The Euro-Establishment’s Fear of Populism

French protesters are furious with EU champion Emmanuel Macron while Rome battles Brussels over its budget. Amid all this, Andrew Spannaus discusses why organized labor isn’t seizing the moment. 

Yellow Vests, Italian Budget
Battles & Silent Labor Unions

By Andrew Spannaus
in Milan
Special to Consortium News

From the European Union’s standpoint, the historic levels of social unrest confronting French President Emmanuel Macron, one of its leading champions, came at a delicate moment in its dealings with Italy.

Since mid-September, the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, has been battling with Italy over its budget. The populist government in Rome—led by the Five-Star Movement, orM5S, and the League—have decided to stimulate the economy by giving money to the poor, lowering taxes and increasing public investment.

With an assist from financial markets that are penalizing Italian government bonds, the Commission has been threatening an “excessive deficit procedure” if Italy doesn’t reduce spending and resume measures to balance its budget. In theory this austerity policy will make the country more stable and efficient. But the last 10 years have demonstrated that cutting the budget and raising taxes have depressed economic activity, with the effect of making people poorer. Italy’s new political leaders are determined to show they can break through the resistance to public stimulus of the economy.

Protesters in Paris flee tear gas, Dec. 8, 2018.  ( O.Ortelpa on Flickr )

The French Yellow Vest protests came just in time to alleviate some of the pressure on the Italians, allowing the M5S and League leaders to point out the hypocrisy of letting France run a budget deficit of over 3 percent while pushing Italy to go below 1.5 percent. “If the deficit/GDP rules apply to Italy, I expect they should apply to Macron as well,” Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Dec. 11, Reuters reports.

The response from pro-austerity factions within Italy and the European Commission is that Italy has a larger public debt and benefits from less market confidence.

EU Tries to Hold Line

Nonetheless, the European Commission showed a bit of flexibility this week, provisionally accepting a budget deficit of slightly over 2 percent. The Italians also ceded ground by reducing investments and the funds allocated to their signature projects to alleviate poverty and help pensioners. Thus the European Commission is still fighting to defend its line of budget orthodoxy, lest the floodgates open to uncontrollable rebellion.

Where are the unions?

In France, union membership is very low, but the unions there still have considerable power in collective bargaining and have demonstrated the ability to paralyze the country, at times more so than in Italy, where membership is much higher.  France’s unions, however, do not seem to be identifying in any major way with the discontent, although there have been some sightings. The reports that “France’s biggest union coalition, the General Confederation of Workers, called for a day of general mobilization on December 14, and in some regions, like Ile-de-France, this garnered support from other unions and federations.” 

But given the EU’s embrace of austerity policies and “labor flexibility”— meaning the ability to fire people more easily and keep wages low—organized labor isn’t taking the central position against the effects of globalization that might be expected. Unions have been mostly absent from the spontaneous protests in France and the rising populist movements in Italy and elsewhere around Europe.

Protecting Institutions

The dilemma for some unions is that while they aim to defend workers by battling wage and benefit cuts that are justified by the need to compete on global markets they fear feeding populist movements that might challenge the legitimacy of European institutions and the politicians who back them.

Protesters at the Champs-Elysee in Paris, Nov. 24, 2018. (Wikimedia)

An example of this contradiction comes from Italian labor leader Susanna Camusso, head of the Italian General Confederation of Labour, or CGIL, the country’s largest union, dating to 1906.

In an interview with foreign journalists in Milan on Nov. 19, Camusso focused on unstable working conditions that force workers to accept multiple short-term contracts that offer no job security. She also raised some broad demographic inequities; between young and old, men and women, and different geographic areas.

But when asked if organized labor was wrong to have supported the EU economic policies from the start—by not opposing the budget rules at the root of current demands for spending cuts—Camusso denied any culpability. “We are pro-European and continue to be convinced supporters of Europe,” she said. “Our country made sacrifices affecting workers, but joining the monetary union and the Euro was the right choice. Not only because we are a founding country, but because Europe has meant peace for many years.”

This is the type of argument that voters across the continent are increasingly rejecting; the notion that calling for a fundamental change in EU policies automatically means a return to the wars of past centuries.

Free-Market Europe

It is indisputable that cooperation has helped bring European nations together since the end of World War II, yet it is also clear that the neoliberal policies introduced in the 1990s, starting with massive budget cuts and the opening of numerous sectors to speculative capital through privatization and liberalization, changed the nature of Europe, cementing the power of the “free market,” pro-globalization consensus that has produced negative effects for so many.

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Camusso, who is also a candidate for secretary general of the World Federation of Trade Unions, does not shy away from criticizing the difficulties created by such policies. She attacks austerity policies that reduce pensions, cut funds for health care and erode public infrastructure. Yet by refusing to admit the neoliberal foundations of EU policies starting at least 25 years ago—policies based on monetary parameters, rather than the health of productive activities in the real economy—she ties the unions’ hands in fighting for more decisive change.

