Yanis Varoufakis: Europe’s Crisis –The Rise of the Ultra-Right is the Left’s Fault

By Yanis Varoufakis, a professor of economics at the University of Athens. Cross posted from his blog

Europe’s appalling handling of a euro crisis that was always going to happen, given its faulty architectural design,[1] has triggered an electoral result in the recent European Parliament elections that is a clarion warning that Europe is decomposing. And it is decomposing precisely because of the Left’s spectacular failure to intervene both during the construction phase of Europe’s economic and monetary union and, more poignantly, after the latter’s crisis had begun.

The international press has summed up the 2014 European Parliament election outcome as a sign that the economic crisis plaguing Europe has caused voters to be lured by the two ‘extremes’, meaning the ultra right and the extreme left. This is a verdict that the European elites, whose shenanigans are responsible for Europe’s deconstruction, are comfortable with. They see it as evidence that, despite ‘some errors’, they are on the middle road, with some wayward voters straying off the ‘right’ path both to the left and to the right. And they hope that, once growth picks up again, the ‘strays’ will return to the fold.

This is a misrepresentation of current economic and political reality. Europeans were not lured by the two extremes. They drifted to one extreme: that of the racist, xenophobic, anti-European right. Extreme, anti-European, leftwing parties saw no surge in their support anywhere in Europe.[2] For four years now, European institutions are the field on which incompetence and malice compete with one another in a bid to win the prize for the most inconspicuous obfuscation of the truth: (a) that the Eurozone’s construction was faulty; and (b) that, once the never-ending crisis had began, the elites were solely interested in shifting banking losses from the banks’ asset books onto the shoulders of the weaker citizens.

If the financial sector has been stabilised, it is because the combination of massive central bank liquidity and stringent austerity propped up finance, shielded bankers (without cleansing the banks), and reflated many of the burst bubbles. And this at the cost of untold damage on Europe’s real economy, social fabric, and democracies. The interesting question, however, is: Why has the Left not benefitted from the trials and tribulations of the Eurozone’s neoliberal design and from the great pain inflicted upon the majority by the neoliberal ‘cure’?

The obvious reason is that, prior to 2008, Europe’s ‘official’ Left had invested considerable energy so as to be… co-opted into the neoliberal cabal that designed and implemented the faulty Eurozone architecture. Post-2008, once the neoliberal design began to crumble, the parties carrying the torch of the social democratic tradition did not recoil from playing an enthusiastic role as enforcers of ruthlessly reactionary economic policies. It is, therefore, not a great wonder that they are now paying the electoral price.

The Greek socialist party, whose government sought out and celebrated the first Eurozone ‘bailout’ (which was to act as template for Ireland’s and Portugal’s ‘bailouts’, not to mention the fiscal straightjacket and labour market reforms that followed elsewhere, especially in Spain and Italy), has been diminished from 43% of the popular vote to less than 8%. Spain’s PSOE and the Portuguese socialists were similarly beaten into a pulp by a despondent electorate that refuses to vote for them even though the conservative governments that took over in 2011 are even more despised. Ireland’s Labour Party is in strife for having legitimised the wholesale ransacking of the Irish people by unscrupulous European bankers, under the brutal watch of the ECB and the troika. Holland’s Labour Party, engenderer of the ‘Polder Model’ and guarantor of Dutch social democracy for fifty years, is languishing at 10% of electoral support.

Austria’s and Germany’s social democrats are equally incapable of speaking out against self-defeating austerity or in serious defence of their constituents. As for the French socialists, the less said the better: Having made a song and dance about the need for a European New Deal, Mr Holland capitulated to Mrs Merkel before one could say ‘fiscal compact’. Tragically, the day after his party collected a pitiful 15% of the votes in the 2014 European election, to the National Front’s worrying 25% (!), Mr Holland’s Prime Minister promised… tax cuts to a baffled socialist party audience.

Be that as it may, the question remains: Why? What explains European social democracy’s slide into reactionary policies and, thus, oblivion? My answer is that, some time in the 1990s, Europe’s ‘official’, social democratic Left fell into the trap of believing that the welfare state need no longer be financed from a portion of profits exacted by political means from industry and commerce. Instead, they could finance the welfare state by tapping into the rivers of privately minted money that the financial sector was printing (while waged labour was being squeezed and real estate prices soared).

Rather than constantly clashing with industrialists and merchants in order to extract from them a share of their profits, social democratic parties of government believed that a Faustian bargain with financiers could: (a) yield more funds for social programs, (b) end their conflict-ridden relationship with industry, and (c) allow them to hobnob with the rich and powerful, as partners, while still lavishly funding public hospitals, schools, unemployment benefits, the arts etc. It seemed like a dream come true for suited men who did not want to abandon the working class to its own devises but who had had enough of… class struggle.

Faustian bargains come, alas, with clauses written in blood. Europe’s social democrats, lured by the cacophony of money-making in the financial sector, numbed by the myth of some ‘Great Moderation’, and excited by the mystical notion of ‘riskless risk’, agreed to let finance free to do as it pleased in exchange for funds with which to prop up welfare states that were relics of a bygone post-war social contract. That was the social democrats’ game. At the time, it seemed to them a better idea, more fathomable, than having to be constantly in conflict with industrialists, seeking to tax them to redistribute. In contrast, they found a cosy relationship with bankers more amenable and easy going. As long as the ‘leftist’ politicians let them do as they pleased, the financiers were happy to let them have some crumbs off their gargantuan dinner table.

