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WATCH: Costas Lapavitsas Discusses the EU

Labour Leave

Costas Lapavitsas, former member of the Syriza government, is a professor of economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Since August of 2015 he has been a member of the Popular Unity party in Greece. His latest book, The Left Case against the EU, was published in 2018. You can read Frank Lee’s review here.

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Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin

“…this is a thoroughly neoliberal juggernaut, that’s what it is, and in an embedded way – it’s not as if it’s a political choice, which could be changed tomorrow – this has become institutional reality and has become institutional practice…”

Foreigner professor chappie chooses wrong word: for “become” read “always was” and add “always will be.”

Stafford Beer showed the (near) impossibility of changing an established system from within. The EU’s political fol-de-rol has always been only a cosmetic concession to dampen the noise of the crowd.

But his arguments are valid and his point that the the ECJ inteprets the four pillars of the constitution as individual rights has been central to spreading the misconception that inspires the widespread, uncritical enthusiasm for a totally fictitious “free and democratic” union. However, as in law courts everywhere, justice in the ECJ is only an inconvenience that must be tolerated by those whose job is to administer the law. When the law runs out of persuasion, when ignoring the tenets of justice begins to fail, the councils of state will issue clarifying proclamations at the drop of a hat.

The EU was born in fascism, now euphemized as neoliberalism, and no number of little people waving its voting papers will deflect it from that path.

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin

My apologies for the redundancy of most of my first post.

I was so amazed to see someone putting cogent points for a left wing rejection of the basis of the EU before watching it to the end, then continuing to raise other points he had already addressed.

That leaves only one semantic point of difference to address: I think it is more useful to use the word “globalization” for what the prof calls “capitalist internationalism” because it and left wing “internationalism” are so radically different that the descriptors need also to sound and be written differently.

As a minor edit-button aside, the first “his” in my third paragraph under the transcipt should be clarified to “the prof’s” (or perhaps some identifier more respectful of academia {which, in general, I’m not}).

Thomas
Thomas

Thank you, Off Guardian, for keeping it real. It’s quite shocking to see how many who used to be on the left now supports EU, because of eeeeh…facism. And ehm…European values. Well… EU has become what everyone feared or worse, but still these former leftists queue up to praise EU. Counterpunch now exclusively posts pro-remain and shockingly Euro-chauvinist articles only. I can’t stand the new fake left.

MICHAEL LEIGH
MICHAEL LEIGH

While, Professor Costa Lapavitsas is to be admired for his geniune beleif in the practicibility. of the place of socialism being a alternative form of community social management, and his own actual understanding that it is achievable ?

But he fails to underline that his potential for real democratic socialism, is impossible in a monarchy like the United Kingdoms, or. even similarly to the majority of the very many of ” the monarchial style government’s ” established around the world – without a global bloody revolution?

Francis Lee
Francis Lee

And there ladies and gentlemen we have the TINA (There Is No Alternative) argument – an argument which serves as justification for the continuation of the present status quo. It is not particularly original and has customarily been the fall-back position of the armchair conservatives ever since Edmund Burke wrote ‘Reflections on the Revolution in France’. Yes, we know that human perfectibility is unattainable and any attempts to make a perfect world are doomed. Man is tainted with original sin, the world is a terrible place, the road to hell is paved with good intentions … yada yada yada, yes we know this. But in fact no-one is trying to make the world perfect, its just that some of us think that we could make a better world.

Broadly speaking this petrified conservatism is a viewpoint which is espoused by those with some investment in the world as we find it, or conversely, by others for whom it offers a monastic option of resignation and withdrawal from worldly affairs echoing the religious ethic of ‘my kingdom is not of this world’ variety. Or again by those who think that they – i.e., those of an aristocratic anti-democratic leaning – think that they are so superior and above the common herd that they, and they alone, hold the franchise for what is possible, correct and wise.

Thomas Paine for one contested this view. In a retort to Burke he argued that:

”Monarchy … is the popery of government. A thing kept up to amuse the ignorant and quiet them into taxes …

Mr Burke … has taken up a contemptible opinion of mankind, who in their turn have taken up a contemptible opinion of him. He considers them as a herd of beings that must be governed by fraud, effigy and show; and an idol would be as good a figure of monarchy with him as a man.” (The Rights of Man)

mark
mark

It’s easy to become quite angry about the anti democratic nature of Remain, casually dismissing the Referendum result and adopting the standard elitist Brussels contempt for ordinary people, traducing them as ill educated bigoted racists, or worse.

