Εισήγηση από το συνέδριο «Κρίση, Κράτος και Δημοκρατία. Αξιοποιώντας τη θεωρία του Νίκου Πουλαντζά για την αντιμετώπιση του αυταρχικού καπιταλισμού». Πάντειο Πανεπιστήμιο, 12-13 Δεκεμβρίου 2014
Martin A. Konecny (CEO, Brussels)
Possibilities for a European Class-Alliance from below
The following input discusses the possibilities for a Class-Alliance from below to challenge the current European crisis policies and develop a new project for Europe.
The economic crisis is articulated unevenly among the eurozone in economic as well as in political and ideological terms.
In particular in the Eurozone periphery (Greece, Spain, Portugal) the economic crisis was articulated with a political and ideological crisis that deeply affects the state itself. The power block is confronted with strong popular mobilizations, an open rebellion of the lower ranks of state personal, a weak government coalition, the emergence of new bourgeoisie political parties and at the same time a strong and open fascist threat.
Implementation of “authoritarian competitiveness-statism” (Oberndorfer):
In the periphery, the profoundness of the crisis was answered by the establishment of the Troika, which provides a specific set-up of internationalized state apparatuses (European Commission, ECB, IMF) to guard the implementation of austerity policies from popular pressures. Just as the authoritarian statism Poulantzas described in the late 1970ies, todays form is also marked by the fact that it is articulated with the political crisis. Therefore it can’t be seen as a simple strengthening of the state but as a tendency with two poles the “strengthening-weakening of the state”1
At the same time the establishment of the European Economic Governance (Six Pack, Fiscal Compact, Two Pact, Competitiveness Pact) “can be seen as the establishment institutional structure serving to prevent a rise in popular struggles and the dangers which that holds for class hegemony.”2 The Troika and the Economic Governance are two sides of the same coin.
The structure of the European Union and in particular the development since the crises therefore present only limited structural possibilities for subaltern forces to intervene.
Perspectives for a European Class-Alliance from below
While the capitalist class, and in particular those factions that are part of the current power block, are transnational in nature, the same can’t be said for the subaltern classes, neither the working class nor the traditional or new petty bourgeoisie. It is of great importance here to understand that classes are not only constituted by economic relations but also by political and ideological relations.3 While it is possible for capital to be present in more than one nation state and exploit the regulatory differences, the same doesn’t apply for subjects of the subaltern classes. With very few exceptions, a worker is either subject to the politically established regulatory framework of, for example, Germany or France. The popular classes are therefore constituted mainly on the terrain of competing nation states within the broader framework of the European Union. In combination with the strong break between the center and the periphery in the Eurozone, this prevents effectively the formation of a stable class-alliance form below on the European level.
Furthermore, the European arena provides only limited access for popular forces to organize a hegemonic-project aiming at a break with neoliberal integration. The European Trade Union Conference (ETUC) is coopted by the “social dialogue” discourse and internally split mainly along the lines of center and periphery. The European Left has some organizational capacities but has only limited power in the European parliament and no influence whatsoever within the Council which is still one of the dominant state apparatuses within the European Union.
Transnational mobilizations and forums such as Blockupy, Alter Summit or Agora 99 are fruitful examples of transnational solidarity. They are of great importance because of the strategic exchange that is done their but lack the ability to establish a lasting challenge to the neoliberal power block. Their value lies also in the fact that they symbolize a transnational political subject from below.
Finally, in my point of view, there are no direct possibilities for “real breaks”4 within the European Union as a specific form of statehood. If we want to win, we first have to win on the national level. The emergence of left parties with a perspective to government (SYRIZA, Podemos) is encouraging in this respect. Leftist governments in one or two peripheral European nation states would bring the contradictions neoliberal capitalism has created directly back into the European power centers. A leftist government on the national level could serve as a “centre of resistance” on the European level5. Just as the German government represents not only the interest of the German bourgeoisie in European politics but serves as an agent of different capitalist class factions, a leftist government could have the same function.6 It could provide subaltern forces from more than one European country with a material basis to formulate an alternative policy on the European level and force a “real break” with the current crisis policies. At the same time if one country breaks with the imposed austerity policies the same appears to be possible in other countries.
This of course would only be a start as the different elements of such a transnational alliance would not automatically converge into a common project. Overcoming nationally constituted class interests between different factions and stratas of the popular classes is not something left parties and left governments can do alone.
1 Nicos Poulantzas (1978/2000): State Power Socialism, p. 205
2 ibid. p. 210
3 cf. Nicos Poulantzas (1975/1979): Classes in Contemporary Capitalism, p. 16
4 Nicos Poulantzas (1978/2000): State Power Socialism, p. 258
6 cf. Ulrich Brand and Markus Wissen developed the concept of “condensation of second order”. Nation states on the international or European level do not only represent the condensation of the social forces within the nation state concerned, but these interests are altered by other social forces on the international/European level as well. Ulrich Brand/ Christoph Görg/ Markus Wissen (2007): Verdichtung zweiter Ordnung. Die Internationalisierung des Staates aus einer neo-poulantzistischen Perspektive; in: Prokla 147. Zeitschrift für kritische Sozialwissenschaft, 2/2007, S. 217-234