24 Οκτωβρίου 2015

Greece, Europe and sovereignty.

By Jacques Sapir
Note kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

What image will the European Union leave behind when the Greek crisis is over? Indeed, whatever the outcome of this crisis, whether it ends with a default of Greece and a probable exit from the Eurozone, or by the acknowledgement of the soundness of the Greek position and a political treatment of the debt, or with a capitulation of the Greek government, the consequences of this crisis for the EU and for its image will run very deep. The crisis will have brought to light the opacity of the decision processes within the EU as well as in the Eurogroup and the European Central Bank. It will have stressed the anti-democratic character of numerous decisions and its profound aversion for the sovereignty of peoples. The European Union, without realizing it, has taken on the role of the defunct Soviet Union in developing the equivalent of a doctrine of “limited sovereignty.” Therefore, whatever the issue of the crisis, its impact on the EU’s image will be disastrous.

A non-dialog and its foundations

The management of this crisis has been disastrous, but it is a disaster for which the European Commission carries the full responsibility. As soon as the new Greek government (the alliance between SYRIZA and the sovereignists from ANEL) came to power, it became evident that the framework of the negotiations could not be the one of the «memorandum». This reality was turned down by the negotiators of the Eurogroup who insistently sought to bring back the Greek government into the very framework which it was rejecting. The European Commission and the diverse European “institutions” pretended to believe that the negotiations bore on the amounts of the debt, when the Greek government was proposing to get out of this logic of aid and to treat the problem of the debt politically, as was done with the German debt in 1953. The refusal on the part of the Commission to pay attention to what the Greek government was saying has led to these negotiations transforming themselves into what the Greek Minister of Finances, M. Yanis Varoufakis, is calling a «war» [1]. As could be expected, this has led to a hardening of Greece’s position. Presently, we are witnessing a de facto alliance between the left of SYRIZA with the sovereignists of ANEL, an alliance which largely determines the attitude of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras [2].

If we are today at the brink of the abyss, it’s mostly because the European Union too has followed in these negotiations aims which were political: to bring Greece to bend, so as to guarantee that the austerity framework as it is wanted by Germany and by the countries who have taken on the role of vassals – such as of Spain, France and Italy – cannot be put into question by democratic means. Progressively, during the spring of 2015, it has become evident that what the European Union was seeking was not an agreement with Greece, but a surrender in mid-battle of the Greek government. Whatever the final result of these «negotiations,» the European peoples will have understood that on the side of Brussels there was only a Punic faith, and that Mr Juncker has in mind merely a Carthaginian peace.

From this point of view, and this is of enormous importance, the European Union has lost the image battle. It has revealed itself such as it is at the core: a structure of oppression, a deeply undemocratic ensemble. The reputation of the European Union is forthwith stained by its behaviour towards Greece.

The European Union as it is

The European Union was presenting itself as a new construct, neither a «super-State,» nor a mere association. In affirming peremptorily, in the words of M. Barroso, that the EU is a project «sui generis» [3], the European leaders exonerate themselves of all democratic control and in so doing they are burying the principle of national sovereignty, yet without replacing it with anything else. This is the arbitrariness of power in its nakedness. It was reaffirmed, in the most brutal way, by Jean-Claude Juncker, successor of the ineffable Barroso at the head of the European Commission: «There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties» [4]. This revelatory declaration dates back to the Greek elections of January 25th 2015, which saw SYRIZA’s victory. In a few words, all is said. Constitutional Law, in other words the norms by which we give ourselves rules in order to organize our lives in a community, normally concentrates on the question of Sovereignty.

However, this is the question which the oligarchs of Brussels and Frankfurt are wishing would go away. We could well see that the scheme developed, consciously or unconsciously, in Brussels and which reveals itself in the discourse of Barroso as well as in the declaration of Juncker, has no other end than to exclude sovereignty and to leave the leaders of the European Union without democratic control over their actions. But Juncker’s declaration goes even further [5]. It refuses any country the right to reexamine decisions taken in treaties. We are indeed already today within the framework of a «limited sovereignty». These terms pick up on the discourse of the Soviet Union concerning the Eastern European countries in 1968 at the time of intervention of the Warsaw Pact in Prague. They purport to consider the member states of the European Union as colonies, or more precisely, as «dominions» within the frame of the Commonwealth, whose sovereignty was subjected to that of the home country (Great Britain). Except that in the case in point there is no home country. The European Union would therefore be a colonial system without a home country. And maybe that it is even a colonialism by procuration. Behind the image of the supposedly united Europe which is now divided in fact by the European institutions, one can make out the looming profile of the United States, before whom Brussels steadfastly gives way, as we have seen on the question of the Transatlantic Treaty, or TAFTA, or the Ukrainian crisis.