Alas, to be allowed these crumbs, social democrats had to swallow financialisation’s logic hook, line and sinker. Including the Eurozone’s neoliberal design. And so, when in 2008 the tsunamis of capital produced by Wall Street, the City and Frankfurt evaporated, Europe’s social democratic side of politics did not have the analytical tools, or moral oeuvre, with which to subject the collapsing system to critical scrutiny. They were, thus, ripe for acquiescence, for total capitulation, to the toxic remedies (e.g. the ‘bailouts’) whose purpose was to sacrifice working people, the unemployed, and the weak on the altar of the financiers. Indeed, they even volunteered to implement the ‘necessary’ cruel policies as if in denial of their acquiescence to a Faustian bargain that was to prove their demise.


European social democracy cannot survive its pre-2008 historic analytical error and its post-2008 complicity in organised misanthropy.

Europe, at the same time, cannot be saved without a revival of a Left capable of subjecting the Eurozone’s construction to critical reason.

Unless a reinvigorated Left, along the lines of Greece’s SYRIZA, can inspire Europeans to challenge the toxic policies at the heart of Europe’s deconstruction, the only winners will be racism, nationalism and the emerging regime that I refer to as Bankruptocracy.


[1] ‘Inevitable’ due to our monetary union’s faulty architecture that could never sustain the shockwaves of the global financial implosion of 2008.

[2] To portray Greece’s SYRIZA as anti-European, or as extreme, is disingenuous. SYRIZA is a party that has its roots in the eurocommunist movement of the early 1970s, consistently arguing in favour of the EU (even of the Eurozone), and committed, to this day, and in spite of the catastrophic effects of EU policies on the Greek people, to seek a solution to the crisis within the EU and within the Eurozone.

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  1. Ruben

    “What explains European social democracy’s slide into reactionary policies and, thus, oblivion? My answer is that, some time in the 1990s, Europe’s ‘official’, social democratic Left fell into the trap of believing that the welfare state need no longer be financed from a portion of profits exacted by political means from industry and commerce. Instead, they could finance the welfare state by tapping into the rivers of privately minted money that the financial sector was printing”

    Yanis’ hypothesis for the decline of European social democracy is then that these softcore leftists chose to fund the welfare state by debt instead of by taxing. Sounds right to me, given that currently all major European States have debt to GDP ratios in excess of what their own Maastrich Treaty of 1992 set as maximum.

    1. Ignim Brites

      Note sure what Prof Varoufakis means by “tapping into the rivers of privately minted money”. Is it as Ruben suggests funding the welfare state by debt rather than taxes? Or is by shifting the burden of increased funding to capital gains style taxes (which by the way puts the State long asset appreciation)? Or is it something more vague and sinister, that social democratic politicians could posture effectively as promoters of the welfare state because they and their careers were funded by the financial industry? At least here in the States, I think it is the second option, and it is both a neoliberal and a neocon strategy.

  2. John

    The Socialists here in Flanders (Belgium) was virtually put out to pasture. They lost credibility many years ago because they surrendered to the capitalists forces. Like elsewhere, capital has taken on more importance than labour. Making money is more important than fixing things that ail society.

    A Flemish right-wing nationalist won a big chunk of the votes this last election. I am still stunned with the results because: – he champions dropping the annual salary index – he favors slashing unemployment payments – he favors slashing government spending – and favors splitting the country into different pieces.

    Yes, this was his austerity platform he won on. He is now engaging with chastened (wishy-washy) Christian Democrats on forming a regional and national government. This is probably the first time ever the Socialists are not part of the government formation. Anyway, we get to find out how the national government will be set up later today.

    My guess is the way the undemocratic EC etc… have been pushing austerity (capital over labor), even prosperous Belgium has been cowed into the belief more austerity is needed. Actually, the EC has warned Belgium that if they did not get their deficits down they would face sanctions. This warning has been on the table for years. The ECs recommendation to cut our deficit? Cut government spending.

    How can a Socialist survive in an austerity environment that is induced by outside forces? They have no platform.

    1. Ruben

      One more story about European socialists. In Spain people still don’t forget that one of the last documents signed by the last socialist PM was to pardon one of the richest banker of the country for his crimes of forgery of evidence that led to prison time to business rivals. Spaniards still wonder what was his motivation to pardon such a super rich convicted criminal since no public good or humanitarian reason was apparent. This socialist leader still enjoy a high status in his party.

      By the way, the pardon was later partially annulled by the Supreme Court but the next gov’t made sure with a new law that bankers will not need to be honorable to hold high banking positions. Thanks to the new law bankers can now be convicted of crimes and still keep their seats in the boards of banks and hold top executive posts.

    2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      This is THE story of our time, how anything to the Left of Attila the Hun has cravenly co-opted and joined the corporo-fascist beast. Complicit Vichy Left is everywhere, from Obomba to the Social Democrat Eurocrats. When someone rides in who wants to champion actual people and their needs they should do quite well. Instead we get the likes of Hilary and Obomba and Pelosi, trying to triangulate “fascism-lite” and wondering why the Prez is at 40% and Congress is at 10% approval.

  3. makedoanmend

    Why hasn’t the ‘Left’ benefitted? Because the Left, as a political force, is spent, caput, deceased, rests among the angles. . . The old problems that plagued Leftists, such pettiness and self promotion to the cost of workers and all people remains, while the state infrastructure is allowed to wither and fade away – or as in the UK it is literally being destroyed. The people whom we worship, the rich, will make sure that we squander our remaining resources while they vainly try to hoard whatever they can.