But this is probably a trap that has to be avoided. Most Remainers are ordinary people as well, our own people, but you have to take into account the decades of self serving EU establishment propaganda. You see this a lot with people in northern Europe, particularly Germans. The EU is smugly touted as a force for good, that has guaranteed peace and social progress, protected workers’ rights and human rights and so on. Germans in particular tend to parrot this line, like of course many of our people. People from southern and eastern Europe, who have experienced the dark side of the EU at first hand, tend to have a more realistic view of the EU in general, and the Euro in particular.

It’s unfortunate that things have become so divisive and polarised. There is a danger this could become permanent. I have tried to put a few simple questions to Remainers to open their minds.

What do you think of the Euro? Do you think we should have joined that? The City, Big Business, Bank of England, the MSM, most of the political Establishment, were pushing strongly for that at one stage. Told us if we didn’t join the economy would collapse, and Britain would become a Third World backwater. The same people who casually tell us we can expect however many million unemployed is currently the favourite figure in the immediate future. And how every family is going to be £5,000/ 10,000/ 20.000/ whatever a year worse off. It seems you can just choose whatever figure suits you, like the global warming “experts” plucking their figures out of the air.

What do you think of the austerity policies imposed throughout the EU, particularly countries like Greece? Are you happy with the way colonial governors were imposed by Brussels over the heads of elected governments on Greece, Italy, Spain, and those governments just sidelined and ignored? Are you happy with the way Ireland was ordered by Brussels to privatise water, though almost everybody was opposed to it? Are you better off than you were 10 years ago, or worse? Do you think these policies are designed to benefit you or Big Business and powerful vested interests?

Do you know who your MEP is? Have you ever heard of him/ her? Have you ever seen anything written by him in your local newspaper? Would you know how to contact him?

Where do you think the EU is going in the future? They say they want an EU army, and movement towards an EU superstate, with centralised budgets and taxation. Are you okay with that? Greece and Spain have around 50% youth unemployment. When is the EU going to work its “magic” for them? The economies of Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the Baltic States have simply died. Others, like France, are stagnant with zero growth. Even in Germany, the vast majority of people are no better off than they were 10 years ago. Can you see any kind of bright future for the organisation? Or is it just going to collapse under its own weight? Will it exist in any recognisable form in a few years’ time?

I’ve never had convincing answers to any of these questions. Remainers tend to wander off at this stage into platitudes about how the EU has supposedly prevented wars, and how it promotes friendship between peoples, and how everybody is the best of mates now as a result.

But they are still our people, and we should treat them all with the respect they sometimes fail to show us. Nobody has a monopoly or a patent on wisdom.

crank
crank

I like ths.
In general, asking questions is probably the best thing we can do right now. Abandon hopes of persuasion, or even educating others, but try to bring people back to dialogue.
This propaganda effect of closing dialogue is almost as bad as the substantive political objectives, maybe it’s even worse in the final reckoning.
I am surrounded in my offline life by Remainers and Remoaners, and there is often an unspoken assumption that everyone in the room is on the same page. It’s hard not to get riled.
The military union thing is often what I try to bring up, but it is so far off their radar that I (once again) imagine myself sounding like the sterotypical ‘crank’.
Good questions I would say.

TheThinker
TheThinker

I agree with you both. In order to keep a semblance of free speech, I go to the adage “I will defend your right to your opinion’ regardless of where we might sit on opposite sides of that. Civil debate and discussion, not scream and label if your opinion differs.

I too am surrounded by those with differing opinions to my own. My question was always, do you know the EU has five Presidents, do you know their names and there are over 10k people in the EU institutions that earn more than Prime Ministers and they only pay 11% in taxes, how is that fair when abject poverty, unemployment & inequality is rife.

Who needs rubber stampers in back room making themselves relevant writing 3000 regulations on bowls and lightbulbs?

And have you read actually read the EU manifesto, Lisbon, agreements etc – when I point out calmly, I have read them all and this has enabled my choices – I get back, but they don’t have any baring on UK decisions, the UK Parliament is at fault, not the EU.

The final thing I try, is Ross Kemp’s extreme World Series, where Ross visits Naples in Italy, he is openly shocked by the extreme poverty, organised crime and lack of opportunity to aspire (I know crime families is a bit of a historic thing in Italy) but the change there has been significant and he openly states, this is happening on the EU’s watch.

DunGroanin
DunGroanin

Yes but but .. the single market? The customs union? The free movement?

It is going to be a pain in the arse having to fill in arrival and departure slips on the ferry again. Having to stop at every passport control when driving to the Med. Declaring all purchases and being restticted in how much booze and baccy I can bring back.

The EU ain’t perfect – it is as some wise man said – 7 out of 10 good!

That was why it was worth staying, also it does progress under righteous leadership. Once the aristo/bankers are dislodged.

There was severe interference to get the 17 millions to decide to jump ship. Austerity for 8 years was the slowly heating pan that boiled these frogs.