While organized labor restrains itself, both right- and left-wing populists take the helm on EU on economic issues, many claiming they are not anti-European as such, but merely determined to stop the austerity policies that have done so much harm to the population.

This was seen in the French presidential elections in 2017, when both Marine Le Pen, on the Right, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, on the Left, called for renegotiating the EU treaties to abandon the notion of “free trade” that has harmed the productive economy.

In the 2016 U.S. elections, a partisan shift in votes from union households was a critical factor in President Donald Trump’s victory in key battleground states such as Ohio and Michigan.

The underlying issues driving the populist revolt are economic and financial globalization and their effects on people’s living standards. Shying away from criticizing the neoliberal policies ingrained in Western institutions is merely a recipe for further unrest, with potentially dangerous consequences. 

When Macron came from seemingly nowhere to defeat Le Pen in the May 2017 run-off, he became the youngest president in French history. He was hailed as the savior of the European Union, a centrist who succeeded in beating back the populists. As such, he came to symbolize the idea that the EU defends peace and democracy against the racists and xenophobes. But the spontaneous insurgency of the anti-establishment Yellow Vest movement suggests the real threats to social stability are the sheer hardships—and loss of living standards—suffered by large numbers of people.

Andrew Spannaus is a journalist and strategic analyst based in Milan. He was elected chairman of the Milan Foreign Press Association in March 2018. He has published the books “Perché vince Trump” (“Why Trump is Winning” – June 2016) and “La rivolta degli elettori” (“The Revolt of the Voters” – July 2017).

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54 comments for “The Euro-Establishment’s Fear of Populism

  1. Casimir Ioulianov
    December 27, 2018 at 10:01

    It’s not a left nor a right thing in France. All have lied , all are traitors to common good and willing-full subjects of the oligarchy. Politician are subjects of the cast, when they are not members of it. We didn’t choose the people we are voting for ; how can it be called “democratic” if you can only choose witch king will rob your labor fruit for the only benefit of the 0.1% the next five years? Where did Macron come from ? ENA , Cours des Comptes , Rotschild Bank , Comission Attali … he IS one of them.
    See the latest presidential election in France : the between the two round debate has resume itself to a vast masquerade with LePen refuting her only winning argument from the first round campaign : “we’ll be leaving the EU”. At the same time , all of other political formations , unions , press where appealing to vote FOR Macron against LePen with argument like : “Bouhouhou , fear Most LePen ; she is from a racist far right , it will bring back Nazi at power , they want to drown all the french from former colonies in the Seine and kill all the jews ” and all those kind of bullshit.
    The only guy saying “meh whatever , do as you want” , was labelled a traitor , ostracized cause he didn’t call to vote or “Jupiter”… (More the time pass , more he resemble Oedipus to me : a child who killed his father and rape his mother…ykwim.)

    Why don’t we trust the unions ? Unions have sold our social rights against a leisure trip to Bahamas : just F… them. If the only thing they are able to do is delaying the end of labor right a few month , they don’t even bother interest.

    So , who are the Gillets Jaunes (GJ), and what do they what ? Why are the oligarchy fear them so mutch ? The GJ are common people , employees , workers , sellers , craftsmans , boss of small buisness , nurses , cook , unemployed youth , underpaid retired (mostly women) that have took the “reforms” from the first year of Macron’s ruling in the nuts : and god damned it hurts.
    They want only three things ; stop helping the richer not paying their fair share and letting us and our children pay their bills : make them pay. Stop saying you can’t change anything in this world because of … whatever pretext you can find : The EU , the debt , world economy , price of oil , climate change. If all those are some problems SOLVE THEM , that’s why you are payd for dumbass ! And the last point but for me the most important is democratie … we want to be able to vote on some subjects we have to, whe want to be able to organise some pool like Swiss or Californian : do we want Palm-oil in our Christmas chocolates ? Do we want to stay in the Euro ? Do we want to tax Diesel ? Do we still want a give the atomic weapon key to a five year toddler who fear a deserved spanking ?

    For now, all that was consed was a delay to some of the retired for paying a new tax , and a tiny salary rise for part of those at minimum wages paid by… taxpayers. Continue like that Macron : You’ll soom be called Mister 1% , not for the 1% of occupied WallStreet , for your approval rating. Holland was called Mr 4%, can he do it ? Will Oedipus “kill the father” ?

  2. Paora
    December 23, 2018 at 06:49

    The success of any Left-populist movement in the West may depend on its relationship to the unions. While street mobilisations like the ‘Yellow Vests’ are a essential starting point, the next phase of the movement will stand or fall on its ability to create popular institutions that can contend for political and economic power. Whether these institutions are built from scratch or constructed from ‘ready-to-hand’ materials depends on the conditions prevailing in the country/region in question.

