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Neoliberal spin versus clear language of the Modern Left

4 Dec 2016

Neoliberal spin versus clear language of the Modern Left

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte put in an appearance this week at the ALDE (centre-right liberals) European Parliament group conference held on this occasion in Warsaw. There, he warned that Europe could fall apart if the politicians didn’t listen to what the public were clearly saying: not still more Brussels, please. It’s just a pity that the government he heads wants precisely the opposite: more economic diktats from Brussels, a European Public Prosecutor, a European security force and even intensive European defence cooperation. But things didn’t work out so well for Rutte. The conference which the SP held yesterday with a number of sister parties in Maastricht was where you wanted to be to hear clear language. After twenty-five years of neoliberal deception it’s time for a new EU treaty which puts the national parliaments back in the driver’s seat. While the neoliberals twist and turn, the modern left is clear: No to this EU; build a new form of European cooperation.

Unfortunately I could not be in Maastricht myself because of family circumstances, but I heard that it was an excellent meeting. First of all tribute was paid to the activists who twenty-five years ago protested against the Maastricht Treaty, predicting that if you introduced a single currency and gave free rein to the market, you would exacerbate inequality among the member states. Sooner or later this would certainly go awry, because people who notice that they have lost control of their own surroundings rebel against this. Against the EU, against the power of big capital and against the high-earning bureaucrats in Brussels.

Twenty-five years on, this disquiet is tangible: two negatives from the Dutch electorate, first of all in the referendum on the European Constitution, then in the referendum on the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine. And on both occasions, a government which, under pressure from Brussels, largely ignored the result. Then the British voted for Brexit. And who knows, this evening may also see a ‘no’ in the referendum called by Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi.

Things aren’t going all that well in the economy, either. The euro remains unstable, with unsustainable contradictions in the countries of the eurozone. Those who caused the crisis, the banks, are being encouraged by the European Central Bank to grow ever bigger. This same ECB gives the banks so much money for so little return that new bubbles are being created. The financial world is far from stable. Meanwhile, unemployment and poverty in Europe continue to be stubbornly high.

The instability of the European Union is political, social and economic. Things could go completely awry and that’s why you’d expect governments and their leaders to come up with a Plan B, a plan of what to do should the euro be threatened with collapse. How can member states leave the euro in an orderly fashion? How can we give member states back the space to combat unemployment and poverty themselves without interference from Brussels? How can we put restraints on the market, so that multinationals at last pay their taxes and so that their influence, moreover, is limited. How can we strengthen local and national democracy and dismantle the Brussels bureaucracy?

The leaders of governments, with Rutte to the fore, come out with nothing more than hollow rhetoric and at the same time get on with building a federal Europe. Rutte can say what he likes to the liberals, their leader in the European Parliament, the Belgian Guy Verhofstadt, is shortly to come out with a flood of proposals for a new EU treaty the thrust of which is federalist. As long as Rutte’s party, the VVD, stays in the ALDE, they will have to support their group leader’s proposals. If they don’t, they’ll have problems within their own group. So Rutte’s words are just so much hot air.

Anyone who wants to see a new Europe, one in which the member states work together to their mutual advantage, a Europe of true solidarity where the people and not the market reign, would be better looking to the left for alternatives. Together with our sister parties in Europe, the SP is developing such alternatives. It’s time these initiatives got more attention, more at least than the hollow phrases we heard this week from Rutte.

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