Their austerity programmes have eroded the power and identity of Europe’s communities. Political life must prevail once again
There is one thing most European philosophers agree upon today: the difficulty a member country would have trying to leave the European Union. This is probably why thinkers as different as Jürgen Habermas, Chantal Mouffe, and Slavoj Žižek have recently encouraged internal transformations instead: Habermas calls for a democratisation of the European Council, Mouffe for a debureaucratisation of its political environment and Žižek for a socialisation of its banks.
While we agree with our colleagues’ suggestions, we cannot help wondering whether these are not other ways to emphasise how Europe has become framed within the union. The logic behind our thesis is not that countries cannot leave the EU, but that doing so would create more harm than staying.
Various intellectuals, including Naomi Klein, Paul Krugman and Tariq Ali, have rightly expressed concern over the subordination of society to technological measures. The idea that unelected technocrats can solve or reform political, economical and social matters sits at the origin of both the EU’s current austerity measures and its cultural crisis.
Even though the EU was created to avoid new wars within the continent and promote social integration, it has never questioned its political horizon. This is why legal scholars are repeatedly reminding us that until our constitution is ratified, the EU will continue to lack the political debate that must be at the centre of any mature democracy. These debates have been substituted by technical and bureaucratic agreements in order to allow the EU to function correctly during the economic crisis. But if the EU has now reached a new record of unpopularity – as a recent study by the Pew Research Institute demonstrated – it is because of this general neutering of politics, which allows technocrats to prevail over politicians and indifference over democracy.
The technicians have not remained neutral, however, but have chosen sides, as the many neoliberal infrastructure projects and economic measures imposed upon member states demonstrate. In Italy the government is being asked to progress the construction of a high-speed railway line (TAV) linking Turin and Lyon, regardless of its environmental impact and popular opposition. Meanwhile in Spain, Mariano Rajoy has now begun to privatise a number of hospitals and health centres, blocking hundreds of thousands of people from access to medical treatments.
These two measures are an indication not only of the EU’s indifference when it comes to political decisions but also its persisting interest in framing Europe only financially and physically. According to a recent study by the Transnational Institute these (and many other) measures are meant to privatise public infrastructures and services as a condition for loans. We don’t think these measures should be opposed solely because of the devastating effects they had on developing countries in the 1980s and 90s (when the International Monetary Fund and World Bank called the shots), but also because of the cultural implications. The economic domination of the European Central Bank over these past 10 years has affected us at a financial level, but also culturally. In order to promote competition and become more effective, we have also had to become less human.
The cultural problem of Europe does not lie in the education of its citizens but in their social sensibility, which is being undermined by the privatisation of public infrastructures and social services. When 120 million Europeans are at risk of poverty and social insecurity is rising, it is difficult for people to join solidarity groups – their own condition is being threatened. In this state, humanitarian aid is also being re-evaluated by many Europeans, undermining their necessity to relate to others.
However, this does not imply that there is no alternative; quite the contrary, a profound resistance to the EU has not only been discussed but also practised throughout the region, and these same measures have given birth to powerful protest and resistance movements. The No TAV movement in Italy, and the “white tide” movement in defence of public heathcare in Spain, have become spaces for solidarity among concerned citizens. These citizens, composed of all ages, are not simply united in a common goal, but also in becoming a voice the EU must begin to listen to.
Although their governments have begun to take violent measures against these movements – such as the recent reform of the Spanish penal code against unauthorised protest or the militarisation of the Susa Valley where the TAV is supposed to cross – we must support and join these protesters.
These resistances are not meant to cut our ties with the EU, but to weaken them – that is, to create greater democratic participation in vital social matters. This is why the European elections next May are going to be important.
Communism, Lenin once said, was “Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country”; Europe today is “electrification without Soviets”. The communities of Europe have technological programmes, but are without power. This power can be restored only when political life prevails once again over the technocrats. This does not mean we ought to vote automatically for Eurosceptic right or leftwing parties, but rather for the ones who request a profound social change in EU policy.
Link to article: feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663908/s/35220899/sc/25/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Ccommentisfree0C20A130Cdec0C230Ctechnocrats0Evoted0Eout0Eeuropean0Eelections0Eausterity/story01.htm