Robin McAlpine: History does not end and the EU can't prevent it

CommonSpace columnist and Common Weal director Robin McAlpine says the global, liberal elite is on the wrong side of history

DO YOU remember when the neoliberals were announcing the 'end of history'? They had discovered the perfect, unchangeable economic and social order. So perfect was it that there were no chances of failure and no serious reason for any further debate.

It seems so embarrassingly silly now that the liberal and neoliberal elites (they've become little more than different flavours of the same thing) like to pretend that it didn't happen, or that no-one really meant it.

But here's the thing; they remain every bit as wedded to the concept of the end of history as the medieval church. And it's horrifyingly hypocritical.

If I have to read one more smug, wealthy urbanite putting a comment under a biased Guardian article decrying the awfulness of 'borders', I'll scream.

I am, of course, partly thinking of Catalonia here, but that's only this week's example. If I have to read one more smug, wealthy urbanite putting a comment under a biased Guardian article decrying the awfulness of 'borders', I'll scream.

Because tell me this – who exactly is giving up their borders right now? And yes, I'm referring especially to you, Jean-Claude Juncker, you two-faced, arrogant hypocrite.

Those are stronger words than I would usually use about someone in my writing. But I'm sorry - to receive a lecture from this politician about how appalling Catalan independence would be is more than I can stomach.

Juncker exists in our lives for one reason only, and that is because he got to be president of the European Commission.

And how did he get to become that? By being the prime minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Population? Five hundred and seventy six thousand two hundred and forty nine people, as of 2015.

Because tell me this – who exactly is giving up their borders right now? And yes, I'm referring especially to you, Jean-Claude Juncker, you two-faced, arrogant hypocrite.

So he's got about the legitimacy and size of mandate of the leader of Glasgow City Council with which to tell Catalonia – a nation 16 times the size of his own – that it has no right to exist.

He's against nationalism and borders. Except his own border. And his own nationalism. Each time he does something ceremonial in Luxembourg he presumably sings along to its national anthem, which has the impeccable borderless liberal title of 'Our Homeland'.

And the national motto of Luxembourg? "We want to remain what we are." This is one of those moments when satire and parody feels insufficient.

But on one thing he is absolutely consistent – he has brought his national motto to all the world as it is now; we want to remain what we are.

And why not? He is one of the great leaders of a global social class who in the most literal sense possible have never had it so good. Today's global elite (please, don't pretend there is no such thing – that's just embarrassing) own more, have more rights, more power and more freedom than possibly any group throughout history.

Today's global elite own more, have more rights, more power and more freedom than possibly any group throughout history.

If there is one thing they believe in more than anything it is 'stability'. And so long as you translate this properly, it's a very good description. Because stability means protectionism. Protect what you have from those who want a share.

Protect your power from damn upstarts like citizens who want to express any form of self-determination which fails to protect your wealth and power.

Protect your wealth from any reform of a banking and finance system in which you'll probably be getting a very generous job once you're bored with the 'run Europe for my pals' business. Until then, the bankers are still making him and his pals rich. Fuck Greek citizens; if some of them must die from poverty, so be it.

Protect your imposition of power on other nations at all costs. Under no circumstances talk about extra-judicial murder by US drones so long as the corporations which form your base continue to gain access to the natural resources of Africa and Asia.

And so on. Shout it as loud as you can without anyone actually hearing: "We want to remain what we are" - rich, in control, our batons in your face.

It is simply no longer going to be any good for the liberal order to impose suffering and, often enough, bloodshed on others and then to turn a blind eye to it.

I wrote a fair amount about my personal struggles to finally come out as a reluctant Remain voter in the Euro referendum. I have never doubted the true nature of the European Union we now have.

There's no way I could. My half sister is married to a Greek man and has lived there for 20 years. I am deeply aware of the suffering of that country.

Some of my good friends who are strongly pro-EU admit to me in private that they are ashamed of what their beloved union did to Greece, but they have no option but to put their unease to one side.

Well sorry, that's the 'but Harvey Weinstein made good movies' defence. It is simply no longer going to be any good for the liberal order to impose suffering and, often enough, bloodshed on others and then to turn a blind eye to it.

Why? Because the 'others' are getting sick of it. Liberals, you don't understand Trump and Brexit? That's 'cos you're rich and powerful and you're convinced that there is virtually nothing not worth doing to 'impose, maintain and restore order'.

Right in front of our eyes, the EU is creating a new concept – the Empire Nation. It is a 'reich'. I use the term carefully. It is not a democratic space in which people are together voluntarily.

Because if order was disrupted in the vile, autocratic Saudi state, who'd buy your bombs and guns and torture devices?

Right in front of our eyes, the EU is creating a new concept – the Empire Nation. It is a 'reich'. I use the term carefully. It is not a democratic space in which people are together voluntarily. It is a realm underpinned by god-given rules which will protect the realm forever and ever. Protect it against its people.