    Then, again, the centre is an illusion. It is some vague idea that we middle class consumers believe exists even as we are daily reminded that it can and will be taken away by those whom we worship.

    There was a brief, golden moment in human history when a genuine middle class was created in order to counter-balance the threat of any sort of alternative to production growth and consume culture that arose out of the West’s enlightenment philosophy. Only a very narrow interpretation of enlightenment was allowed to flourish, but it was an expensive (environmentally-energetically speaking) interpretation.

    The lights are now dimming for swathes of people in the West. For many non-Westerners, the light never even flickered.

    There’s always alternatives. I’m sure we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what we could accomplish as a species with a reduced consumption “lifestyle” but we also seem to be a species that will put up with a lot of suffering (especially other people’s suffering) in order to maintain any illusion of order.

    The promise of order seems to trump all other considerations. The so-called Right (and they are not your old fashioned Conservatives) is a mere label of convenience for those who’d sell their souls for any type of security. The powers-that-be, however fragile and fragmented, don’t care about the labels. They’ll offer hopiate as long as they can. Any they’ll just keep taking because we made it easy for them to take.

    As a species, imho, I really don’t think we ever really believed in the old democratic idea anyway – took too much work and was too messy. We had to think. We had to occassionally talk to neighbors and, heaven forfend, strangers. We had to question our basic beliefs all the time. We sometimes had to change our individual routines and beliefs. Who has the time to do those things these days?

    We want a few hereos every couple of decades to come along and rescue democracy for us.

    Well, nobody showed up this time. And we certainly don’t seem to keen to do the job.

    1. Banger

      As a species, imho, I really don’t think we ever really believed in the old democratic idea anyway – took too much work and was too messy. We had to think. We had to occassionally talk to neighbors and, heaven forfend, strangers. We had to question our basic beliefs all the time. We sometimes had to change our individual routines and beliefs. Who has the time to do those things these days?

      We want a few hereos every couple of decades to come along and rescue democracy for us.

      Well, nobody showed up this time. And we certainly don’t seem to keen to do the job.

      Great comment!

      A new way will emerge–there are a lot of interesting approaches out there and the sooner we stop dreaming of the old left the better. I think there are many who post here that know this but it will take awhile for others who hang here to fully endorse our POV–they call us defeatists because we state the obvious that the left has been thoroughly defeated. This should be a liberating moment because we can expand our horizons and note the full variety of cultural and political ideas out there.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Disagree, we need to KEEP dreaming about the old left because they delivered the goods. We stopped a war, threw out a crook president, and completely changed and raised the consciousness of society. That would make a very good start of things for us today.

  4. Roland

    The current version of European integration needs overhaul. The tide of integration must be allowed to recede before a fresh effort can be made. If the Left weds itself to a Europe designed by neoliberals, then many workers who feel that they have been expropriated of their own countries will turn to the Right.

    The bourgeoisie have had their chance to design an integrated Europe. They have made a botch of it. If the European Left clings to the Eurodreams of the 1990’s, then they’ll have to share the stench of failure with the bourgeois who stink the most.

    1. Ruben

      Instead of an overhaul of European integration, it seems to me that the European Left needs to just become a Nationalist Left, striving to dissolve the EU and return to the previous arrangement of separate European nations. To differentiate from the Nationalist Right the Nationalist Left needs to claim that they want to keep the Schengen Agreement of free movement of European people and the welfare State, in a Europe of separate nations with different currencies.

      The problem with this is that the Left dreams of a Super State like the USA. The European Right is currently less bent on controlling such a Super State so they are making progress while the Left is left behind. The dream of a Giant State apparatus a-la USA has to be abandoned.

      1. Ignim Brites

        Yes but then the Left politicians will not be “world historical” figures. I guess they aren’t anyway except in their quixotic minds.

  5. dSquib

    True, and there’s very little room for left critiques of the EU, never has been, though they ought to be pretty straightforward. Every EU election the far-right occupies that space.

  6. Hans Suter

    I wonder why Yanis omits the Italian result. Renzi’s socialists moved from 26% to almost 41%.

    1. Kurt Sperry

      Renzi is hardly a socialist. He and the PD he heads are in fact classic status quo neoliberals with some softening of the rhetorical edges polished off, just like his predecessors in the PD have always been. He’s essentially an Italian Obama, co-opting the rhetoric of the left while doing nothing to further their goals.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Good-looking, young, hopeful, same Obomba formula, he has hit his peak already, soon Italians will see what he really stands for, just as we did with Obomba.

  7. The Dork of Cork

    Left / right blah blah blah.
    Something deeply structural is happening under the skin of the body politic.

    In a recent exchange with Donal Donovan on Irish TV (a local Irish and creepy IMF priest) a people before profit guy Richard Boyd Barret failed to articulate anything logical in the face of Donovans production of austerity poison.
    Included in Barrets response was a economic growth and default argument.
    After a deflationary period quite longer then the second world war this is quite inexplicable.
    Again (as always) nobody gets to the kernel of the argument.
    The extreme concentration of money power which increasing tax only further concentrates.

    The almost total lack of distributionist candidates is quite striking in Europe.
    To my mind this is further evidence of Masonic penetration of all walks of life.

    This programme from the late 1980s is quite illustrative of the lower workings of the craft.

    Epilogue at 2H.25m Conservative Chris Hudson (non mason)
    “Unless we have a registrar of Masons we are never going to see the picture develop – we just get a hazy negative of what is really going on.”


