In the Social Europe Journal Jon Bloomfield undertakes a good diagnosis of the absence of a European Left alternative to the current euro crisis but unfortunately prescribes the old social-democrat remedies.
There are two main weaknesses in Bloomfield’s proposals for a Leftist answer to the current European crisis: his belief in the speedy return of economic growth and his confidence in the existing European Union structures.
Europe’s Social Democracy, when in power, has been seduced by the neo-liberal globalisation narrative of the last thirty years because it fell for the “trickling down” story of its main propagandists. Its “Third Way” was based on the conviction that deregulated markets linked to free-trade globalisation would lift all boats and would therefore be an easy substitute for real but difficult policies of wealth distribution.
The problem with this is that the growing success of neoliberal globalisation is now also the reason for its demise as economic and ecological debt (climate change, high energy prices and resource constraints) are starting to undermine this economic growth model.
This is where Bloomfield’s analysis fails. The current economic contraction is not just an expression of failed growth policies. This time it is really different as global economic growth is hitting its limits and the pie has not only stopped to get bigger but also has to be shared with many more “emerging” economies and new middle classes. In such a new constellation, the old remedies (growth and a European Market) will no longer work. Adding a bit of green investments here and there or adding a green dimension to the economy without changing the fundamental operation of growth-obsessed capitalism will not help. We do not need a green economy, we need to green the whole economy.
That also means that Social Democrats will need to think much more radically on how to redefine the European project. Just applying some of the debt-consolidation solutions presented by convinced Europeans (but also convinced neo-liberals) such as Guy Verhofstadt will not win back the trust of European citizens. Nothing less than a new European vision and project based on citizens’ democracy, ecological economics and fair prosperity redistribution is needed.