy talk during the campaign?

As you say, the left government led by Mitterand in 1981 was far more radical than the one Mr. Hollande will lead today. Yet international financial interests that were much less powerful then than they are today quickly forced Mr. Mitterand to abandon the progressive, expansionary fiscal policies he had campaigned on. In Economic Justice and Democracy (Routledge, 2005) I had this to say about Mitterand economic policy during the recession of 1981:

The government launched strong expansionary fiscal and monetary policies to provide plenty of demand for goods and services so the private sector would produce up to the economy's full potential and employ the entire labor force. There is nothing to find fault with here. Everyone deserves an opportunity to perform socially useful work and be fairly compensated for doing so. However, there is only so much any progressive government can do about this as long as most employment opportunities are still with private employers. Mitterrand deserves praise for doing the most effective thing any government in an economy that is still capitalist can do in this regard: ignore the inevitable warnings and threats from business and financial circles and their mainstream economist lackeys preaching fiscal “responsibility” and monetary restraint, and unleash strong expansionary fiscal and monetary policy…. However, there are ultimately only three options: (1) Don't stimulate the domestic economy in the first place because you are not willing to stand the inevitable heat in your kitchen. (2) Stimulate, but back off as soon as new international investment boycotts your economy, domestic wealth takes flight, and financial markets drive interest rates on government debt through the ceiling. Or (3) stimulate, but be prepared to face the heat international capital markets will bring with strong measures restricting imports and capital flight, by substituting government investment for declines in international and private investment, and by telling creditors you will default unless they agree to rollovers and concessions. Option three is the economic equivalent in the neoliberal era of not only playing hardball with international creditors, but going to financial war if need be. As daunting as option three is, it is important to remember that the Mitterrand government in France proved that option two does not work. (pp. 121-122)

 

As a friendly interpreter, the American socialist Michael Harrington, concluded: “Within less than two years the Socialists were engaged in administering a regime of ‘rigor,’ otherwise known as capitalist austerity.” I would not change a word I wrote seven years ago, and can only hope Mr. Hollande does not make the mistake of thinking that moderation and timidity in response to threats from international capital are likely to win him approval from long-suffering voters, much less a positive place in history. Unfortunately, I think Mr. Hollande and his party are likely choices to make this mistake, and put up even less of a fight than Mitterand before him.

But only history will tell. The futility of austerity, and obvious political fate of all political parties who administer it, may grow more backbone where there is little to begin with. In any case, there is no reason to pre-judge the new French government since what anti-austerity forces must do in any case is the same: RAISE MORE HELL! As new political cracks appear, even in Germany, who knows which politicians will surprise us, or what may soon become possible.

How do you interpret the intransigence of the German government in its insistence on maintaining current fiscal policies?

What can one say about German politicians and the German public? The smart move is to get ahead of financial crises, rather than to react too slowly and too cautiously. Since Merkel has made this mistake repeatedly, she has forced German taxpayers to put much more at risk in bailout funds than necessary. How much of this has been over cautiousness, or penny-wise, pound-foolish ideology on her part, and how much has been driven by popular sentiment among German voters averse to “enabling” what is portrayed in the German media as lazy workers and irresponsible governments in the PIGS -- and Greece in particular -- is difficult to know.

There are some hard nose self-interests that have clearly played a big role. Since German banks are on the hook for many loans to PIGS governments and private businesses they expect their government – and make no bones about it, Merkel’s center-right government is beholden first and foremost to German banks -- to protect their interests. That means squeezing every penny out of their creditors, but not pushing them quite to the point where they default. Merkel has tried to do exactly this in negotiations over austerity conditions – squeezing every last penny – while begrudgingly providing bailouts at the last minute to avoid defaults that would rock the German banking industry. But this is always a dangerous game and Germany may now have pushed Greece, and perhaps others, too far.

