How PIIGS Alternative To EU Austerity Could Take Flight
TWO years ago, around the time of the Greek “Oxi” referendum, everyone following European politics was talking about Grexit.
I was on a Syriza-led tour just before the vote and I remember an English colleague remarking: “I wonder if Brexit will ever be a thing.”
Today, escaping Brexit chatter is impossible, Grexit is only usually mentioned tangentially by leftwingers explaining why they voted Leave and the EU27 seems like a united bloc bearing down on us in the affable but steely form of Michel Barnier.
But the divisions in the eurozone crisis haven’t gone away.
This is what makes PIIGS Awakening so important for those in Britain attempting to situate our discourse on Europe in events elsewhere across the continent.
Its bold closing argument calls for a new trading bloc and currency union — PIIGS — which brings together Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain which, it argues, have similar requirements for production.
The authors also suggest that one day other members of the EU’s awkward squad might join their bloc — it has a name, ALIAS, and a currency unit, the Libera — even Britain.
Yet, while attacking the EU and its power-brokers, they stop short of recommending exit and instead propose that PIIGS merely leave the eurozone.
Still, such thinking is a refreshing dash of long-termism in a world where left-wing thought, from Europeanists to left-wing Brexiters, remains necessarily focused on the two years leading up to the Brexit deal.
But the manifesto element in the last section of the book springs out like a cliff jutting over a hairpin bend. Most of PIIGS Awakening is an account of the the entrenchment of neoliberalism, the causes and consequences of the 2008 economic crisis and how the eurozone’s response has been operationalised against the PIIGS and the Mediterranean states.
The authors are bitterly critical of left-Keynesian responses to the crisis, arguing that state investment and demand management will do little and are the wrong tools to apply. Their conception is that left-leaning, right-leaning and militarised forms of Keynesianism as all part of the same package can only ever lead to the triumph of capital over labour.
Nonetheless, their prescription is a relatively well-worn list of leftist demands — nationalising strategic sectors of the economy, a basic income, a right to work and taxing capital to avoid tax evasion — which are an applied and somewhat more aggressive version of the same democratising, redistributive agenda being pursued by Labour.
The authors’ prose is idiosyncratic and deliberately waspish and large amounts of technical information are crammed into a short, dense text that sets out to accomplish a great deal.
Yet for those thinking about pan-European socialist strategy after Brexit, it is more than worth engaging with.
*by Luciano Vasapollo
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