    In western Europe, the unions are the wreckage of a mighty working class movement that contended for power in the 20th century. Although this movement was unsuccessful and was ultimately smashed in the ’80s & ’90s, the unions constitute both the echo of independent working class power and the remains of the institutional compromise they gained in the post war era in the form of the labour laws and regulations that Macron and others are so desperate to ‘reform’. Their more or less democratic setup leaves them open to capture by a mass movement in the ascendant, although this is by no means an easy task. The non-neoliberal Left has been trying to do just this for the last 30 years with little success, although the ideological flexibility of a Left-populist movement may prove decisive in finding a broader appeal.

    in Europe, finding a new consensus on the EU and migration will be the most difficult. The ruling class has been very adapt at substituting its Globalised vision for the Internationalism of the old Left, leading to no end of ideological confusion. According to Marx, what separates the socialist/communist perspective from all others is that it always advocates for the interests of the working class as a whole. So support for the EU and increased migration both into and within the EU is a no brainer right?

    The current union leadership may actually believe that in taking the side of the Euro-bourgeoisie against ‘populism’ they are honoring this tradition. But by acting as accomplices to the abduction of migration and all other economic policies beyond the reach of democratic intervention, they are perceived as giving the middle finger to the working class who seek to reestablish some measure of control over their own lives. There is of course nothing inherently racist or reactionary about this desire. In fact, if we make our own lives, but not under conditions of our own choosing, establishing democratic control of these conditions is arguably the goal of all emancipatory politics. It is desiring control for yourself while denying it to others that is racist and reactionary, a la the Empire nostalgics of UKIP.

    Today we are a long way from challenging the powers-that-be in the way that the socialist movements of the 19th & 20th centuries did. But rebuilding the unions as an agent of popular power would be a great start.

      December 24, 2018 at 08:12

      Any power in the hands of the workers was never a possibility; capitalism works in mysterious ways. Workers will always pay for the mistakes of their masters. Hence the wipeout of British industry lost or sold en masse. What can done to save the middle classes even if they do not realize their future in jeopardy with an economic depression on the cards. Politicians applying distractions to curb mass dissatisfaction; BREXIT an act of national suicide. Worker representation as practiced in Germany could never happen in Britain. Perhaps most people have very low expectations. The French are not like that. What about Americans? Step forward Edward Snowden.

      • Reg
        December 25, 2018 at 18:33

        And has workers representation in Germany been of any use at all as unions colluded in the creation of a two tier workforce and wage suppression facilitated by reunification and the accession of Eastern Europe into the EU and casualisation via mini-jobs? Wage suppression that occurred since the labour reforms of Schroeder where wage rises lagged productivity increases to make imports competitive also helped by a artificially weak currency built on the backs of the countries it has crushed in the EU periphery as Germany exports deflation to balance its trade surplus.

        Act of national suicide, tell that to the economies of Greece and Italy that have still to recover to pre crisis levels of GDP.
        The UK may be following the same policies of wage repression, but is not hampered by the euro, and is only hampered by the preset government the quislings in the plp and the single market in the EU as free movement of capital increases instability and EU state aid rules prohibit an activist industrial and investment strategy by a incoming left wing government.

        What happened to the left, or those who pretend to be waxing lyrical about the benefits of free markets?
        I thought that was the job of neo-liberals and neocons on the right?

    • Trigger Warning
      December 26, 2018 at 21:14

      Rebuilding unions as a prelude to global socialism?

      Sorry, but we’re living in a post-industrial age — those manufacturing jobs are gone; replaced by robots or cheap overseas labor. Today’s unions tend to be pro-establishment, public sector entities; the rank and file middle-class liberals. Middle mangers for the 1%, if you will.

  3. December 23, 2018 at 03:15

    Presently the US dominates not only all the individual Europe nation states but the entire world. Why would anyone want to allow this continue ? A united Europe ensures Europe achieves a sovereign status and not merely a collection of vassal states of the US. There is no “Euro Establishment” yet ,only a US one who dominate the entire European continent. (Except Russia). Stange, how the universal workers slogan “United we stand divide we fall” is totally ignored by the anti EU conspiracy theorists who aim to undermine European solidarity and reduce Europes collective potentially formidable power.

    • Josep
      December 26, 2018 at 21:54

      only a US one who dominate the entire European continent. (Except Russia)

      What about Belarus and Moldova?

  4. Winston
    December 22, 2018 at 17:56

    That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

    December 22, 2018 at 10:25

    Living in France one faces many contradictions like Britain. France seems very different with a strong sense of family life at the heart of the society. French identity remains strong but confidence ebbing in changing times. The French more alert will protest if their leaders pull the wool over their eyes. Inequality rampant everywhere poisoning the atmosphere. The decline of Europe may happen depending if the US goes off the rails with Trump isolationist policy. As always; it will be Germany that decides if European unity worth preserving.