  8. David Lentini

    Yanis’s analysis of the economic and political crisis in Europe, which also has overtones in the US, has been excellent. I think his point about the leftist Eurocrats making a Faustian bargain is very true. But part of the story of why the Left has collapsed so completely reflects several additional factors.

    First, as with the corruption and ultimate collapse of the Progressive movement in the US a century ago we have to recognize that the modern leadership of both left and right all come through the same academic and social institutions. Whatever their respective family heritages, the sons and daughters of the leftist leadership ultimately grow up alongside the sons and daughters of bankers and industrialists.

    Second, the rise of a relatively comfortable middle class created a generation that never learned the brutality of the rentier class. They never learned why the laws and economic structures they grew up with were installed in the first place. Never having suffered the pain, they never understood the need for protection.

    Third, as Michael Moore has pointed out very well for American culture, the sons and daughters of the working class aspired to become “white collar” and leave behind the jobs and unionism of their parents and grandparents by going to college and seeking professional careers. Having left one culture, they aspired to the culture of the rentiers never realizing the game was always rigged against them.

    Fourth, the increasing economic and political failure of the Soviet Union and Maoist China, coupled with the roaring US stock market in the mid- and late ’80s made Reagan- and Thatcher-era capitalism all the more attractive. The death of the two major Communist parties made the “triumph” of capitalism seem all the more “inevitable”. The great sums made by the élites both in the US and Europe gave them huge sway in the corridors of power.

    Fifth, the huge effort made by the wealthy bankers and industrialists in both the US and Western Europe to shut out all economic and social ideas that were not compatible with capitalism, and the great propaganda effort to make capitalism look like a scientifically proven system of economic and social governance, paid off big time by the early ’90s as the graduates of the US and English graduate schools of economics and business took their positions in Europe.

    1. Banger

      I think, David, your reasons complement Yanis’ piece very nicely. I’m not sure what you mean by the left dying a century ago–the left essentially was on the way out in the U.S. by the 1970s but officially died I would say in the 90s.

      1. sufferin' succotash

        The argument that the real Left “died” about a century ago does carry some weight when you consider what happened to the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World during and just after WW1. One factor to consider: the Left didn’t die, it was killed.

        1. Banger

          No, the left didn’t die then it came back pretty strongly in a stronger Labor movement and later Civil Rights movement. People forget that the left had quite a lot of heft in the 60’s and even early seventies. During the Roosevelt administration there were socialists in his administration at many levels. I was part of the late sixties revival of radicalism so I was there and we were pretty influential and shook the power-structure up quite a lot after which they used more sophisticated means to end the left than were used during and after WWI.

  9. Linda Amick

    Good article save no mention of the US’ participation in this series of events. A compliant Europe lacking designs on a more EurAsian trade zone is in the US interest. Close participation with US banking has created a no win situation for European countries and now extraction from this situation will be catastrophic.

  10. Riaz Tayob

    I agree with the overall thrust of the argument, that of a Faustian bargain, but prefer the Vivek Chibber explanation of its causes… perhaps it is my penchant for structural rather than individual/moral explanations. Chibber asserts that with the rising power of finance over the economy, progressive governments that come to power basically needed resources to pursue distributive goals. But if they were not “market friendly” they faced a capital/investment strike – leading to a lowering of tax revenues and an undermining of the very distributive project they were empowered to implement. This was predictable, given the lack of financial repression, as Banks grew to play a far more important role in the economy (just look at banks reps on ‘real economy’ company boards, holding companies, etc). And it is also evident in the lack of noblesse oblige of the conservatives (which is the neoliberal triumph – since one cannot be a conservative with a ‘follow the market’ ideology as it can take you anywhere) as well.
    This pattern is repeated with such regularity in so many different contexts (from Morales in Bolivia on TIPNIS, Correa on Yasuni Oil in the Hole, Suu Kii on Copper mining, Mandela on redistribution) that it is wonder that it is not integrated into the analysis more. Looking at developing countries might be more apposite, even though there are structural differences… as usurious finance is an “equal opportunity” pilferer, as the North is currently discovering…

  11. digi_owl

    The way i see it right now, what EU is going through is pretty much what USA was struggling with until the Civil War.

    Basically the extreme right being voted in are similar to the states rights people that ended up forming the confederation.

    As best i can tell, the economic right wingers in Brussels are constantly centralizing regulations to ease capital flow within EU. But this is ruffling the feathers of the social right wingers within the various nations that make up EU.

    The left in the mean time is solidly on the sideline as they have run out of arguments. This because their biggest pillars, welfare state and industrial unions, have been solidly undermined by either their own success or EU’s open borders.

    End result is that the economic right can appeal to the consumer aspect of the population, while the social right are parading one “undesirable” after another in front of them and pointing to the open borders as the cause.

    Sadly there is a subset of the social left that think they can still turn the EU project into some grand egalitarian Europe, making it impossible for them to collaborate with the anti-EU economic left.

    The social left hope that by keeping the borders open, people will eventually get to know each other and get along. But they are hopelessly optimistic about the time scales. USA have been running for what, 200 years now, and still there are all kinds of issues with stratification and race going on.

