On Europe, an answer to Mr François Hollande, president of the French Republic, by Pierre-Yves Dambrine

An English translation of Sur l’Europe, en réponse à Monsieur François Hollande, président de la République, par Pierre-Yves Dambrine by Johan Leestemaker

Invited commentary, in response of a tribune de François Hollande published today May 8 in the daily newspaper Le Monde, Paris, France.

Mr. President,

I have carefully read your speech on Europe, published today in the newspaper Le Monde, in the perspective of the very near European elections. I hold no doubt that you are a European by conviction. As many of us still are, because, as you remind us, the Union was a great and beautiful idea, and remains so. Undeniably she has been a factor of peace and has contributed to the economic rise that followed upon the Second World War. However you forget that for a great deal this peace has been also the result of the balance of terror, as Europe owes a part of its security to the American nuclear shield. Certainly, the peace could be maintained based on specific positive grounds, but also somehow by imperfection.

Thereafter you mention the large market (that was the material translation of the principles stated in the Treaty of Rome) being at the roots of the European construction, while the other treaties never failed to refer to the framework defined by the terms of the first one. This time you left out the fact that prosperity would not have what is has been without the social laws that protected citizens in their respective countries, and thereby guaranteed a solvent demand without which industries and services would have had the greatest trouble to supply, and thus to produce. In other words, as far as this aspect is concerned, the European contribution has been quite weak. The only policies of redistribution have been sectoral or regional. Thus they envisaged to compensate certain unbalances, for example regarding the communal policy on agriculture. The inequalities of income have not been resolved by the introduction of new citizens’ rights laid down in a constitution. This means that on the level of social rights, the citizen could only benefit from corrective policies on a case by case basis, depending on short-term economic decisions, simply correcting inequalities induced by the power-relationships built-in in the logic itself of a European construction that favors the reward of capital and thereby its concentration. In the agricultural sector alone, the farmer and the breeder weigh little against their bankers and the agro-business, except for the large agricultural conglomerates which fit into the commercial (and productivity boosting) logic promoted by Brussels, at the risk of neglecting the basic craft which is feeding the population, if possible with good products.

You then state your reason for being anxious. You point out the turning inwards of nations, the danger of nationalism. That might be so, but is this the only stumbling stone in the European construction of our days? Allow me to doubt it. I think that you make an error in your analysis and that you fail having a global vision, that is to say forward-looking, that would allow you to deliver another storyline, much more mobilizing. Basically and in the conceptualization of reality, your error of analysis consists of reasoning within a regional context, even when the only political and economic arena that makes sense in your eye, and I quote you, is the continent. For you, the world and the planet that we live on are not the real presuppositions of any policy that would be worth that name. Instead of this you talk in vague terms about globalization, which is a euphemism specifying and justifying a fundamentally economic tendency in name of which every country, each citizen is seen henceforth in competition with the rest of the world. That way competitiveness is justified, that other barbarianism which means that the worker, the employee, and even simply the man or the woman who by their activity deliver their contribution to society, is placed under the categorical imperative of the reward of capital. However, wasn’t it you who exclaimed in Le Bourget that your enemy was finance? Now you want to assure us that, at least in the framework of the European Union, the problem has been fixed, or has almost been. But you cannot let believe anybody, besides badly informed persons and those who are keen to defend their privileges that feasible and sustainable solutions have been brought about, because nothing of this is the case. Don’t you see then the multitude of earthlings sharing a same fate, that of the human species, a species to which partial solutions such as you advocate with your continental approach, seem ludicrous, as they exclude humanity as one and indivisible? You regret the commercial war, but unfortunately you don’t say anything and you don’t do anything to enlighten your fellow-citizens. This is particularly urgent as far as the Transatlantic Treaty is concerned that is negotiated in top secrecy on the level of European authorities. If nothing is done to prevent it, this treaty will hand over the Member-States of the Union, bound hand and foot, to the disputes that multinationals won’t fail to set up in the name of a purely commercial legality. And it is not by referring to the cultural exception and to information technology that you will prevent a global set-back. What about those industries and services that are no part of the framework of the sectors that you distinguish, as if the remainder – in which many between us live – would not deserve to be deducted from the negative impacts of this misplaced treaty? So, don’t tell us that the Union will protect us against the rest of the world, because instead the logic of competition will be strengthened. Between brackets, this contradicts your preference for a continental approach. Because, if I stick to its geography, Europe, and even more the Union, stretches, according to the very formula of general De Gaulle, from the Atlantic (the shores of Bretagne) to the Ural and does not equate with a bilateral treaty between the Union and the United States of America. Anyway, to ratify the confrontation of the blocks as you do, is too much, or not enough, in other words it is a stop-gap measure.

Mr. President, your intentions are not wicked, I grant you that, but they seem to me badly rooted. And if you would take a step back, if you would let go your eminent advisors to their beloved study rooms, if you would take a little bit of your time to listen, to read, at last, those of your fellow-citizens – from all over the world – who propose real alternatives? The Union, Yes!, but for another project, because there is a danger lurking in the wings, yet greater than nationalism, and that is the blindness of a large part of social-democratic elites, on being a member of which  you still pride yourself, not able to reconsider the very foundations on which the Union was built, that is those foundations which make the economy of competition the pedestal of every policy, in which any regulation will only come later on, while its effectiveness is more and more subject to suspicion. The withdrawal that should be the object of all of your worries is that one, the social and democratic withdrawal that nourishes the withdrawal of identity. No, neither the investors, nor the entrepreneurs are the ones who create all affluence in the world. Besides the employees, without whom no solvent demand exists, human beings as a whole constitute society, creating a framework, by their activities of solidarity and cooperation (social security, education, infrastructures), in which the first two categories, the investors and the entrepreneurs, might prosper. In other words, the terms in which you present the problems to your fellow-citizens should be turned around.

It’s not too late yet, but time is definitely running out.


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