With the global recession still with us, with Europe clearly slipping back into the much feared “double-dip” recession, why has Germany steadfastly refused to provide the EU with a much needed fiscal stimulus? Unlike the PIGS, the German government can borrow right now to finance a deficit at rock bottom interest rates in private capital markets. What is stopping them from using this cheap money to create much needed fiscal stimulus? A popular answer is Germany’s fear of inflation dating back to the days of the Weimer Republic in the aftermath of WWI. I think a more likely answer lies in the fact that Germany has successfully “exported” its unemployment onto the PIGS. Because the PIGS use the same currency Germany uses none of them can devalue to eliminate the large trade deficits they are running with Germany. This gives Germany large trade surpluses which has kept unemployment rates in Germany low throughout the Great Recession. Unlike the US where the electorate seems willing to tolerate high rates of unemployment, this has not traditionally been the case in Germany. Any German government that presides over high unemployment has traditionally been given a quick heave-ho. But German unemployment rates have not been high because of its large trade surpluses with other countries in the euro zone. Hence, little domestic political pressure for fiscal stimulus in Germany, despite the fact that this would do more to pull the EU out of its economic doldrums than anything else. However, the double-dip in the EU is looking more and more severe, and unemployment rates in Germany are beginning to rise. So like much else, this too may soon be changing.

The withdrawal of Greece from the eurozone is described in near apocalyptic terms by advocates of the economic status quo. What do you think the repercussions might be for both Greece and for the eurozone in general if Greece were to make an exit?

Greece has reached a political impasse in which the center right and center left political parties that have dominated Greek politics for the past forty years both had their share of the vote cut by more than half, and formerly fringe parties are clearly in the ascendancy. Moreover, the Greek economy is in a death spiral and is quickly becoming dysfunctional. Nothing short of a strong left government determined to (1) default on debt that is un-payable, (2) restore social spending, and (3) engage in public investment when private investment flees has any chance of turning things around. However, that may soon be possible.

Unless rules are suspended it now appears there must be a new election as early as June. Three things need to happen for a constitutional government of left political parties to emerge. (1) SYRIZA (16.78%) and the party of the Democratic Left (6.11%) need to increase their percentage of the vote at the expense of Pasok who fell to third place with 13.18%. That can easily happen since (a) Pasok administered unpopular austerity and still supports austerity as “necessary;” Pasok support is “soft” and based largely on patronage it can no longer deliver; (c) many voted for Pasok in the past only because they believed left parties had no realistic chance of governing. Now that SYRIZA has surpassed Pasok it is a vote for Pasok that is “wasted.” (2) Those who voted for smaller left parties -- like the Greens (2.9%) -- who failed to get the minimal 3% for any seats in Parliament need to top the 3% threshold or give their votes to one of the left parties sure to win representation. I don’t see why that should prove overly difficult in a new election. But the most difficult problem is (3) left parties must overcome historic divisions in order to form a coalition government with a viable program.

However, history may soon hand Greek leftists a lucky gift. It is possible that the major issue dividing left parties may soon become a moot point. The Communist party was against joining the euro zone in the first place, and is adamant about leaving. On the opposite extreme, the party of the Democratic Left broke from SYRIZA in 2010 largely because Democratic Left leaders insisted on a firm commitment to stay in the euro zone. SYRIZA only favors staying in the euro zone -- provided the EU reverses its pro-austerity policies. Not only is that not going to happen, a second default is virtually inevitable, which may well trigger a sequence of events including a massive bank run that will force Greece out of the euro zone even before a left government can come to power. If so, not only will the principle bone of contention on the left become a moot point, a left government would enjoy the advantage of a devaluation that would provide a huge boost to employment as Greek exports become cheaper and imports become more expensive. In such a clear “crisis” a left government could also become a government of national salvation which Greek patriots rally around.

If this happens Greece may prove to be Europe’s salvation not its ruin. Those who argue that economic and political chaos in Greece are destroying the EU are talking about a neoliberal EU that is on an unsustainable path to self-destruction. It will take quite a jolt to move the EU off its disastrous austerity path onto a path of equitable growth. If Greece provides a jolt, and shows the way to a better path, those who dream of a peaceful, egalitarian, and prosperous Europe may well have Greece to thank years from now.