Bring back sovereignty, rebuild the State, re-found democracy

This revelation of the true nature of the European Union is leading some authors to compare it to a «soft fascism» [6] Laurent de Sutter, a Law professor and editorial manager at the Presses Universitaires de France, gives the following explanation: «This generalized delirium manifested by the European authorities should be investigated. How come it spreads itself out so shamelessly before our eyes? Why does it go on pretending to find reasons for itself, when these reasons no longer make any sense – are only empty words, hollow slogans and inconsistent logic? The answer is simple: it is indeed fascism. It is a question of providing for oneself an ideological cover that is purely conventional, a discourse which one pretends to support, in order, in fact, to realize an altogether different operation in reality» [7].

We must then draw all the consequences from this, even if the formula «soft fascism» can be shocking. It is clear at present that the fight aiming at the recovery of sovereignty is an essential prerequisite. We will be able to debate on important questions only once this sovereignty will be established and the State reconstructed. This is why we must greet the decision, however belated, of Jean-Pierre Chevènement to leave the Mouvement Républicain et Citoyen (which he had founded) in order to position himself in a space for debate transcending «…historic sensitivities because one will never get France out of the rut without this » [8]. It is clear from now on that the divergences will no longer happen along a «right-left» axis, at least, not so long as the question of sovereignty will not be decided. «There is nothing irremediable except the loss of the State» Henri IV has said [9]. When he made this declaration in front of the judges in Rouen, a Parliament at that time being an assembly of judges, he gave to understand that a superior interest imposed itself on particular interests and that the individuals’ pursuit of their legitimate aims could not be done to the detriment of the common goal of living in a society. In reclaiming the sense of the Nation, he put an end to civil war. This is where we have arrived at today. One may deplore it, but we must acknowledge it and draw the essential conclusions.

Clearly, today a united front of sovereignists should be coming together. Contrarily to what one may think, this is not an easy formula. As any united front, it is not meant to be a magic formula producing a fake unanimity, but a tactical instrument aiming at a precise political goal. It will impose, in due time, that one distinguish well the critiques which could be raised within the front from those which we should reserve for our enemies.

Jacques Sapir

[1] http://www.euractiv.com/sections/euro-finance/varoufakis-greeces-creditors-have-turned-negotiations-war-315247

[2] Evans-Pritchard A., « Syriza Left demands ‘Icelandic’ default as Greek defiance stiffens », The Telegraph, 14 juin 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/11673989/Syriza-Left-demands-Icelandic-default-as-Greek-defiance-stiffens.html

[3] Manuel Barroso, Barroso J-M., Speech by President Barroso: “Global Europe, from the Atlantic to the Pacific”, Speech 14/352, speech given at Stanford University on May 1st, 2014.

[4] Juncker J-C, « La Grèce doit respecter l’Europe», Le Figaro, 29 janvier 2015, http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2015/01/28/01003-20150128ARTFIG00490-jean-claude-juncker-la-grece-doit-respecter-l-europe.php

[5] See the analysis by C. Delaume, « Du traité constitutionnel à Syriza : l’Europe contre les peuples », in Le Figaro-Vox, 2 février 2015, http://www.lefigaro.fr/vox/politique/2015/02/02/31001-20150202ARTFIG00405-du-traite-constitutionnel-a-syriza-l-europe-contre-les-peuples.php

[6] De Sutter L., « La raison délirante de l’Europe, un nouveau fascisme mou ? », in Libération, 10 février 2015, http://www.liberation.fr/monde/2015/02/10/la-raison-delirante-de-l-europe-un-nouveau-fascisme-mou_1199605

[7] Idem.

[8] Le Figaro, « Chevènement veut un «mouvement d’idées» allant de Mélenchon à Dupont-Aignan », 15 juin 2015, http://www.lefigaro.fr/politique/le-scan/citations/2015/06/15/25002-20150615ARTFIG00090-chevenement-eut-un-mvouvement-d-idees-allant-de-melenchon-a-dupont-aignan.php

[9] Discours de Henri IV au Parlement de Rouen en 1597.