    • December 29, 2018 at 17:41

      Yes, I do agree with you Waldron, but unfortunately I can see no leadership potential in Germany, to take on the task.
      With Amerikas power declining in breathtaking speed, as practically two governments wearing each other down in Diadochen fights, – Europe has not produced any noteworthy leadership personnel for many years. All of them are colourless Vasall’s, and since Trump at a loss and inclined to abide to their old allegiance of the old transatlantic elites.
      Merkel, most of all – and now the timid election of Annegret Kramp- Karrenbauer signals a fearful “no changes” attitude.
      The only consensus the Europeans are still capable of, is the deamonizing of Russia and the sanctions, which are against their interest and only in Americas interest (if that)
      So, with that setting, Europe seems doomed to disintegrate – or even worse, – serve as a battleground for a clash of Nato against Russia.

      • Waldron
        December 30, 2018 at 03:25

        Germany may be forced to take the reins of the European stagecoach; the occupants Britain and France descending into chaos. Each country struggling with grumbling citizens never told the truth that we live in a new world dominated by US and China. The EU the guilty party according to isolationist Britain; a binding force but seen as a level of bureaucracy. As mentioned by ALFED KATH the constant anti-Russian dialogue used as an ugly tool to provide a distraction from the crumbling faith in the British political system operated by a seasoned politician who clings on to power like Thatcher banging her handbag of tricks.

        Britain wishes to quit the EU and avoid paying the divorce bill of 40 billion euros. Never mind that the British car industry will relocate to the mainland. Germany will realize Europe must change direction. Poor US leadership on a journey to nowhere fast; bankruptcy up to its ears in all kinds of debt; impossible to unwind. The US phoney war engaged in Cold Wars against China and Russia in reality a fools game. Noteworthy the US seems powerless to control Israel in its military escapades (Syria) in what remains of old Palestine surrounded by walls; a subject forbidden in the West? Defaulting never works.

  6. Silly Me
    December 22, 2018 at 07:39

    Freeloaders want free handouts at the expense of those who create the wealth. However, swindling with insider traders and cumulative computer programs makes the crooks rich and nobody wants to pay workers or build infrastructure anymore, because that’s a whole lot less lucrative. Still, the masses who want free handouts do not wake up, but play to the hands of those who want to”create order out of chaos,” making them inseparable from those who are productive.

    Know your enemy or, at least, recognize him before starting a battle…

    • joe
      December 22, 2018 at 10:20

      you are silly

    • Tom Kath
      December 23, 2018 at 00:16

      If I understand your comment correctly, I agree that the real problem is that the bottom 99% shares exactly the same predatory policy as the top 1%. The 99 only wish they were one of the 1%.
      A complete redefining of values is required. “Money” must come to be genuinely despised – as it once was!

      • Silly Me
        December 23, 2018 at 07:05

        The 99%, completely disempowered, doesn’t have a choice, but it’s successfully divided and it’s contituencies serve the NWO’s agenda.

  7. Paolo
    December 22, 2018 at 06:01

    When it comes to deficit spending Europe correctly explains that France doesn’t have to the debt we Italians have.

    When instead it comes to financing European policies, Italy is among the supposedly rich countries and pay about like the French or the Germans.

    Isn’t there something wrong in all this?

  8. Tom Kath
    December 21, 2018 at 20:35

    We must not parrot common phrases – “Push for Change”, “Anti Establishment” ? I contend that the revolt is a natural reaction to TOO MUCH CHANGE, too fast, too often. The “Establishment” is actually not as established as it might imagine or wish.
    People tend to measure their current circumstances (standard of living) relative to past or remembered circumstances. In large part they want to UNDO change.

    • bevin
      December 23, 2018 at 20:02

      You are right. This has been the case for centuries. One of the reasons why the ‘left’ is so often ineffective is that it accepts the changes which capitalism imposes upon society as being not only inevitable but, appearances notwithstanding, beneficial.
      This has been historically one of the problems with ‘Marxism’, the argument that capitalism is progressive and that it is to be welcomed. It is an argument that Marx came to reject when he realised that some of the most influential of his followers were siding with capitalists, and private property, against peasants and communal ownership.
      It is one of the weaknesses of the current ‘left’ that it is obsessed with such matters as gender and lifestyle while massive cuts in living standards and draconian restrictions on rights to strike and the culling of the legal rights of individuals pass without comment.
      At the heart of imperialism and capitalist society is the idea that the powerful, the rich, the successful, the ‘well educated’, the representatives of advanced societies understand not only their own interests but those of society as a whole. And that they can be trusted to act in the general interest . By the same token these self appointed elites have a deep seated fear of the masses, derived from their sense that, if the people ruled, elite privileges would be curtailed.
      This mixture of arrogant entitlement and fear of the people is what prevents the Social Democrats and Unions from descending from their privileged positions as brokers between the ruling class and the people: they have spent the past five decades defusing the explosive consequences of attacks in living standards and shocking inequality in society. They explained away two tier contracts and job insecurity, pension plundering, privatisation, increasingly regressive taxation
      and expensive, racist warmongering adventures-all they said were inevitable, impossible to dispute. Now they realise that they have more to fear from the masses who they have systematically betrayed than the ruling class for whom they have been acting. Unsurprisingly they protect the status quo in which change, in the form of the constant degradation of workers lives, is constant.While the people look back on the days when they had real power on the shop floor, living standards rose steadily, working conditions improved regularly, jobs were secure, and easy to keep, hours of work were shrinking, vacations improving, overtime well paid, as, if not a golden age, at least a better time.
      For this they are called reactionaries. And so they are: in the face of continual attacks on their dignity and lives they react by demanding a return to days when the future promised improvement not permanently accelerated exploitation.