Sure we must respect the vote knowing it was based on lies and skullduggery BUT we must retain the baby as we throw the bath water.

Nobody voted for the WTO hard brexit into a new Fart Age.

mark
mark

I don’t find those arguments all that convincing myself, DG. It never particularly bothered me when I stopped at Belgian Customs pre Schengen. Nor did using francs, guilders, marks, Belgian francs, pesetas. It was just part of the slightly exotic nature of being abroad, like the Belgians putting mayonnaise on their chips and the open display of prostitution.

I would rate things slightly differently. Europe 9 out of 10 good, EU 1 out of 10. Some people confuse the two.

The chances of change and positive reform appear to me to be non existent. In the 1970s there did seem to be some positive social aspects, employment rights, worker participation and so on. But these things are long gone, ancient history. The response of the EU elite to the revolts from below has been to double down and go for broke with centralised fiscal and taxation policies and an EU army. There may even be certain benefits to this – we needn’t spend £7 billion plus to repair and renovate Westminster. We could just bulldoze the place and turn it into a multi storey car park.

The EU exists to serve corporatist and globalist interests, and that isn’t going to change. I found it significant that when Cameron went cap in hand to Brussels prior to the Referendum trying to negotiate a few token changes to promote Remain, they couldn’t be bothered even to go through the motions and just sent him away with a flea in his ear. And that has since been reinforced by the frankly contemptible treatment of Greece, Italy, Portugal and Ireland. Other people may see it differently, but if I had to describe the EU in a few words it would be arrogant, corrupt, remote, incompetent, undemocratic, anti democratic, incompetent and bureaucratic.

The old EU of the 6 western countries may have made some kind of sense. The undemocratic monstrosity of 28, trying to expand NATO style into North Africa, the Middle East, the Ukraine and Turkey, and maybe eventually Outer Mongolia, does not.

The Referendum asked people to choose to Leave or Remain, and they made their choice. After the event, this distinction between “Hard Brexit” and “Soft Brexit” was invented, and the need to avoid “crashing out”, and “falling off a cliff.” Hard Brexit is synonymous with Leave, Soft Brexit with Remain. It is transparently obvious that the people who invented this distinction, the political establishment, MSM, City, Deep State, corporatist and globalist interests, want either a Brexit without the Exit or an outright Remain without even the pretence of leaving.

People are more sophisticated and worldly than they are sometimes given credit for. We have had all the fantasies about Russian bots and Putin’s machinations, but I don’t think anybody takes this nonsense seriously. Politicians habitually indulge in distortions and hyperbole at best, and often much worse, and people know this. Whether it’s an arguably misleading figure for EU contribution payments or the apocalyptic warnings of a Leave vote amounting to the end of western civilisation. People listened to the arguments and made up their minds, and were reviled for doing so.

But if these arguments aren’t convincing to you and you are convinced of the merits of the EU, I wish you well. I don’t think you will be proven right, but who knows? I used to believe that we lived in a democracy that was a generally force for good in the world and served the interests of most of its people. How wrong is that?

DunGroanin
DunGroanin

Travelling around Europe is not the same as the nostalgic Grand Tours undertaken by the monied classes of yore.

Nor is it the same as the package tourists sardined on to the costas for a couple weeks of red-coatish summer holidays, to keep them cheerfully decieved that they are having a budget GT.

Nor is it the same as when the boys went on the blackstuff across the pond.

It is about Europeans moving backwards and forwards across the continent making a living. My friend was over from Sweden fir the weekend having been offered a job there, he works with a multinational group, and companies spread across the world, he doesn’t speak a word of Swedish, because of the freedom of movement.

Tell me that is wrong.

Where another of my friends was taking live crabs over to Normandy and coming back with Cheeses and Ciders to sell locally , because of the single market and customs union.

Tell me that is wrong.

The Euro has succeeded despite the efforts to kill it from outside and by internal traitorous efforts of some politicians (currently spearheaded by Macron – as well as the perfidious Brits who tried to topple it from the inside by insisting on the central and Easter Europeans being fast tracked into the EU – kicking off the ‘Romanians are coming! Destroy the EU’ train.

The petro$ is threatened with a loss of confidence. More oil (and other commodities) producing countries are happy to price and receive payment in € rather than $ or indeed £. The greater threat to the Euro$…

Tell me that doesn’t scare the bejesus out of the Fed.

Every country in the EU that has adopted the Euro has settled into it. From what were considered agro economies like Ireland to what were considered industrial giants. The main losers should have been FX traders – with fewer pairs to arbitrage with – though they seem to have made up for it by the use of the € as a reserve level currency.

Finally, on the currency question, it is a red-herring, EU membership does not mean having to adopt the Euro.