Warning: “Possible” is not the same as “probable,” much less “a sure thing!” And even a jolt from Greece may not prove sufficient to turn the rest of Europe around. It may well take more jolts from other PIGS as well.

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First published: 16 May, 2012

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9 Comments on "The Eurozone Crisis - An Opportunity For the Left?"

By Michael Kenny, on 18 May 2012 - 13:59 |

A very typical American view, but for that very reason, more an expression of the knee-jerk hostility of America’s “old fogey Marxists” (Professor Hahnel was born in 1946) to the EU than anything else.
In general, he falls into the classic Marxist trap of failing to see human existence as a dynamic, evolving, permanently forward-moving process and reduces it to a mere “merry-go-round” in which the same events are simply repeated over and over again. He thus cannot comprehend that political leaders will change their positions as the political situation evolves and that European leaders will not all jump over a cliff, still shouting their (supposedly) dogmatic positions at each other, rather than reaching a compromise! Since reaching compromises is precisely what they have been doing ever since the Wall St speculators first attacked the euro, I fail to see why they are suddenly going to stop now.
However, reality is clearly an increasingly unwelcome intruder in this Marxian pipedream. Thus, Professor Hahnel tries to water down Syriza’s commitment to the euro and to claim that Dimar split off over precisely this point. I have searched the internet and can find no evidence to support either proposition. Moreover, since 78% of Greeks that want to keep the euro, wouldn’t its abandonment fly in the face of the very democratic principles that gave Syriza its election result? Equally, Professor Hahnel tries to “talk down” the German boom, which, in fact, is booming more than ever. If Greece left the euro, the euro’s value would soar, ending the German boom. Why would the Germans shoot themselves in the foot?  Common sense thus suggests that the Germans will do whatever is necessary to keep Greece in the Eurozone. That, indeed, is the trump card Syriza intends to play.
In addition, Professor Hahnel hypes up the “blessings” for Greece of launching a new (and, in practice, more or less worthless) currency. Since Greece produces practically no industrial goods and has no energy resources, anything that makes imports dearer would be a disaster for Greece. It may well be that common sense consideration which explains Greeks’ commitment to the euro.
Finally, a small correction of fact. The “lazy Greeks” slur never appeared in the German press. It originated in the US, the WSJ, I believe, and was taken up by parts of the British media, but never appeared elsewhere.
As I always say, there is indeed an alternative to the EU and the euro. It’s called the American jackboot and, regardless of whether the boot is worn on the left foot or the right foot, I doubt if many Europeans find it an attractive proposition.  Our leaders have so far done very well in protecting us from that fate and I don’t see why they will suddenly capitulate to Wall St now.

By Alex, on 18 May 2012 - 14:43 |

Hahnel is not a Marxist - he is the co-creator with Michael Albert of participatory economics, which is inspired by some strands of Marxism (the council communism of Anton Pannokeok for example) but is in general more in the anarcho-syndicalist tradition. Parecon has been critiqued numerous times by orthodox marxists. 

