It is one of the most surprising things of our times, how quickly groups, society and even established political parties radically change their mind on many key issues. For example, until a couple of years ago it would have made perfect sense for a left wing party to oppose the European Union on the grounds that the EU as an institution embodied and reflected the power of big capital and large corporations rather than the interests of the diverse European people. In the UK, for example, there was talk of a LEXIT, a left wing version of Brexit. Even Jeremy Corbyn, though he did not commit to the issue, seemed to have some degree of appreciation for the idea. Now, however, all across Europe, not just in the UK, traditionally socialist parties have wholeheartedly and unconditionally embraced the idea of a united and indivisible Europe in the name of international solidarity apparently. The EU may have many great flaws, they admit, but the idea of European home is still sacred: reform is what the EU needs, not undermining its cohesion.
Yet the idea of simply reforming the EU is pure fantasy. The EU is based on a treaty that can only be changed with the consent of every member state. If a single country disagrees with the reform then it has a veto power: so how are these socialists going to bring about reform? The status quo has been quite beneficial for German exports and for German power. Does the German state therefore have a desire to change course? Then how to change when there is no real institutional democracy within the EU? Another issue is the European Central Bank, which is independent of the European Commission, and that is problematic from a socialist perspective.
Then there are competing interests. Brussels is a hub for corporate lobbying that by far exceeds civil society in terms of money thrown into the EU. Where therefore can socialists feel confident that they can dominate or determine change above other groups? The Frankfurt school believed in a change of culture that would transform society and institutions to make them more equal and juster, failed to take into consideration that business too was able to organise and influence power. After all we live in a capitalist state, where capital is power, it gives cumulative advantage in terms of influence. This became apparent in the 70’s with the Kaleckian strikes, when big business refused to invest in the economy.
If anyone on the left feels that business is not in an even stronger position due to the precariousness of the Euro then they are beyond delusional. The left has traditionally complained and complains about the weak unions, about transnational corporations, about labour arbitrage, wage stagnation and growing inequality, but then leftists fail to join the dots. The solution is to bind themselves to neoliberalism apparently. What’s funny is that during the Brexit campaign many leftists even started to talk like capitalists saying that leaving the EU would be bad for business and similar things. They started saying we would be dragged back to the 70’s and started citing every neoliberal tenet that Brexit would break. One is left wondering just how socialist and pro working people today’s leftists actually are. The EU is of course a powerful utopian ideal, but ideals should not shatter the interests of real people. For all the talk of European fraternity, Greek and French workers have enjoyed very little solidarity from enlightened liberal leftist cosmopolitans.