  12. Banger

    Alas my longer comment has disappeared — trouble on my end no doubt so I’ll keep this short and, should my comment somehow appear, you will see that this one is different

    Life does not work in a linear fashion. The left “died” as all movements and trends transform over time. The assumptions rooted in the early 20th century no longer apply. It has been the clear success of social democracy that has brought its own downfall which today is glaringly obvious. I think we ought to say good-bye to that project and move to the next stage which to me is to map out what our actual situation is to the extent that is possible and to create a new conceptual framework. I suggest the thinking that seems to underlie most of the thinking on the diminishing left excludes most of the real political realities we face. We can start with a clear history (with culture playing the most important part) of the world over the past century when the last part of the modernist project began.

      1. Lambert Strether

        I looked for it, it’s gone. Sorry! (The solution is always to Select All and Copy your comment before pressing the Submit button; I can’t tell you how many times that’s saved me. The Internet is a hostile computing environment!)

        1. Working Class Nero

          Thanks for looking. Luckily I did copy / paste because I knew there might be a problem. I split it into two parts and was able to post it below.

  13. Working Class Nero

    (Part 1)

    First off, the “racist, xenophobic, anti-European right” actually didn’t do well at all in the recent elections; Golden Dawn’s numbers were way down. To use this terminology for the other Euro-skeptic parties is nothing short of slander and is symptomatic of a Left boxed into a pro-globalization corner, and thus with no pertinent critiques, and are reduced to spraying and praying their rhetorical Gatling guns of tired racial denunciations. Anti-globalization European proles become the new wrecking kulaks. And with all this sound and fury the pro-globalization Left hope to maintain the moral high-ground all the while acting as useful idiots for the Oligarchs as the working classes continue to be annihilated by globalization, just as Keynes knew would happen:

    What an extraordinary episode in the economic progress of man that age was which came to an end in August, 1914! The greater part of the population, it is true, worked hard and lived at a low standard of comfort, yet were, to all appearances, reasonably contented with this lot. But escape was possible, for any man of capacity or character at all exceeding the average, into the middle and upper classes, for whom life offered, at a low cost and with the least trouble, conveniences, comforts, and amenities beyond the compass of the richest and most powerful monarchs of other ages.

    Well they are contented by their lot no more. Financialization is a symptom of globalization, not a cause in and of itself. As Europe’s working class jobs, particularly in the Mediterranean nations, were shipped off to the third world, a way had to be found to temporarily ameliorate the obvious declines in standard of living these policies were always going to have. Instead of each village having, for example, a ceramics plant providing low-skill jobs, these factories were shipped away to China and unemployment was left in its wake. So the wages of defeat for the “greater part of the population” became an increasingly reliance on credit to fund the slowly hollowing out welfare states and to help maintain the fiction of a first world standard of living for a working “man of capacity or character that wasn’t exceeding the average”.

    So sure, as the productive economy was being chipped away, the Socialist parties had no choice but to look for the financial sector to fund their welfare states. But their betrayal was far worse than that. As the effects of globalization kicked in, Social Democrats turned away from the basic principle that a welfare state should primarily provide broad and universal services that help make a society more productive such as health care, high quality public and pre-schools schools, effective public transportation networks, etc. In this way a welfare state is not necessarily in that much conflict with the needs of industry. But as the industrialists starting importing cheap third world labor, a policy that was in direct conflict with the interests of the Left (keep labor as limited and expensive as reasonably possible) the Social Democrats saw instead a group of potential new voters. They championed the new immigrants cause, and more times than not, after working a few years, and for whatever reasons (and there are many) the new immigrants disproportionately ended up on long term welfare benefits, and thus dependent on the Socialists for their sustenance. The Socialists started using the welfare state as a sort of electoral campaign slush fund. As the native working classes started noticing something was amiss, they started becoming ever-so-slightly Socialist-sceptic which drove the Socialist to champion even more third world immigration, to maintain their electoral viability, and a vicious circle was started.

    So let’s look a little at the history of mass third world immigration into Europe. In France in the 60’s for example, industrialists looking to break the power of the automotive unions used to send labor scouts out into rural Morocco looking for the most “docile” labor they could find. It was as if they were trying to find just the right breed of dog for the job.

    1. digi_owl

      The welfare state is not in conflict with production, but it is in conflict with the concentration of wealth (and therefore power) that comes with the ownership of industry.

      As such, a strongly industrialized social democracy was perhaps what Marx had in mind while he was writing. But Lenin and the rest picked the worst nation to convert, as it was virtually pre-industrial.

      as it stands, the west is virtually turning feudal again. But this time what is hereditary is not land but stock portfolios.

  14. Working Class Nero

    (part 2)

    Worse, in Greece it was nationalist military junta known as “The Colonels” who helped usher globalization into Greece in the 70’s. This may be one reason the nationalist right in Greece does not do well; they helped get the globalization juggernaut rolling so many years ago. From Peter Frost’s series on Greece:

    The Colonels’ years in power coincided with a general worldwide shift from protectionism to globalization. In this new global economy, Greece found itself drifting toward an uncompetitive dead zone. Wages were lower than elsewhere in Europe but still higher than in nearby African and Asian countries. Conversely, the economic environment was better than in Africa and Asia but still less secure and less conducive to trust than in Western Europe and North America.