By Robin Hahnel, on 18 May 2012 - 16:15 |

I must say, I was amused that someone who disagrees with what they presume is my position on Greece leaving the euro ascribes my error to my origins as an old time Marxist born in 1946. Only my birthdate is accurate. If that is the quality of Mr. Kenny’s internet research skills it may also explain why he erroneously believes that Greeks have not been portrayed as unproductive and lazy in the German media over the past three years. But enough of gratuitous insults, and back to substance. (1) I believe SYRIZA’s position on the euro is exactly right and they should hold onto that position between now and the new election on June 17. I hope they do this, and will not be goaded by other Greek leftists into coming out for leaving the euro, precisely because a majority of Greeks want to stay in the euro and SYRIZA needs to win a bunch of their votes on June 17. Moreover, I have been in communication with anti-authoritarian comrades in Greece urging them not to criticize SYRIZA for maintaining that they want to stay in the euro provided the EU will offer Greece a way to grow out of what is now a full blown depression and banking crisis in Greece.  So, as uncomfortable as this may be for Mr. Kenny, I think he and I are in complete agreement on this matter. However, I should add that I don’t believe that it is going to prove possible for Greece to stay in the euro zone. I think another major default combined with a bank run is going to lead to Greece lleavng the euro zone within the year—no matter what any government in Athens or Berlin wants, much less says it wants. I do not “wish” for this any more than Mr. Kenny does. But I think it is probably unavoidable, and will become part of the reality that what I hope will be a strong left coaliton government led by SYRIZA will have to cope with. (2) I am also of the opinion that leaders of the EU may learn that they must change course if they wish to avoid a disastrous landing for the euro zone and EU. I believe I said as much in the above interview with Alex. I do find it somewhat surprising that Merkel and the leadership at the EC and ECB have persisted as long as they have pushing austerity policies that are clearly leading to disaster. But I am not of the opinion that ruling elites never prove flexible. As a matter of fact, Merkel has already made a signficant change in her public pronouncements about austerity in general and Greece in particular. Whether or not her change in rhetoric will translate into a significant change in policy, and whether or not the change in policy will come in time or be too late remains to be seen. So again, I believe Mr. Kenny and I are in agreement, as uncomfortable as that may be for him. Finallly, regarding the EU and the Jack Boot of American Imperailism. For more than forty years I have argued that the major imperial power on the planet—the imperial power that has wreaked the most havoc on others while serving its imperial interests—has been the United States. I argued this back when there was a minor league evil empire called the Soviet Union that tried, at times, to compete with the US major league empire. (Forgive my American sports reference. I am from the land of baseball not cricket.) And ever since 1989 I have worked tirelessly to convince my fellow Americans of what should have become obvious to anyone: Since the demise of the SU the US has bestrode the narrow world like no previous Collosus, including ancient Rome. (Cricket, I don’t know, but Shakespeare I do!) In that context I have argued that a united Europe, a strong EU that can not only better protect its own interests from US domination, but also serve as a more powerful counterweight to the US in global affairs, is a good thing. A strong and independent EU has no greater fan than me on this side of the Atlantic ocean.

By Butterbean, on 20 May 2012 - 14:29 |

Mr. Hahnel,

As usual, thank you for your great insights. I loved reading “The ABC’s of Political Economy”, as well as your participatory economics works which were co-written with Michael Albert. 

My question to you is why you don’t mention solutions outside the framework of electoral politics. 

In the interview, you say that  ”[t]hree things need to happen for a constitutional government of left political parties to emerge [in Greece]”. From the point of view of creating progress in Greek representative democracy, I agree with those “three things”. 

But from the point of view of an anarchist I’m surprised that you didn’t mention anything about social movements and what they could do to bring about solutions, especially considering that we are in the year of Occupy Wall Street and the Indignados. 

I like the criticisms you made above, especially that bit about Germany and how it “exports” unemployment to other countries and wishes to keep things that way. But once again, what about social movements? What about your child with Michael Albert, participatory economics? What can social movements do to further those noble goals you outlined with Albert, as opposed to merely just shifting power between one political party and the other. What can the Left do in this time of both great austerity (from state and capitalism) and great opportunity (from social movements like Occupy) to bring libertarian socialist ideals to the people?