  9. mrtmbrnmn
    December 21, 2018 at 20:20

    With the creation of the EU(nuch) and the Euro, cannibal capitalism has sold us the rope with which to hang them. And the reason to do it. What are we waiting for?

  10. December 21, 2018 at 17:48

    Is it too much to hope this uprising will spread to America and the rest of Europe?

    France isn’t Falling… It is Rising!

    • Anne Jaclard
      December 22, 2018 at 18:32

      This brings us back to Brexit, of course. Identity politics-obsessed liberals have made Brexit appear like an exclusively reactionary project when in reality it is objectively the left-wing economic position regarding the EU – and this includes France! The EU rules are purely political and neoliberal, with France under liberal NATO servant Macron allowed to break the rules while Italy is forced to back down even if they come near that limit. They are totally arbitrary and exist to punish governments outside the centrist consensus. France Insoumise and Die Linke must prioritise leaving this crazy arrangement. As for Jeremy Corbin, good on him for recognising reality and not allowing his brain to be pickled by PC intersectionality whining about leaving a coal and steel cartel. We need a United SOCIALIST Europe that replaces the EU entirely. Only sovereign governments can stand up to the transnational corporations and the BusinessEurope trade group (a supporter of total intergration by 2030!)

      • Anne Jaclard
        December 23, 2018 at 03:23

        The liberal centre has been ripping into Corbyn over his continued backing of Brexit and have successfully gaslighted much of the left into accepting it. This is sickening and infuriating. The Labour Party ran on a pro-Brexit platform (87% of voters chose pro-Brexit parties!) and yet this is being spun as a “betrayal.” Brexit has been turned into a cultural issue which is ridiculous and utterly mad given that it’s about a glorified trade cartel. The EU is NOT friendly to refugees or worker’s rights! The RussiaGate nonsense is wheeled out with the liberals hating on Seumas Milne and JK Rowling billionaire has gotten involved.

        • Anne Jaclard
          December 23, 2018 at 03:24

          The EU was founded by and for Christian Democrats and Liberals (all anti-communist and no social democrats!) in the 1950s, backed by the CIA. It continues to be at heart a TRADE ORGANISATION. I guess when Trump pulls out of the WTO, the liberals will fashion it as woke? This cult around the EU flag and the symbols of European unity are sickening and are not left wing at all! This is a case of socially liberal international students and London marketing and finance professionals dictating class politics in the way that Silicon Valley Atari Democrats do in the USA. These are the jobs at risk from Brexit, it won’t matter to a worker clearly if they live in the EU or not (hundreds have died outside homeless this winter!) The EU puts on a green face while allowing pipelines with Turkey and Israel and calling for the TTIP to boost fracking…allowed in the UK by Tories and Fib Dems. And Moria continues to fill with helpless and desperate people locked in detention camps by the EU in an alliance with Erdogan. The Remainers icon Tony Blair’s own Think Tank calls for restrictions on poor people fleeing war or economic hardship (refugees) to appease the right wing but no restrictions on students or high value professionals…this is the “Brahmin left,” no concern at all for the people who the left wing exists to protect- poor people, refugees, desperate and homeless. The EU is anti-humanism! Nobody is willing to say any of this on the media outside of George Galloway, that’s it, even he doesn’t go far enough. It’s all a mass hysteria, metropolitan elite marketing consultants pulling the wool over people’s eyes.

          • Anne Jaclard
            December 24, 2018 at 02:22

            This is getting ridiculous! Clive Lewis and other normally Cornynite MPs are saying Brexit is a “cultural issue” above all else…they’re pushing upper class identity politics while attaching George Galloway. How anyone could look at the EU and see a place welcoming to refugees and migrants is beyond me, Fortress Europe was opposed in the Respect Party’s 2005 platform and elsewhere even before that. Fortunately at least until now this media barrage of elite propaganda has failed and support for the Liberal Democrats has fallen to lower than 2015! But these idiots have their hands on the windpipe of public discourse and are spreading lies that will hurt poor people and disenfranchised.

        • Maxwell Quest
          December 23, 2018 at 20:03

          Anne, I’ve very much enjoyed all your comments, and commiserate with you on how “sickening and infuriating” it is to see your fellow citizens “gaslighted” on not only Brexit, but many others issues as well. (Certainly, anything that could affect the status quo.) It says much about the level of power western media is still capable of wielding.