    The Colonels did little about these trends, largely because they trusted the business community and saw it as a natural ally in the fight to defend the nation from communism. The business community, for its part, had its own ideas about globalization. In 1972, the Association of Greek Industrialists called for the importation of foreign workers to fill unskilled and often seasonal jobs in agriculture, tourism, and shipping (Pteroudis, 1996, p. 163). The AGI was actually making explicit a policy that its members had already adopted:

    In late 1972, there were according to the Greek government around 15,000 to 20,000 foreign workers in Greece who came mainly from Egypt and other African countries (cited by Nikolinakos, 1974:81; other authors put forward a figure of 60,000 workers, Rombolis, 1980:231). The proposals of the Greek industrialists highlighted the paradox of the situation. At a time when over 300,000 Greeks were working in European countries mainly in low-skill industrial jobs, Greece had to import African labor to meet its needs in the same sectors? For Marxist analysis, which was dominant at that time, the aim of the AGI and the government was to stabilize and even reduce the wages of Greek workers (Pteroudis, 1996, p. 163)

    Some light is shed on this foreign labor program by a letter that the African student union published in a Greek newspaper in 1978 (albeit after the time of the Colonels):

    We denounce the existence of a traffic in black workers from Africa by Greek industrialists and ship-owners, who promise the black workers high wages. Once in Greece, the Blacks, victims of blackmail in all its forms, accept the worst jobs for very low wages without managing to get a contract of employment. When their services are no longer wanted or when they organize and become demanding, they are fired and cannot even benefit from an airplane ticket to go home. (Abog-Loko, 1981)

    The same newspaper had earlier published an article stating that a community of 15,000 African workers had become established in downtown Athens (Abog-Loko, 1981).

    This time period thus saw the start of de-Europeanization and population replacement. The Colonels failed to see the long-term consequences, in large part because they conceived the threats to Greece’s social fabric in geopolitical or even conspiratorial terms. In reality, the most serious threats would come from banal sources, including supposed friends and allies.

    No, it really doesn’t take a PhD in Dialectical Materialism to see the true goal of importing cheap third world labor was to lower native worker pay. While cheaper Greek labor abroad was undermining salaries in Western Europe, cheap and more importantly, vulnerable, African labor was imported to further undermine Greek salaries. This is a viscous circle of an economic race to the bottom for working class wages. On the other hand the now post-national upper middle classes were loving it, just as Keynes said they would. They were getting huge discounts on labor which only increased their purchasing power. Much of these upper-middle classes went on to infiltrate supposedly “Left” political parties. Over time, the “socialist” parties starting worrying a lot less about supporting working class trade unions and have evolved to the point that they now spend inordinate amounts of energy ensuring for example, bourgeois gay and lesbian matrimonial unions instead. Not that there is anything wrong with gay marriage of course but with the working classes suffering, they naturally think the priority should be on finding ways to relieve their suffering.

    But as time went on, at least in Europe, the goals of third world immigration have changed. The goal now is to wipe out what is left of the European welfare states. One way this is accomplished is by the inevitable diminution of social cohesion that occurs when people of different cultures are placed side by side. This is particularly true when the new groups have much higher levels of unemployment. In Brussels for example, there is a 20% unemployment rate, the majority of which is due to low-skill immigrants being brought into what is already a very multi-cultural situation. Combine this with the fact that demographically European pension plans are under pressure from an aging population and the worst thing you could do to a wlefare state is to bring in low-skill immigrants who will take more tax money than they contribute. And if projections can be believed, in 2030 Brussels will be a majority Muslim city. What is happening is a sort of “bottom-up” colonization where Sharia 4 Belgium is looking more possible every day

    Now people may say, so what, it is racist to not want to live in a majority Muslim city. So let’s do a little thought experiment. Suppose it were Americans who were being in-sourced into Brussels. Sure the first few would integrate well and melt into Belgian life like my family is. But after a while, as their numbers grew, they would demand more and more privileges, English taught in the schools (which wouldn’t be all that bad of a thing), etc. And maybe some of the local would enjoy some of the fast food culinary treats these Yanks brought with them. But inevitably the crazies would arrive and some second generation Americans, wanting to keep it real, would adopt some of the “crazy” American ideologies that perhaps their parents find abhorrent. So soon groups would start advocating for their Second Amendment rights and demand for example Open Carry laws. Eventually, once the Americans got a majority, or if locals preached it was racist to resist American cultural impositions, a Belgian would one day enter a restaurant to find eight Open Carry activists standing in the lobby with their baseball hats on backwards and assault rifles slung over their shoulders. And would these Belgians be wrong to think that if these Americans really wanted to be that American then maybe they should just move the f*ck back to America? Add to that the fact these Americans are disproportionately not working and living off benefits and you have an admittedly exaggerated picture of what is going on today in many parts of Europe.

    So once the problem is correctly stated the solution becomes clear. Any viable Left in Europe has to get way beyond these shallow, milquetoast critiques of “financialization” and instead really start digging to the root of the problem by explicitly attacking globalization. They need to basically adopt Marine Le Pen’s proposed economic strategy for France and apply it to Europe as a whole: Keynesian fiscal policy matched with strong border protection against cheap labor (both in the form of immigration and off-shoring) along with Keynes’ policies for international trade. It is very important to have a Nationalist Left around to help keep the Nationalist Right on their toes; just look what happened with the Greek Colonel’s selling their people out to global capital. A Nationalist Left could insist on the repatriation of lost industries and be instrumental in rebuilding a broad and universal welfare state — and this would be the time to take some very sharp pruning shears to the financial sector. A JG would certainly be possible but probably not required; with European labor once again able to capture European demand, unemployment would plummet and even most of the less-well integrated immigrants would have work. in fact, once the first world’s economic house is back in order, there would be opportunities for some third world immigration.

