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The European conservatives are organising while the progressives fight among themselves

I read an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) yesterday (January 16, 2022) – Ich hoffe auf Deutschland – which made me laugh really. Comedy in absurdity. It also told me that the forces in Europe are firmly against any major progressive change. I considered this issue last week in this blog post – German threats of exit rely on the ignorance of others reinforced by Europhile progressives (January 11, 2022). I know progressives thought that the invocation of the Stability and Growth Pact escape clause in 2020 as the pandemic took hold might have been a sign that things were changing in Europe after years of austerity bias. But as the days pass, more evidence mounts that there is a status quo that is being managed and it won’t be long before we see the familiar claims about excessive deficits and debt. The latest input comes from Austria’s new Finance Minister, Magnus Brunner who was reported in the FAZ article as saying that he rejects a debt union outright and hopes to win over the new German government to ensure they hold the fort. With the new German finance minister also of a similar if not more extreme persuasion about sound finance, I do not think he will have much trouble convincing the German. He also signalled that he wants to use a coalition – the “Staaten der Verantwortung“ (States of Responsibility) to maintain discipline in the Eurozone. The short period of fiscal flexibility is coming to an end. Meanwhile, with the French Presidential election approaching, the Left is fighting among itself for peanuts. The old guard is not about to fall yet.

The conservative austerians are organising

The new Austrian Finance minister said that as opposed to the previous statements by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to have an open cheque to deal with the pandemic, the new government will be more frugal in its fiscal approach.

It plans to withdraw aid in March 2022 as it expects the crisis to be abating by then.

He indicated that while several critics of the previous government pointed to wasteful spending, there was an understanding that the government aid had to be quickly dispensed and so some waste was to be expected.

He said in response to hardline anti-government moralists that:

Aber wir sollten die Kirche im Dorf lassen

(We should leave the church in the village!)

This reflected his preference for providing corporate support to save companies from insolvencies.

But now was the time to pay for the support.

He noted that the OECD in its latest Economic Outlook was starting to bear down on public debt levels – so nothing much has changed from organisation.

Austria debt is around 82 per cent of GDP, which is above the SGP threshold level of 60 per cent.

The new government (ÖVP – Austrian People’s Party) reflects a conservative liberal-leanding Christian (Roman Catholic) ideology and has been in power for years in one coalition or another. Since 1945 it was been in opposition from 1970 to 1986 but in government otherwise.

It reflects the hard-right anti immigration and Islam thinking that many of these conservative parties in Europe propagate.

Its economic mantra is ‘balanced budgets’ and Brunner indicated the government was committed to restoring that state in the medium-term, once the pandemic eases.

He reaffirmed Austria’s commitment to the SGP and was critical of discussions at present at the European level which were focusing on relaxing fiscal rules, were “Manche Diskussion auf europäischer Ebene geht für mich in eine vollkommen falsche Richtung” (going in the wrong direction).

This was a direct shot at the so-called Paris-Rome connection.

Rather than relax the rules, Brunner claimed that:

Wir müssen zurückkehren, zu den strengen Regeln einer nachhaltigen Budgetpolitik.

(We must return to the strict fiscal rules of sustainable budgets).

There was no mention of reducing unemployment. His focus is on fiscal numbers.

He claimed that the nations that have dealt with the crisis the best (Germany and Austria) are those which enforce these strict rules.

He clearly senses that the Paris-Rome nexus is becoming influential and so the frugal nations have to lobby together.

That is why he “hopes that Germany” will demonstrate fiscal leadership – along the lines of the CSU/CDU government under Angela Merkel and join with Austria in opposing any relaxation of the fiscal rules.

He considered the new Germany government will not support a debt union – where European debt is issued and permanent transfers are made to struggling states.

He interestingly tied that into climate policy and eschewed any notion that European debt, issued under mutual responsibility, should be used to develop carbon cutting energy investments in Europe.

He said that:

Deshalb lehnen wir ja auch den aktuellen Taxonomie-Plan zur Finanzierung der Energiepolitik ab. Es kann nicht sein, dass wir mehr Schulden machen, um die Atomkraft zu unterstützen.

(We reject the current plan for financing energy policy. We cannot take on more debt to support nuclear power).

To counter the Paris-Rome nexus, he claimed he was seeking to put the ‘frugal four’ (Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Austria) back on the road even though electoral shifts have occurred in those nations since they last put out a statement early in the pandemic.

Now he is claiming that he wanted to form a group within Ecofin (the notorious finance ministers committee) which he referred to as the “states of responsibility” whose will lobby to restore the fiscal rules in their entirety.