By Robin Hahnel, on 20 May 2012 - 17:17 |

Thank you for your kind words. It is always gratifying to hear that anything one may have done was useful to others. Your questions are excellent and deserve a longer answer than I can post here. I have been a libertarian socialist for more than forty years.  The name is unimportant: Anarchist, anarcho-syndicalist, anarcho-communist, anti-authoritarian, libertarian socialist… Sometimes the only difference is what word is used by people of “our” political persuasion in one place or time. Sometimes there are nuanced differences, sometimes there are differences that go beyond nuance. But what we all agree on is: (1) Both capitalism and authoritarian socialism belong in the dust bin of history. (2) Ordinary people can and should manage our own economic affairs, and when we have dispensed with both capitalists and commisars we will figure out how to coordinate whatever division of labor among us proves to be beneficial in a cooperative and equitable way. (3) Ruling elites seldom relinquish power over those they oppress and exploit without being forced to do so. (4) Not only is the society we are fighting for thoroughly democratic in the deepest sense of the word, the only way to overthrow today’s ruling elites is through a struggle that a majority of the population support and carry out So…. we believe there must be a revolution, but that revolution must be a popular revolution carried out by people who are deciding how to go about it themselves rather than following strategic plans divised by some revolutionary elite. So why did I write only about electoral issues and how to make capitalism less insane in the interview? It is tempting to take the easy way out and blame Alex. After all, I was responding to a list of questions he put to me. But the truth is I thought the questions were good questions and very appropriate under the circumstances. The context was the recent elections in France and Greece If I thought that those elections were of no importance, or that elections are unimportant in general, I would have said so. But I do not believe that to be the case.  In my own country I happen to think that the Presidential election that will take place in November is rather unimportant. I believe many Americans understand that no matter who wins, the federal governmet will not begin to tackle any of the serious problems we face Therefore, it is my hope that here in the US many people will look to those who became newly energized by the Occupy Movement for people working to solve problems, and will ignore the poltical show that the Democratic and Republican parties and the mainstream media will bombard us with 24/7 for he next 6 months. However, I think the recent electon in France was somewhat more meaningful because it confirmed popular disapproval for austerity, and the recent election in Greece was quite meaningful. In general I believe that we need to be organizing and building in three areas: (1) We must re-energize old social movements and build bigger and stonger new social movements. However, for the most part, these are movements fighting for reforms of one sort or another, and there is no point in deceiving ourselves about that. An anti-austerity campaign or movement is not an anti-capitalist campaign or movement no matter how many anti-capitalists are working in it, and no matter how often we voice our conviction that overthrowing capitalism is what we ultimately need to do. (2) We need to be building new institutions of equitable cooperation to prove it is possible, to demonstrate that it is better way to solve problems and live, to test our ideas and work out the kinks, and to sustain the faithful through lives of struggle in social movements. Many call this “prefigurative organizing.” (3) And we need to find ways to participate in electoral politics. Why must there be an electoral component? Because we needed to interact with a broader segment of the body politic than is involved in either social movements or alternative institutions at this point in time. And because unlike some twentieth century anti-capitalist revolutionaries, we believe that elections are part of a truly democratic, participatory society. If an informed majority in a fair election say they don’t want something, then it shouldn’ t happen, no matter how wrong the majority may be.  Of course when ruling elites overthrow duly elected governments, or deny left parties the right to participte, there can be no electoral component to a revolutionary strategy. And this has often been the case in various countries in the past, and may well prove to be the case in some places in the future. What about right now in Greece? For the most part the young anti-authoritarians are involved in building alternative institution and social movements and not involved in the electoral process. As a matter of fact, those are the Greek comrades who I visited with two years ago and with whom I am in email communication. That is well and good. If they don’t keep doing what they are doing the social revoluion cannot move forward in Greece. They need to keep doing what they are doing to put pressure on a left coalition government to keep moving forward and not retreat. It is also important that these forces organize themselves and as many others as possible to be prepared to engage effectively in street warfare should the Greek military and/or Greek fascists attempt to thwart the popular will as expressed in the new elections on June 17. The left political parties are unlikely to prove adept at protecting themselves from repression. However, it is important that the non-electoral and the electoral left in Greece work as cooperatively as possible right now. In Greece we are running on all three cylinders: Social movements are growing. An electoral component is on the verge of a major victory. And more and more young people are becoming involved in new institutions and organizations building for the new world that is possible. Those engaged in these different activities can help or undermine one another. A great deal will hinge on which they do.