          This brought to mind recent statements from an independent Ecuadorian journalist, who joined the #Unity4J Vigil of 12/21/2018 under the name Jose Riveria because he needed to remain anonymous. When the moderator and other panelists were inquiring as to how certain stories and events were playing in Ecuador, and whether these were “penetrating down to Ecuadorian citizens as a whole”, Jose replied:

          “Here nothing, zero report on that. As usual, you know, no reports on all the unconstitutional things that Lenín Morena has been doing. No, nothing. I’m the only one who knows that, and I made a translation and I tweeted about it today. But there were no responses.”

          And Jose’s response to a Ray McGovern question:

          “Yes, that would be a good idea, but you see, the problem is that the media here, all the media is blocking all our issues. Nothing of our issues is presented in the media, whether TV or newsprint. It’s a complete blockade.”

          Then a bit later Jose added:

          “The whole media belongs to the elite, because a poor person cannot have a newspaper, or a TV channel. Only a millionaire can have that. So all these millionaires, the elites, they are all close to the United States, because they have businesses there and investments in the US. So they follow the line of the United States. So it is not in their interests to have democracy the way it is supposed to be. But, you know, they keep the people of Ecuador misinformed in order to keep their interests on top of everybody else.”

          • Anne Jaclard
            December 26, 2018 at 13:20

            Thank you! Moreno’s switch to the neoliberal right in office has been disturbing to see. It only takes one generation of fake left leaders to wipe out all social gains. I suppose those who condemn Maduro in Venezuela should look at the alternative.

    • Alfred Kath
      December 29, 2018 at 17:59

      France isn’t falling …. It is rising!

      Yes, I have that notion too. The winning of the soccer world cup is a hint in that direction.
      Germany won it in 1990 – after the feat of peaceful reunification.

  11. Maxwell Quest
    December 21, 2018 at 17:43

    Some people say that the system is broken; it all depends on your perspective. For those few at the top of the pyramid, especially those that have seen their asset values multiply over the past ten years thanks to CB bank-saving policies, the system is working perfectly fine, and they don’t understand what all the fuss is about. The 99.9%, however, have seen their salaries stagnate, costs skyrocket, taxes increase, children overdose, jobs disappear, communities decay, cultures adulterated, and a host of other ills.

    What is populism at its root, but the “will of the people”? Heaven forbid the unwashed and ignorant masses have any say in les affaires d’état! No, just keep fighting our endless wars, and turning a blind eye to all our lies, thievery, hypocrisy, and injustice. God speed, Les Gilets Jaunes!

    As for “free trade”(another Orwellian term to hoodwink the masses), it has always been about access to cheap labor to maximize corporate profits. Cue the roof jumpers in China, who choose death rather than another day on the oppressive Foxconn assembly line . As much as I detest needless suffering, maybe it’s time for major stockholders to start jumping from rooftops again?

    • Seamus Padraig
      December 22, 2018 at 19:12

      I approve of this message!

    • Chucky LeRoi
      December 23, 2018 at 15:42

      “Heaven forbid the unwashed and ignorant masses have any say….”.

      Macron telling a group of reporters his “…thoughts are too complex for you to understand…” was an early indication of where this was going.

      Then just recently, in the midst – or would that be ‘mist’ – of the Yellow Vest actions, some pundit/politician on French TV said (and I paraphrase) “… we have been too intelligent for the people…”

      He could have advised them to eat cake.

    • Chucky LeRoi
      December 23, 2018 at 20:29


  12. Rick Patel
    December 21, 2018 at 17:01

    What “organized labor”?

  13. Unfettered Fire
    December 21, 2018 at 16:47

    The world is demanding an end to the TINA Regime! The neoliberal path of destruction has been in OT since the massive admission of failed policy in the 2008 financial crash. Market fundamentalists had to finally admit that:

    Global banks are global in health and national in death. ~ Mervyn King

    The 40+yr. libertarian war on the nation-state has only proven that government’s role in the economy IS important, that nationalism is vital to the industrial economy, which can only be maintained through a strong fiscal policy.

    This is even more evident by the financial disaster of the EU, where nations have forfeited control of their own currencies and destinies.

    “We’ve got the right to print our own money, that’s the key. Greece lost the power to print their money. If they could print drachmas they’d have other problems, but they would not have a debt problem. And seventeen countries in Europe gave up the right to print their own money. That’s enormously important. And we’ve got the right to print our own money, so our credit is good.” ~ Warren Buffett

    Creditors have dishonorably taken control and used the financial system to become the de facto rulers of today by ignoring fiscal policy for public purpose, thereby manufacturing the massive unmentioned private debt that is the real drag on the economy.

    Chris Hedges and Michael Hudson talk about his book, Forgive Them Their Debts

    “But if you don’t have a government that can fund itself, then who is going to govern, and on whose terms? The obvious answer is, the class with the money: Wall Street and the corporate sector. They clamor for a balanced budget, saying,

    “We don’t want the government to fund public infrastructure. We want it to be privatized in a way that will generate profits for the new owners, along with interest for the bondholders and the banks that fund it; and also, management fees. Most of all, the privatized enterprises should generate capital gains for the stockholders as they jack up prices for hitherto public services.