Who are these states?

Well he wants the Frugal Four to expand to add Finland, then Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Baltic countries, and indeed, any nation that is committed to the fiscal rules.

He was asked about the implications for the ECB in increasing interest rates and ending its bond-buying programs which have suppressed yields on EMU Member State’s debt.

He was fairly non committal.

His main policy focus was on lowering corporate taxes and implicitly attracting companies to move across the border from Germany, where tax rates were higher.

While the Left fights among itself

Meanwhile, the French Presidential election is to be held on April 10, 2022.

The – Opinion polling for the 2022 French presidential election – is interesting and depressing.

The progressive interests have a stack of candidates fighting among themselves over a handful of percentage points.

As each week passes, it seems a new candidate on the Left joins the fray, the latest being the former Socialist justice minister Christiane Taubira.

We now have:

1. Christiane Taubira (Radical Party of the Left) – former Justice Minister.

2. Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise) – hard left.

3. Anne Hidalgo (Socialist Party) – Mayor of Paris.

4. Yannick Jadot (Europe Écologie) – Green.

5. Fabien Roussel (French Communist Party).

6. Arnaud Montebourg (L’Engagement) – so-called Miscellaneous Left.

7. Philippe Poutou (New Anticapitalist Party) – Far Left, Union connected

8. Nathalie Arthaud – Lutte Ouvrière – Left, Union

They are fighting among each other for votes from progressive voters while the right and right-centre candidates stand alone.

In the – Poll of Polls – which brings together polling data from all sources, polls published on January 17, 2022, we learn that:

Candidate Party January 20, 2021 January 17, 2022
Emmanuel Macron La République en Marche! 24% 26%
Marine Le Pen National Rally (Hard right) 26% 17%
Valérie Pécresse Les Républicains (Centre-Right, Liberal) n.a 17%
Éric Zemmour Reconquête (Right-wing) n.a 12%
Jean-Luc Mélenchon La France Insoumise 11% 10%
Yannick Jadot Europe Écologie 7% 6%
Christiane Taubira Radical Party of the Left n/a 4%
Anne Hidalgo Parti Socialiste 7% 3%
Fabien Roussel French Communist Party n/a 2%
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan Debout la France (Right-Gaullist) 7% 2%
Jean Lassalle Résistons! (Centre-right) 1% 1%
Philippe Poutou New Anticapitalist Party (Far Left) 1% 1%
Florian Philippot Les Patriotes (Right-wing, Nationalist) n/a% 1%
Arnaud Montebourg L’Engagement (Left) n/a 1%
François Asselineau Popular Republican Union (Hard Eurosceptic n/a 1%

Note: a few other candidates have less than 1% standing – Nathalie Arthaud – Lutte Ouvrière (Left); Hélène Thouy – Parti animaliste (Animal Rights).

So do the sums.

The Left or Left-leaning candidates – of which there are 7 – command no more than 25 per cent of the intended vote and none will get to the second round.

If they all rallied behind one (say Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is the most popular), then they would be ahead of the right-wing candidates – Marine Le Pen, Valérie Pécresse and Éric Zemmour.

The traditional Socialist Party has all but disappeared.

So 25 per cent of the voters will cast their votes in vein for this rag-bag of Leftist candidates.

It is a long way back to the days when François Hollande who was leader of the Parti Socialist, the traditional progressive party in France that had a serious chance of winning government at each election, won the 2012 election commanding all arms of government.

Why did his party go backwards so quickly?

The same reason that the Mitterand government in the 1980s fell into disfavour.

They played the neoliberal austerity game that damaged the well-being of the workers who had elected them.

So while the right wing politicial forces in Austria are plotting to strengthen and broaden the austerity alliance in Europe, the progressive interests in France are failing.

That juxtaposition is happening all over the world.

For example, see the decline of popularity for the Biden administration and the rumblings from a resurgent Trump.

Lack of action to protect workers will kill parties that claim to represent them.

Conclusion

This is a sorry state of affairs.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2022 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 9 Comments
    1. If I do the same exercise and add up all the right wing candidates, then they are commanding 34% of the total vote intention in the poll of polls. If I add in the centre-right party, then I get more than 50%. It seems to me like the main pattern is how Marine Le Pen support has fallen away, presumably towards other right wing parties.

      Seems to me that in France, there is considerable support for right wing parties, and I assume general support in France for right wing views.

      Isn’t this part of a pattern of a general shift, not just in France but elsewhere, towards more right wing authoritarian populist leaders?