Tell me it is.

It is great having a currency that is easily recognised across the world down to the smallest street retailers in Asia! Btw the USA had multiple currencies too until the greenback took over!

mark
mark

I think most people will be surprised to learn the euro has been such a rip roaring success.

DunGroanin
DunGroanin

Yup – gaslighting of the Euro has been a major project – that most people have readily believed.

Nils
Nils

I don’t buy into this one Europe idea, where we are all one big, happy European family. The EU is really about to turn Europe into another United States. I miss a time, mostly before my time really, where you could travel around Europe and experience different ways of life, mentalities, small things like an exotic currency. Of course this is not totally gone, and I don’t blame EU alone for this, but this idea of us all being Europeans is strange to me, particularly when we think about the colonial traditions in this continent. A weak Europe is a good thing in many ways. With sovereign nation states.

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin

“– it is as some wise man said –”

Some wise men put so much effort into reconciliation that their confrontational muscles visibly atrophy.

DunGroanin
DunGroanin

Yeah just like Mandela or Gandhi?

Nils
Nils

Yes, true, we have to remember most people don’t read alternative left-wing media. If you read The Guardian and believe their view of the world, of course EU seems fantastic. And the Germans with their history WANT to believe in EU. They want to believe it’s a peace organization. You can’t really blame them. What I don’t like is the aggression and arrogance you find among many Remainers. I used to live in London around the referendum, after a while I stopped discussing with people. Just in a polite way saying something like “but the EU has turned a bit neo-liberal” would get aggressive responses. The problem is the radica tradition in the West is a good as gone now. The left has become liberals. How to debate these issues without becoming a pariah or burning youself out or become a total cynic is a huge topic.

BigB
BigB

Well that is as clear as a bell: utilising and ratifying all the tensions I have been stressing – depoliticisation; increasing democratic deficit; de-sovereigntisation – except one …EU Military Unification (Defence Union). Which affects the analysis of one of the last questions “Where do you see the EU in ten years time?” …clinging on to power with bloodied and broken fingernails – using every last LP40 ‘Flashball’ baton round President Mogherini has left.

So, excellent analysis, in calm measured academic tones: but perhaps too measured? When one figures in the Tiger III attack helicopters and MALE RPAS Eurodrones in development as part of PESCO; the CSDP expansionism into the G5 Sahel; the Franco-German ‘Grand Coalition’ under the Aachen Treaty; the return of German imperialism and militarised foreign interventionism in Mali; the mooted expansionism through the Balkans into Central Asia; EU/NATO interoperability, Military Schengen, and Drang nacht Osten Baltic occupation and neo-nazification – including the Ukraine; …a very different vision of where the EU neoliberal elite see themselves going. They are not planning on ceding power to anyone. The Lisbon Treaty is indeed a “Military Frankenstein” …and indeed we are witnessing an expansionist openly Fascist EU Empire rising.

There are other issues. One being the de facto seat at the top table for the Franco/German plenipotentiary at the permanent council of the UNSC. Another is the issue of nuclear weapons – French and UK’s – and what part they play in this. We have bi-lateral treaties with the French: who are tied into a grand coalition with Germany. Given our ceding of sovereignty: no one can say for certain where the responsibility lies. Which implies tacit American approval. It appears we have a nuclear armed Military Frankenstein.

There are geopolitical ramifications. The proposed deployment to the G5 Sahel just happens to be into that central African belt where Chinese FDI has been pouring over the last decade or so. Just above the belt where Russia has been quietly creating a “corridor of influence” [Korybko]. With AFRICOM operating out of Stutgaart for over a decade: it appears as though a new scramble for Africa is well and truly on.

And central Asia is already part of the Eurasian integration of the EEU/BRI ‘supercontinent’. So the EU’s expansionist grand strategy is in conflict with the Sino-Russian grand strategy in two theaters of operation. It is not looking as though the EU is planning on going gently into that good night. More like it is going to rage, rage, against the dying of its light.

So why is the Left still framing the Brexit debate around jobs, workers rights, environmental protections, progressive reforms? In the light of Lapavitsas’ analysis: is there something they do not want us to know? A common argument against the plebiscite – in which I and 17.2mn others voted for the wrong outcome – is that the situation has changed. Absolutely, the EU has become openly Fascistic, imperial, and autarchical. But this is kept outside the Overton Window. I wonder why?

TheThinker
TheThinker

Well, that was an interview worth watching, food for thought and glad Off G gave this Gentleman a platform, he said what I was thinking and I feel better for being Liberal leaning with lines in the sand.

Francis Lee
Francis Lee

A tour de force. A genuine leftist takes the whole Remainer claptrap apart. Share it.