Reversing the austerity narrative

Andrew Watt and László Andor argue that austerity in the EU is not a consequence of its democratic deficit, as many think. In their view, outcomes deemed negative are often wrongly attributed to weak democratic representation, while they are just the result of lost political battles. Neoliberal policies have not been imposed against the popular will by unelected technocrats; they were rather pushed through by representative of center-right national majorities who controlled the Council 7 out of 8 times.

Gary Younge comments on Corbyn’s electoral manifesto, claiming that even if he is likely to lose, he has the merit of openly questioning the austerity narrative. Notwithstanding the recent growth of inequalities, the notion of taxing the wealthy in order to fund public services had been all but banished from the public square.

Robert Skidelsky argues that despite their differences, populists share some common themes: economic nationalism, social protection, anti-Europeanism, anti-globalization, and hostility not just to the political establishment, but to politics itself. These are also similarities with fascism, which initially was a nationalist, anti-capitalist movement. Initially, fascism was a nationalist, anti-capitalist movement. However, fascism was supported by the petite bourgeoisie, while socialism by the working class. Today, those workers who were the social basis of the left-wing area vanished, leaving it to compete with right-wing populists for the support of exactly the same groups that turned to fascism.

On Social Europe Stuart Holland claims that Germany should recognize that bonds for mutualisation of debt are different from Eurobonds to foster recovery in investment and jobs. Such a recovery need not to be funded or guaranteed by Germany; a more acceptable source of financing may come from the recycling of global surpluses such as those of pension funds or sovereign wealth funds that are searching for, but not finding, adequate investment outlets. A joint declaration by Macron and Schulz could shift the European debate on a New Deal for Europe.

National identities in a global world

Interviewed on Social Europe, Colin Crouch observes that his argument about how democratic politics was becoming a kind of game, managed by economic and political elites was partially confirmed by the recent rise of a worldwide populist tide, because these groups make a similar complaint about the powerlessness of ordinary people. What he didn’t expect, however, was for national identities to gain momentum as a basis of political identity, reinforced by globalisation, immigration, refugee crises and Islamic terrorism. Nationalities are always fictional myths, because they are build on an assumption of some kind of national separateness, which is nearly always an illusion. However, we desperately need a European narrative that grounds solidarities with neighbouring countries, so that we can together confront challenges of globalisation. Yet this needs the support of national political leaders, and requires that European institutions try to look attractive and relevant to citizens.

In the same vein, Thomas Fazi argues that the left mistakenly accepted the false narrative about nation states becoming obsolete and meaningful change achievable only at the international level. Moreover, the left has – again mistakenly – accepted the household budget analogy, which suggests that currency-issuing governments are financially constrained, and that fiscal deficits impose crippling debt burdens on future generations. Yet national ideas are not dead, and if the electorates had to choose only between reactionary nationalism and progressive globalism– then the left has already lost the battle. The left need a progressive idea of national sovereignty, based on popular sovereignty, democratic control over the economy, full employment, social justice, redistribution from the rich to the poor and inclusivity. According to him, this view of nationality is not hostile to the EU, but it might complement it.

This Ideas Monitor is by Carlo Burelli and Alexander Damiano Ricci

Photo Credits CC feck_aRt_post

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