    2. In Portugal, we are in the middle of an election campaign to elect the next legislative and executive power (aka government).
      Well, “government” is a little too much, because what we have is a governor.
      Because of that, we hear everything, from the price of airline tickets to jokes about where the actual PM is going to cast his vote.
      Eveything but the question of what are we doing in this absurd union.
      If it is not economic anymore, than what?
      What’s the use of this?

    3. @Mark, Bear in mind most candidates have only recently just launched their campaigns so it is early going yet. But the criticism of Le Pen and what was a stumbling block last time was her inability to build alliances with other right wing parties. The rising hard right candidate, Zemmour, has largely built his base through criticising her. I would say both sides seem to be in disarray and unable to find common ground within their supporters. So I guess positive for Macron since he’ll be last man standing?

    4. Morning Mark,

      “Seems to me that in France, there is considerable support for right wing parties, and I assume general support in France for right wing views.

      Isn’t this part of a pattern of a general shift, not just in France but elsewhere, towards more right wing authoritarian populist leaders”

      Because the left allowed the more right wing authoritarian populist leaders to take their political ground. The left always stood on those principles until the liberals infested the left wing parties to the point the liberal left made the Labour party unrecognisable.

      Brexit – When the right acted like the left and the left were a bunch of liberals.

      As explained here by Thomas Fazi

      What Is Needed Is A Progressive Vision Of National Sovereignty

      https://socialeurope.eu/needed-progressive-vision-national-sovereignty

      Why the Left Should Embrace Brexit

      https://jacobinmag.com/2018/04/brexit-labour-party-socialist-left-corbyn

      The liberal left claim that the left was always a broad church. It’s bullshit it was never a broad church it was a workers socialist party that the liberals renamed to a centre left party after hijacking it for their own cause. They realised the Lib Dems would never win an election so hijacked the Labour party to try and win one.

      Farage is allowed to exist and not been corbynised by the media, like Bernie, Corbyn and now Boris to absorb the left wing vote that is his role. As the left now have nobody to vote for. Farage now determines Conservative policy by always threatening to split the right.

      The left needs their own party a left wing Farage if you like. Otherwise they’ll keep bleeding votes to the populist right wing parties.

      The right are now setting up their own version of Farage in other countries with the job description of take the populist vote. It’s genius, not only do they take millions of left wing voters it moves policy further to the right. Leaving the liberal left on the wrong side of every debate. The liberals blame Russia or China every time they lose.

      Starmer was interviewed on the BBC on Sunday morning. He talked in the third person when talking about the Labour party as if he wasn’t even a member of the Labour party never mind the leader. What was his main concern that job on the top of his list – Russian troops in Ukraine.

      50 years ago that would have been the right’s main concern not the left. He’s a neoliberal war mongering maniac. Liberal poison that destroys everything it touches.

      The 2 links above by Thomas and Bill are excellent and if you get a chance please read the book Captive State by George Monbiot. How the liberal left fully supported and created the Skye Bridge economy. Rent seeking INC the economics of NATO expansion.

      https://www.monbiot.com/books/captive-state/

      Starmer will carry on the Conservatives work for them like Blair did. Millions more will be moved into the arms of Farage. Why Trump was elected in the US. Why the SNP will eventually turn Scotland Tory under Sturgeon and her heart of Europe nonsense as the left wing voters will have nobody to vote for.

      The Scottish Tories are already using the Farage playbook threatening to break away from the English Tories. They’ll stand open armed as the SNP bleeds left wing votes. Have already increased Scottish Tory MP’s from one to over 30 by using Farage strategy.

      Alba is the last chance saloon. At least the left in Scotland realised that the Alba party had to be created to break themselves free of the liberal chains that now infest the SNP like poison. They have to get their policies bang on or voters will end up voting Tory and turn Scotland blue.

      It is imperative the left in England do the same. Creates a vehicle that gives the left somebody to vote for and takes the Unions funding with them. Force the liberals to join the Lib Dems or Greens where they belong to seek corporate funding to show exactly who they really are.

      Please read Captive State. It is Why New Labour were wiped out along with the Iraq War. Here they are back again with the same wolf in sheep’s clothing. Trying to create a US one party, war mongering nation state in the UK under the heading ” spreading democracy around the world” and words like god, freedom and liberty everything George Orwell warned us about.

    5. Mark Redwood, you ask..

      “Isn’t this part of a pattern of a general shift, not just in France but elsewhere, towards more right wing authoritarian populist leaders?”

      Yes, it is. But the point universally ignored in all this, is the power of media propaganda control. These polls merely reflect the way ‘centre right’ & far right views have dominated both conventional TV & Press media, and the newer web & social media content.