By Roger Cole, on 24 May 2012 - 14:36 |

Prof. Hahnel states that he wants a “strong and independent EU”. The core problem is that while from the other side of the pond, we “Europeans” are all the same, the reality is, we are not all the same. A strong and independent EU can and should only be supported if there is a European people, a European demos. The people who live in Greece are Greek, the people who live in Germany are German and the people who live in Ireland are Irish. There is no European demos. It is only the elite that are European which is why Merkel and Hollande and the other members want a European Army and have gone a long way in achieving it with the formation of the EU Battle Groups, after all a strong Europe needs an Army of its own. Prof. Hahnel sounds like a decent guy but as an Irish Republican with a strong dislike of the British Union with more than a little justification from our history, I am just not not to keen on the “strong” bit as it sounds much like “Great”, or even “Imperial”. The only progressive future for the EU is it’s transformation into a Partnerhsip Europe, a Partnership of Independent Democratic States, legal equals, without a military dimension.

By Robin Hahnel, on 25 May 2012 - 15:28 |

I am no fan of a militaritic and imperialistic Europe. I am fully aware that before the United States became the pre-eminent imperial power after WW II it was European countries who imposed their rule on colonies on every continent—including North America. My favorite movies are the Battle of Algiers and Burn. And I think the the Wretched of the Earth and the Buru Quartet are the most eloquent exposes of colonialism that were ever penned. What I meant when I said “a strong and independent EU has no greater fan than me on this side of the Atlantic ocean” was not a beligerant, imperial EU, but an EU that stood up moe forcefully to US global domination. At the beginning of the 21st century counterweights to US dominance can be helpful. Of course if Europe behaves even worse than the US this is not helpful. But often these days Europe’s worst behavior takes the form of succumbing to US pressure, and either supporting US imperial policies, or failing to oppose them as resolutely as it might. When Europe stands opposed to US imperial policy it has no greater fan on this side of the Atlantic than me. I suspect Mr. Cole and I are in broad agreement over what kind of European Partnership is healthy, as well as our understanding of the history of the Irish independence struggle. If I might ask a question: What does Mr. Cole think of NATO? I see it as a vehicle through which the US exerts military domiance over Europe and elicits European cooperation in what are mostly US imperial ventures outside Europe. Is there someting wrong with hoping that Europe will become strong enough to free itself from NATO without reverting to old forms of European military imperialism?

By Roger Cole, on 25 May 2012 - 16:27 |

to be honest I also suspect Robin Hanel & I would agree if part of that discussion was agreement on the word strong. The Peace & Neutrality Alliance since its foundation in 1996 has focused on opposing the steady process of the militarisation of the EU and its growing links with NATO. I am just back from Chicago where I spoke at the NATO Counter Summit. Simply put, I think NATO should be abolished as was the Warsaw Pact, as its main function is to not only to assert US imperial power in Europe but the rest of the world as well. There is indeed nothing wrong with hoping that the Europe would free itself from NATO without reverting to old forms of European imperialism, the problem is the actual evidence of what is actually happening, points in the opposite direction, as can be seen in the terms of the Lisbon Treaty . The core point of the Lisbon Treaty was to ensure the creation of the EU as a legal entity, separate from and superior to, the member states of the EU, and to give this new legal entity its own military strutctures and Dept. of Foreign Affairs. When we, the Irish, voted no the first time (and PANA played a major role in that victory) we were just forced to vote again.
Hope is a great virtue, I am all in favour of it, but it also has to be tempered by reality. If an anti-imperialist Europe is to emerge, and PANA would seek to be part of building such a Europe, especially if we seek inspiration from to our Island of Saints and Scholars tradition instead of our role in building the British Empire, them the existing structures of the EU have to come to an end and new European Partnership created.

By Robin Hahnel, on 04 June 2012 - 13:10 |

I am unversed in the particulars of how it is that diplomatic and military matters are being pursued in the EU, and happpily defer to his greater knowlege. I agree with Mr. Cole’s sentiments about what would be a good direction and what is, unfortunately, a bad direction. One thing the 21st century certainly does not need is a renewal of European imperialism! Since the end of the Cold War and Warsaw Pact there has been no legitimate excuse for NATO to exist. Disbanding NATO… and payng me my “Peace Dividend” are long overdue!

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