    You can see how to demoralize a country if you can stop the government from spending money into the economy. That will cause austerity, lower living standards and really put the class war in business.” ~ Michael Hudson

    “The idea that something is wrong with the way economics is taught is no longer controversial: Professional economists, professors, and students agree that change is overdue.”

    MMT offers a clear solution:

    • Silly Me
      December 22, 2018 at 07:32

      Print our own money? So, according to Buffet, the Fed is now “we.”

      • michael
        December 26, 2018 at 13:38

        Great point. By having a private company (the Federal Reserve) controlling America’s money supply, they (and banks, their “customers”) not only control the economy, but also create government debt by crazily loaning the government’s own money to the government and letting compound interest (usury) do the rest. Ellen Hodgson Brown gives a great explanation of the British banking system (the Rothschild’s system) which America adopted in the early 1900s when the robber barons diversified into banking/ financials. The American banking system was the envy of the world until then.

  14. Mark Thomason
    December 21, 2018 at 16:43

    It is NATO far more than the EU that provides a structure preventing wars between its members.

    The EU does not hurt peace, but it does not actually create it either, nor make war impossible. NATO makes it impractical.

    Nobody has suggested any of these nations pull out of NATO.

    • David G
      December 22, 2018 at 00:45

      Why do you think impoverished Greece has the second highest military spending by percentage of GDP in NATO, behind only the U.S.? To fight off the Russians?

      Just this week, after Turkish F-16s entered Greek airspace (according to Greece), here’s the Greek defense minister: “If they make the slightest move, we will crush them.”

      Added the chief of the Hellenic General Staff: “If the Turks land on a rocky islet, we will raze it to the ground.”

      The Turkish chief of the general staff, in reply, said Turkey will not allow “any fait accompli in the Aegean and the Mediterranean.” There is no way that Turkey will back down “from the rights of our country and our people.”

      Belgium and the Netherlands aren’t going to restart the Eighty Years’ War if NATO goes away; and peace between Turkey and Greece will (or won’t) be kept on their own terms, not NATO’s.

      NATO is an instrument of U.S. control, not regional or global peace.

    • December 23, 2018 at 03:31

      NATO is a US dominated institution that actual could result in the total destruction of Europe by the constant aggression show towards Russia . The British establishment have since the days of the ultimate appeaser Winston Churchill, promoted a policy of rather than working cooperatively building a powerful European state the British establishment have focussed on dividing Europe whilst being totally subservient to the US. Much to the joy of their US master. The British establishment even claiming to have a ‘special relationship” with the US. A relationship so “special” that only the British knows it exits!!Britain is just another irrelevant vassal state on its own.

    • bevin
      December 23, 2018 at 20:07

      They should all pull out of NATO which, far from maintaining peace is actually involved in directing Europeans into one imperialist war after another. And appears to be chomping at the bit to lead Ukraine’s fascist regime into a war with Russia.

      • WALDRON
        December 24, 2018 at 10:17

        PUTIN warning we are gradually approaching an all-out nuclear war than people realize; somehow I do not think he is exaggerating while the masses sleep-walk to their final destination. Ukraine and Poland confronting Russia taking us in that direction as if we approve by remaining silent. Europe caught in the middle of a new Cold War. WW1 WW2 WW3 as pre-determined by bankers? First step: TRUMP revoking intermediate nukes treaty with Russia; all bets off?

    • December 29, 2018 at 18:12

      I strongly disagree. – What about Kosovo – Jugoslawia? Ukraine?

      Nato may be the chain, tying the EU to the USA. But whether that is a blessing remains to be seen. I have grave doubts.

  15. KiwiAntz
    December 21, 2018 at 15:31

    The blowback against Neoliberalism & it’s elite rulers has begun with the yellow vest movement? Hopefully, this movement against Globalism & the destruction of peoples standard of living by Bureaucrats whose policies give austerity & financial hardship to working people whilst enriching this Elite class at the expense of the poor, will spread around the World? Neoliberalism is Corporate Socialism for the Rich but disaster Capitalism for the poor & middle class working people & needs to be eradicated like the cancer it is? When Political Leaders & Bureaucrat’s break the Social Contract with the people, who voted them in & who didn’t vote for these race to the bottom, free market policies, then rebellion & resistance must occur to remove these Leaders from power? Viva La Yellow Vests!

  16. Drew Hunkins
    December 21, 2018 at 15:24

    By the way, can someone please explain to me how and why CN’s comment section is so fouled up?!

  17. TomG
    December 21, 2018 at 15:21

    Mr. Spannaus sums up union leadership well when he states, “…they fear feeding populist movements that might challenge the legitimacy of European institutions and the politicians who back them.” Just as union leadership here endorsed HRC long before the primary season had come to a close and well before they had real feedback from their members. It’s all so cozy for those who see themselves as the neoliberal enlightened.