      The far right have always been there, but the principal reason for their rise now is the way social media & web platforms have provided virtually unregulated & highly targeted channels for their propaganda, with billionaire funding that the left could never match, even if they were as single minded & organised. All of it ‘fake news’ & distortions of facts at a penetration level that Herr Goebbels could only dream of. (Goebbels took advantage of the ‘new’ media of cinema & is the principal reason Nazism took hold. I know a lot about post war German’s personal reckonings with this phenomenon.)

      Yet it is only since the UK GE2019 debacle that the left anywhere have begun to take notice of it – and none are as yet offering any solutions. Bill himself still largely ignores the unprecedented role propaganda played in this election. Corbyn/Labour’s position on Brexit had little to do with it – whatever position Labour had adopted on a train of events they had zero control over, media would have pivoted to dismiss it as not credible compared to Johnson’s ‘oven ready’ deal already agreed with the EU. (The fact the deal was only for the leaving part, not the future trade arrangements, was carefully airbrushed from the whole Brexit discourse.)

      The fact is that conventional TV & Press, incl. BBC & Guardian, universally portrayed Corbyn as an anti-Semite, Russian communist puppet etc. whilst also legitimising & dog whistling the extreme far right themes being spread on social media. They were greatly aided in the Corbyn smear campaign, of course, by all the Labour Blairite 5th columnists who so obviously preferred to see Johnson win than have a Labour Gov in power under Corbyn.

      Media is the Fourth Estate of democracy. It is entirely in capital owner class hands, and the BBC have proven that public funded media by Gov appointees has failed to provide any diversity from that narrow set of interests – even to the extent of tolerating, along with Corporate media, the propagation of ‘hate speech’ which we now know from neuroscience research induces brain activity mirroring that of psychopaths.

      We could easily create a commons media sector, to at least provide some real diversity, using public money. If someone has a better idea, I’m all ears. But if we continue to do nothing, humanity’s failures in governing society, in endemic fraud & incompetence, derived from ignoring propaganda power over our inherent psychological vulnerabilities, the 6th Great Extinction we’re rapidly creating will most certainly see the end of our species.

    6. What history taught the ruling class and capital.

      From Greece to Rome to the British to the Nazi’s to the neoliberals in Washington.

      Is in order to achieve your geopolitical and foreign policy agenda ( what wikileaks exposed as normal practice) you have to create a “one” party nation state at home. No matter who people vote for they get the same result. Why the EU was created the way it was and so undemocratic led by technocrats.

      In a true Orwellian sense those that support the EU say it was created to stop war within Europe. When in fact it was created exactly for war. War with Russia and China. The sith and Lord Palpatine haven’t stopped expanding ever since breaking every promise ever made.

      If America can defeat Russia and China without a nuclear war. What next ?

      Who stops these psychopaths and what will be the white Christian far right corporate plans. Everybody lives happy ever after ?

      Dream on- religious beliefs and skin colour and political beliefs will be the new enemy. Psychopaths always need a new enemy when there are none. A new bogeyman has to be created.

      Anybody not on board with their white Christian far right wing corporate ideology will be treated like vermin.

      The 1960’s not 3 or 4 hundred years ago as people like to think. A mere generation ago, It was and still is racist as hell and still fighting the civil war to this day. Having 3 super powers suits me just fine thank you very much. Rather than Uncle Sam ruling over me that’s for sure.

      The only thing going for me is I would be white every other belief I hold could very easily get me thrown into guantanamo bay. As soon as they start burning books it is amazing how quickly the people you don’t agree with are next. They’ve already burned the economic text books and the constitution what’s next?

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TOSjoSRlKoM

      Everybody plays along as they fail to see how easily they could be next on the hit list, the axis of evil. Very easily if Russia and China are not there to keep these psychopaths in check.

    7. Germans who voted for the SPD have ended up with Merkel.

      Nothing changes it is a “one” party nation state. So it can get on with its geopolitical, foreign policy agenda.

      The SPD might change things at the fringes that are meaningless to try and say they are progressive and that the Germans live in a democracy. Very similar to Ireland as members of the EU who managed to ban smoking in pubs. The only change to the status quo they have managed after 40 years of being a member and Shouting about how progressive they are.

    8. It is becoming increasingly clear that what we actually now have in Britain is a UKIP government (currently led by Boris Johnson, but with the imminent possibility of a successor even further to the right), versus a traditional ‘one-nation’ Conservative Party in opposition, led by Sir Keir Starmer.

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