Democratise Europe….a great idea, but in the meantime, we must suffer!

I am a sucker for a well thought out, logical argument on most subjects and especially so when the passion and commitment of the proposer is obviously apparent. And that is when I have to be careful. It is so easy to be persuaded by brilliant orators.

“…..A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of democracy. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: The state-sponsored bankers and the Eurogroup, the Troika and Dr Schäuble, Spain’s heirs of Franco’s political legacy and the SPD’s Berlin leadership, Baltic governments that subjected their populations to terrible, unnecessary recession and Greece’s resurgent oligarchy.

I am here in front of you because a small nation chose to oppose this holy alliance. To look at them in the eye and say: Our liberty is not for sale. Our dignity is not for auction. If we give up liberty and dignity, as you demand that we do, Europe will lose its integrity and forfeit its soul…..”

(part of a speech given by Yanis Varoufakis in France, 23 August 2015)

Yanis Varoufakis has a superb and sharp mind, and is a good speaker. In fact, he is excellent. What I wouldn’t do to be a student in one of his classes….I would get A’s for all of my subjects!

However, I have finally come to realise and accept that I cannot agree with his plan for Europe. The simple reason is that, although the objectives of his plan are sound and the methods to achieve them are reasonable, we have just run out of time. It is as simple as that.

This has now become my stance with regard to the EU.

I sincerely hope that Yanis and his movement, DiEM25, can achieve their goals. In my heart, I agree with everything that he says and stands for. But my head is persuading me differently. The luxury of time is no longer on our side.

Change is required and it is required…now! And if that change is going to entail some pain, well let’s not shy away and be afraid. Let us take the pain, now, and get over the hurdles and start afresh.

The stark realisation of Europe’s ability to re-invent itself has become apparent to me only recently during my research into the history of the Economic Monetary Union. In order to really get a proper grip on the subject, I started my research from the year 1945, tracing the events that followed after the end of World War 2.

Perhaps at no other time in history, by the time that the Allies had defeated the armies of the Third Reich, Europe was in ruins. The armies from both sides had bombed homes, roads, bridges, factories and communication facilities throughout Europe. Europe needed to rebuild.

However, this was not an easy task to do. Many governments were in debt or out of money because they had used all their resources to fight the war. On top of this, their economic and social systems were in tatters. Many people did not have enough food to eat let alone money to pay taxes. Millions of people were displaced from their home countries. All major German cities had about 80 percent of their prewar housing destroyed. Half of France’s and Italy’s railroad equipment was destroyed. Britain had used up one-quarter of its foreign investments to finance the war. Nine and a half million Germans from other regions had to be resettled in West Germany.

Added to these problems was the development of the Cold War, a threat that hung over Western Europe for decades. So, all in all, the Europeans had to start rebuilding everything from scratch.

Within the space of only 5 years, industries across the continent were again flourishing and producing at or above the levels prior to the war. The lives of ordinary people had also changed. Unemployment was low and prosperity was on a rapid increase. Perversely, the country that had suffered the most devastation, Germany (at least the Western part), led the rest with the economic miracle (post–World War II economic expansion).

Of course Europe had outside help. The Marshall Plan from the USA provided $13 billion in assistance to Western European countries over a four year period. And so on. But my point, I think, is made. From ruin and misery arose prosperity and happiness (Economic Recovery and Co-operation 1945-1960).

So, if it has been done before, it can be done again. Of that I have no doubts. In fact, “rebuilding” should be easier to do now. Before it was physical, economic and social destruction. Now, it is only economic and social destruction.

Many people make a strong case that we should not have to start from scratch again in Europe. Once was enough. And I agree with that sentiment as well.

However, our politicians have now had over 5 years to give things their best shot. And if they haven’t given us their best then they should be shot. Jokes aside, we cannot sit around waiting for some miracle to happen.

Sure, we are now being offered “soft” solutions that, understandably, we prefer because they cause no hardship: introduce more integration in the EU, democratise Europe and so on.

And then there is another problem. Although the key supporters of the “Democratise Europe” campaigns do not call their proposals “Plan A”, this must be the case because many of the same supporters are also calling  for a “Plan B” (see here and here and here and here for details of this novel idea).

It fills me with no confidence to find out that the “Plan A” proponents are so doubtful of the success of their “Plan A” that they are simultaneously working on a “Plan B”.

And worse, does the illogical notion of what they are proposing not seem to strike people as odd? These are what I call the the “Paradox Plans”; ie. reject austerity, but stay in the Eurozone; desire more sovereignty but stay in the EU. The harsh reality, that most Europeans are reluctant to acknowledge, is that you cannot have it both ways. Not anymore. It didn’t work out for the Greeks and it certainly won’t work out for the rest of us. The political “Left” of Europe is partly to blame for perpetuating these delusions, but maybe, finally, some are slowly coming to their senses.

In my opinion, both Plan A and Plan B are pipe dreams.

And I am not the only one who thinks this way! Sahra Wagenknecht, chairperson of the DIE LINKE party and a member of the German Bundestag, said the following in an interview on 16 February 2016 and reported on linksfraktion.de:

“The neoliberal and undemocratic Fortress Europe needs to have leftwing extra parliamentary organisations (APO) urgently. Although I do not think that DiEM25 will succeed to give the EU a better constitution, and I miss a number of social and economic demands in their manifesto. But the more people are informed about the destruction of democracy in the EU and call for change, the better. It seems to me that something is on the move in Europe: Portugal is a left party alliance that was able to prevail; in Spain Podemos has got larger; and there is a strong movement of protest against the EU’s trade policy and countless initiatives that criticize the EU refugee and deportation policies. There is a Plan B conference and DiEM25, there are European Social Forums and Blockupy, also in the trade unions is a growing understanding that we must establish a new Europe. For all of their differences – as in the question of whether the euro is reformable – I think it would be good if the various players would join forces to be stronger and possibly call for joint actions.

Things are getting tougher everyday in EU-land and the “haves” do not want to relinquish anything to the “have-nots”. The system is strongly biased towards maintaining the status quo of the elites rather than addressing the needs of the majority, despite what we are told. Now the people of Europe must wake up and see what has really happened: it’s war again – not the shooting type but the economic type. And those with the biggest economic weapons are not about to capitulate so easily.

So what can we do about this?

Yanis Varoufakis gave a speech on 23 August 2015 in France. In my opinion, this was one of his finest. If you gloss over his idealistic references to “democracy”, I can find no better motivation anywhere else that so clearly supports my point of view. His speech was a rallying call for urgent and immediate change in the EU.

The time for thinking and talking and hoping and praying is over…..it’s now time for action.

I am reminded about the harsh and brutal but, ultimately, successful way that Stalin defeated Hitler’s armies. After the first million Russians had given their lives on the battlefield, the Germans were battered but not quite beaten. So Stalin threw another million Russian soldiers at the problem and the German armies collapsed, retreated and were eventually defeated.

Similarly, we first had the Greeks giving the EU their best shot and they got trampled. Now we have the British leading the charge.

I am supporting a Brexit and I hope that the dire warnings of the experts about the possibility of an EU collapse afterwards, come true!

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About Peter Smith

A "foot-soldier" in the wider Post Capitalism Movement. First task - keep spreading the words of change, hope & inspiration.
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One Response to Democratise Europe….a great idea, but in the meantime, we must suffer!

  1. Pingback: Can a political leopard really change its spots? | Thoughts on European Politics & Economics

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