The broken bones of a Catalonian grandmother seeking only to express her view with a cross on a bit of paper, the starvation of a Greek family whose means of survival are knowingly taken away, the suffering of years of imposition of austerity on the weak to protect the rich; this is the violence at the heart of the liberal European project.

In the end I came down on the side of this awful set of circumstances in part because some of the alternatives may well be worse – hell, without the European Union we could end up with nations which do things like jail political opponents for 'sedition' and 'rebellion' like we're in Putin's Russia.

But it is now reaching the point where what I think is of even less significance than when it was last insignificant. What I want for Europe and the world has no chance of happening at all. Because Juncker is right there, making damned sure that his realm 'remains what it is', now and forever.

It is a realm underpinned by god-given rules which will protect the realm forever and ever. Protect it against its people.

So what I now expect I will get from Europe (and probably the world) is a gradual build up of a coalition of people who will choose anything – Trump, Brexit, anything – over the imposition of the liberal and neoliberal empire.

The Catalonians feel it now, and I can tell you that so do independence-supporting Scots; the mood of SNP members towards the EU is darkening.

And it won't end there. More and more people will come to resent 'order' and 'stability' being valued more than they are.

So, Jean-Claude, when you give up your petty little border in your pointless little nation-village and act consistently and non-hypocritically, then you can lecture Catalonia. But only when you persuade Germany and France to give up their borders as well, with their divisive parliaments enacting laws that make Europe a postcode lottery.

Damn it, why can't you see that Facebook, Google, Goldman Sachs and the EU Commission are all the democracy you need?

What I now expect I will get from Europe (and probably the world) is a gradual build up of a coalition of people who will choose anything – Trump, Brexit, anything – over the imposition of the liberal and neoliberal empire.

The borders that were built across Europe in the rubble of the end of the Second World War are not the end of history.

Your nations, deeply complicit in Franco's brutal suppression of the Catalan people and their culture (a brutality which is alien to your comfortable lives) do not stand on firm foundations to provide lectures.

This isn't about Catalonia. It's not about Greece. It's not about austerity or dirty political lobbying scams or 'jobs for the boys' or any one other failure.

It's about you, liberals. It's about your dishonesty. It's about people no longer being willing to accept that their suffering is a price worth paying for your comfort.

History will not end, however much you wish it would. And I'm afraid that everything I see suggests that you will be on the wrong end of the history to come (though I also fear many innocent people will be too).

You probably deserve it. The innocent almost certainly don't. And, unless you find somewhere deep in your souls the humility and honesty to understand what you have become, I fear there may be no way back.

Picture courtesy of Documenting Yes

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Comments

MauriceBishop

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 13:29

"to receive a lecture from this politician about how appalling Catalan independence would be is more than I can stomach."
I am unaware of Juncker ever saying anything remotely like this. His position has always been that the EU is a treaty organisation of member states and the breaking of those member states would create chaos for the EU.

So, please, everyone, bring me up-to-date: post below links to all the quotes from Juncker that you can find that seem to resemble the gloss that Robin has put on them.

I agree that we should always be open the possibility of borders changing. When the Gibraltarians decide they want to join/rejoin Spain, they should. When the Falkland Islanders decide they want to join/rejoin Argentina, they should. When the people of all parts of Ireland decide they want reunification, that should happen.

However, in the case of Catalonia, there is only a minority in favor of independence. The last election to the Catalonian parliament was explicitly framed as a referendum on independence. The separatist parties did end up with the majority of seats, but not the majority of the votes. And it is on the basis of this precarious situation that Puigdemont declared that the constitution no longer applies within the borders of Catalonia. It is undemocratic nonsense.

Remember this?
Catalans prepare for wave of civil disobedience as Spain attempts direct control
http://www.thenational.scot/news/15627382.Catalans_prepare_for_wave_of_c...

What actually happened? Everybody actually just went back to work as if nothing had happened. And as soon has Puigdemont saw that the chaos he had unleashed had petered out, he fled the country like a coward.

What you are actually raging against, Robin, is the inability of separatism to generate more local support.

The reason for that is that the economic arguments for separatism are quite poor, and people understand that you are asking them to put their livelihoods at risk.

So, back away from the raging and the grievance mongering and get down to serious work on economics - with real economists this time, not enthusiastic ideologically-driven amateurs.

Nelson

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 09:05

As the EU spend 40% of their budget on giving money to rural landowners, based on how much rural land they own, I thought the EU's principal purpose was giving money to rural landowners, based on how much rural land they own, seeing as it is (see 'the great Romanian land-grab' prior to them joining, etc).

And weirdly, the only concrete ideas for reforming the EU that I heard from a remainer were from David Cameron. Everyone else only seemed to run to 'there is a lot wrong with the EU, but....'. As far as I can remember, he even attempted to put reforms into practice, which is pretty audacious.

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