  18. December 21, 2018 at 15:00

    There’s absolutely nothing morally or ethically wrong with some nationalist economic populism that puts forth a robust critique of George Soros and globalism. Neoliberal apologists and Wall Street connected neo-cons are trying to subvert and control left-progressive vocabulary and I’m not about to let that happen!

    Now, having written the above provocative comment, it’s crucial that any nation-state built on some hardcore economic nationalism, must vehemently uphold civil liberties, due process and equal protection for each and every citizen. The militarist-imperialist impulse must also be totally subdued, since after all, it’s largely due to the war machine’s tentacles reaching across the globe subverting Third World nations that struggling Western nations get the beleaguered and desperate refugees heading for any semblance of a relatively peaceful land.

    • December 23, 2018 at 03:40

      The 19 century concept of the nation state has been the cancer of Europe with constant wars and restricted trade. United Europe will stand divided it will fall. Time to move beyond individual European nation states and weld a truely sovereign super state. Sure the US hegemon wouldn’t like it . But its the only way forward as individual nation states are too weak in comparison to the US or China

      • bevin
        December 23, 2018 at 20:11

        In fact the wars to which you seem to refer were wars involving transnational Empires rather than nation states of the sort that Mazzini favoured.
        It was imperialism not nationalism that led to both First sand Second World Wars.

      • Skip Scott
        January 1, 2019 at 09:32

        The bigger the power structure, the worse the corruption, and the less the citizenry is represented. I think the answer for peace and prosperity is the dissolution of empire. Small is beautiful. A United Nations with real power to check any aggressor and settle disputes would be an important piece of the puzzle. Your path forward is one that leads to neo-feudalism.

  19. Martin - Swedish citizen
    December 21, 2018 at 14:07

    Thank you!
    Analyses of populism and the situation of many people in the EU and their/our fears is very much needed. Since many of the problems seem to have arisen becauae of EU policies, it is logical to address them like Andrew Spannaus does (and so well, imo) at the EU level.
    The felt passiveness or inablility to deal with the problems on the part of the labour parties and unions may be a big reason behind the success of populism in the EU.

  20. Jeff Harrison
    December 21, 2018 at 13:34

    These so-called neo-liberal policies which are really Republican policies first failed when Herbert Hoover tried to implement them in the Great Depression. Their effectiveness hasn’t gotten any better over the decades. The only difference is that there is still some semblance of a social safety net put in place by FDR.

  21. Michael Kenny
    December 21, 2018 at 11:35

    I always say that Americans are instinctively libertarian but we Europeans are instinctively socialist. We still believe in the old feudal relationship: the subject is loyal to his sovereign and, in return, the sovereign takes care of his subjects. Neo-liberalism, as we call it in Europe, was an American imposition rammed down the throat of a reluctant Europe in the 1980s simply because the US dominated the world economy. The whole logic of the EU is regionalist, not globalist: a large internal market protected from the outside world by a high tariff wall. The whole logic of Brexit is a rejection of that regionalism in favour of US-dominated globalism. As Donald Trump, himself, ironically, a product of that very neo-liberalism, slowly but surely destroys American power and discredits the American world view, one can expect to see Europe, including, no doubt, Britain, returning to our, for us normal and logical, socialism or perhaps more correctly, a neo-feudalism for the 21st century. It’s also worth noting in passing that like so many American anti-EU authors recently, Mr Spannaus isn’t predicting the usual imminent and inevitable end of the EU. Although he formulates his article to make it sound like the EU is in difficulty, he is in fact saying that things are going pretty well! The Italian budget problem has been resolved, the dispute with Poland over the judiciary has been resolved, the refugee problem seems to be under control, the Brexiteers are making total fools of themselves, the gilets jaunes movement is winding down, the far-right parties seem to be losing ground , with the young swinging to the left, and they’re even demonstrating in the streets of Budapest against Viktor Orban! Trump’s blundering, compounded by Putin’s blundering, is turning the EU into the only game in town!

  22. mike k
    December 21, 2018 at 10:49

    As world capitalism undergoes it’s inevitable collapse, people will focus on all sorts of minor problems, while ignoring the huge elephant expiring in their living room. Capitalism, along with ecological disaster, population overshoot, and nuclear Armageddon – is a problem whose name must not be spoken, it’s just too scary and unmanageable to think about. Dying with our heads in the sand just seems preferable to many, rather than facing our desperate real problems.

    • Silly Me
      December 22, 2018 at 07:44

      You see, people prefer to ignore their problems, if they don’t have the power to solve them…

  23. Sally Snyder
    December 21, 2018 at 10:31

    While a shift in partisan voters played a role in Trump’s election, here is an article that looks at which Americans are really controlling Washington:

    Donald Trump is no more in control of Washington than Barack Obama or George W Bush because America’s agenda is being driven by a handful of voters.

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