    But one very valid critique of nationalism is that it tends to de-emphasize the class conflict between labor and capital by subsuming both into a mythical unified nation state. This is where a Nationalist Left needs to explain that the goal is to tie local capital to local labor; that if a company wants access to a nation’s markets, it needs to employ a nation’s labor. The class struggle continues but the nation’s border are enlisted to tie one of capital’s hands behind its back. A Nationalist party that contains elements of Right and Left would inevitably beat the legacy neo-liberal Left and Right parties as the number of losers from globalization is only growing and eventually they will band together to defeat the ever diminishing number of global winners. The big hurdle right now facing Nationalists of any stripe is to get through the legacy party’s clouds of racist accusation chaff.

    1. Banger

      This basically the critique I had about illegal immigration in the U.S. and the leftist support of it. When I was allowed to comment some years back on DKOS and I mentioned that illegal immigration is a problem I was called a racist. In fact illegal immigration was a conscious and calculated policy by the corporate sector to lower wages and make working conditions worse for all workers and the fact the left supported that project shows its collective stupidity.

      This issue is one reason the left has lost its connection to the working class and is currently dead. I think your example is a good one–forcing the integration of disparate cultures in a no- or slow-growth economy is not good for community. Europeans are not used to the process and have been more traumatized than Americans.

      1. digi_owl

        What you are looking at is the social left overruling the economic left, with the social left thinking that everything will be just fine if the world join hands and sing…

        1. yup

          Most of them don’t ever seem to get out of their University enclaves and the muslim women there aren’t the same as the ones pushing out babies by sixteen. Even then, some of them know to hide their more extremist views when out in public.

          Sharia Law and the various institutions are not compatible with western ones. On top of it, like many branches of Christianity, it actively seeks more converts. Any culture clash is inevitable.

          And yeah, it’s easy to dismiss ALL arguments suggesting immigration be restricted as ‘racist’ because then you don’t really have to look at the suggestions too closely and start to wonder if they might have a valid point. Genuine refugees (like women or gays who want to escape oppression or couples who want to escape their families rigid views so they can marry) are one thing but far too many are simple economic migrants who want a ‘better life’ in a material sense only but want to bring their repressive traditions with them. Honestly, they should stay at home.

          Somewhere a line will have to be drawn by someone and if the so-called Left are too cowardly to do it, and stand once more by Labour and economic issues, than the Right, unfortunately, will have to take their place. Because somebody does. Orwell complained about how effete the Left (Fabians, etc.) were in the twenties and thirties and look what happened.

          Even worse, the Left have lost it on the global warming issue to. The average person isn’t being fooled, isn’t buying the propaganda that carbon credits or taxpayer money thrown at windmills is going to do a sodding thing, and their sick of ever-rising energy costs and food costs already.

      2. Working Class Nero

        You made me curious so I checked and I still have a profile at DKos that hasn’t seen any action for eight years. One of these days I will post an anti-globalization diary over there just to see what their reaction is.

    2. EmilianoZ

      Nationalist Left –> National Socialist –> ….

      Just kidding. I guess this time there’s no resentment from a previous war, no humiliation to avenge, no Versailles treaty… The circumstances are not as toxic.

      Still, the conflation of nationalist and left sounds weird. Whatever happened to L’Internationale sera le genre humain?

      And what proof do we have that the purpose of immigration is to destroy the welfare state? It sounds like a conspiracy theory unless one can produce a document outlining the strategy written by some powerful guy.

      1. Banger

        Conspiracy theory? Huh? Seems like if I and my peers can find a way to spend less money on labor I’m going to take it given the logic of capitalism certainly you don’t need any conspiracy. But take a look at the results–neither political party in power had any interest in stemming the flow of immigration though they went through elaborate charades in attempting to do so for public consumption. Ask people on the border on how hard they really tried. Stopping illegal immigration would have been very easy had they tried but they didn’t.

        By the way, fyi, conspiracies are normal and occur everywhere and at all periods of history it would be odd if they didn’t happen.

      2. Working Class Nero

        Here is Milton Friedman, a pretty powerful guy, making the point that you can have mass immigration, or you can have a welfare state, but over time you cannot have both. And remember, he is huge supporter of mass immigration and an opponent of the welfare state. Although he doesn’t explicitly advise to use immigration as a strategy to destroy the welfare state; it wouldn’t have taken a whole lot of brain power by his acolytes to come to that conclusion.


        On your comment about conspiracy theories, what is the difference between a strategy and a conspiracy theory? Isn’t the idea of class warfare in and of itself a huge conspiracy theory? They way I would put it is that wealth and capital understand which policies will work in their favor and they strive tirelessly to implement these policies. Labor and the working classes need to do the same.

        Indeed, as you point out, the idea of a Left Nationalist is a little strange since the Left is generally associated with universalism, while the right is traditionally particularist. Neoliberals recognize and exploit this fact by pointing out that their new economic order is transferring wealth from the first world and sending it to the third world. Well, they are not quite that explicit, but they talk about lifting a billion people out of poverty in the third world and into a middle class lifestyle. And if the cost of that is the first world working classes (aka–the aristocracy of labor) have to suffer a bit, then so be it. This is exactly why Left parties are not only struggling to resist, but are instead actually in full cooperation with the Neoliberal globalization program. On the one hand most Left parties have become so bourgeois that hate their native working classes, and on the other they are programmed to love the third world.

        But if there is to be a Left resistance to Neoliberal globalization, it must be nationalist. There is the example of Sinn Fein in Ireland. Also individually some (but certainly not all) of the US labor movement, before it became co-opted by the bourgeoisie in the 70’s could be described as Left Nationalist. Certainly such working class heroes as Cesar Chavez and Samuel Gompers fit the Left Nationalist bill. The key is to work tirelessly for a correct income and wealth distribution within a nation’s borders and to give up the idea that third world labor and first world labor can compete directly with each other. There will always be some level of trade between the first and third world, and in this the first world working classes should use whatever power they have to ensure that only third world nations that allow labor unions and have environmental standards be allowed to trade with the first world. What is now a race towards the bottom needs to become a struggle towards the top.

        So, yes, unless a form of Left Nationalism arises it will be the Right that alone has to take on Neoliberal globalization.

  15. Seamus Padraig

    The problem, in my view, is that their are no anti-EU left-wing parties to speak of in Europe. As the author’s second footnote correctly points out, not even Syriza, which whines and moans about the EU and “the troika” constantly, advocates leaving the EU. Sadly, this is the norm. It’s not just that the (formerly) center-left parties have sold out–that occurred 20 years ago–it’s that even most of the new “far-left” parties just can’t quite bring themselves to kiss Brussels good-bye forever. This is true not only of Syriza, but also of die Linke (Germany) and Front de gauche (France). In fact, the only left-wing parties I know of which are definitely and without doubt opposed to EU membership are the Communist Parties of Greece and Portugal–pretty marginal players.

    All this means that anti-EU voters have no choice in most countries but to vote for a right-wing nationalist party, such as Front National, UKIP, or Jobbik. Years ago, in fact, even before the Euro crash of 2008, they did some academic studies of Front National and determined that nearly half of their voters had once voted routinely for Parti Socialiste. However, as the socialists in France abandoned protectionism and Fordism for open borders and multi-culturalism, many of their target voters felt betrayed. This is all so similar to what to the Democratic Party in the US back in the 60’s and 70’s.

    1. digi_owl

      Best i can tell, the European social left is convinced that the EU project will eventually produce a more egalitarian Europe. As such, they can’t bring themselves to speak up against EU. The economic left however, in the form of unions and similar, do often and loudly. But they do not have a direct political presence any longer as the parties that they used to cooperate with have grown more economically right wing (neoliberal in particular), as the leadership has shifted from being from the workforce and said unions to the universities and career politicians.

  16. Jim

    With the on-going collapse of the Social Democratic Left in portions of Europe and in the United States, the long-run romance with a powerful nation-state as an agency of liberation for the average citizen will also have to be rethought.

    Because of this romance, Left thinking tended to ignore or downplay the increasing concentration of political power within the nation-state structure itself during the 20th century and into the 21st century, culminating in the police-state revelations of the Tice/Binney/Snowden cadre

    The Left in Europe and the United States made a serious mistake in focusing on the last 200 years of history solely in terms of a all-encompassing capitalist system and largely ignoring an increasingly powerful grouping of politicians, bureaucrats and experts/intellectuals who increasingly managed the public sector free of structural or moral constraint.

    It seems quite natural that such a public managerial grouping would ultimately link itself to the Big Capital private managerial grouping and together become collectively even more rich and powerful.

    But since the Left never bothered to develop a theory of the State independent of economic reductionism it was not prepared for this development theoretically or practically.

    I believe what collapsed the New Left in the United States in the 1960s was its inability to articulate a radical new vision. A foundational question may then become whether that inability to articulate a new vision has its origins in our individual inability to disentangle ourselves from the culture around us—including the outmoded culture of the Left.

  17. Throxx Of Vron

    “In fact illegal immigration was a conscious and calculated policy by the corporate sector to lower wages and make working conditions worse for all workers and the fact the left supported that project shows its collective stupidity.”

    -It was not stupidity. What You call ‘the Left’ didn’t believe the ideological rhetorics ( lies ) that it employed to acquire support/political power from the demographic that it was actively deceiving. You are still hesitant to identify these criminal Clovard-Piven opportunists and greedy skimmers as such outright.

    Hillary Clinton and John Kerry are perfect character examples of this in the American Theater of the Socio-Economic War; both practice tax avoidance techniques, gross cronyism, disdain for ‘democratic’ and established legal processes and transparency of government activities; and both are clearly predisposed mongers of conflict despite famous previous statements of MIC opposition.
    The rich Kerry avoids taxation he claims to support. Clinton demands increasing taxation on an over-burdened middle class to fund arming repressive foreign military regimes. These two avoid paying what they would call their ‘fair’ share on the campaign deception trail and appropriate from others to advance Globalist/Foreign agenda and personal wealth aggregation.

    The Obama regime is proliferate with corporate plunderers, globo-feudalist mercenaries, autonomous ideologically fixated bureaucrats, and racist minority ascendency revenge minded hacks. The immigration/outsourcing Deconstruction can only succeed with public debt pyramiding and expropriation of the existing middle class wealth in service to the zealous Bureaucrats and Praetorians that enforce the new hybrid Capitalist/Robespierrean oppression. How much of what is spent on ‘social welfare’ actually received by the American Citizenry as opposed to doled out to foreign nations, illegal ‘immigrants’, entrenched corporate interests, and the insatiable bureaucrats themselves?

    The self-appointed Management Classes -BOTH Corporate and Public- are tag-team stealing all of the productivity and benefit within the system and leaving nothing to the productive.
    BOTH the Corporate and the Public Technocrats are RENTIER Classes; constantly abrogating themselves the ever greater shares of the productivity of other Persons under the guise of engineering distributive efficiencies and enforcing complex codes of coercion and oppression.

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