Greece and the long awaited collapse of the Marxist underconsumptionist school
With SYRIZA now appearing to be a lock for forming the next government in Greece, some Marxist writers are suggesting there is a serious problem with the party’s commitment to staying in the European Union and the euro common currency.
In a post to Left Flank, Thanasis Kampagiannis, argues that leaving the common currency is a precondition for an effective revolutionary politics today:
“There is an analogy between the question of the Euro and the Left’s approach to the First World War. The decision to break with the war effort — and, even more, to break with it unilaterally — became central to the realignment of the Left. This does not mean that everyone who was in favour of peace was a Marxist. The same goes today: not everyone in favour of breaking with the euro is a revolutionary socialist. For example, Costas Lapavitsas’ proposed “Grexit” program, which Richard refers to, is a radical anti-neoliberal program for restoring Greek capitalism’s competitiveness outside the straightjacket of the Euro through depreciation of a national currency. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that breaking with the Euro is the necessary step for any anti-capitalist politics that wants to end austerity and start imposing a pro-working class agenda.”
But why is it revolutionary to pull Greece out of the euro and EU? I get the distinct feeling people think SYRIZA is to be faulted for its refusal to leave the EU and I am not sure why that would be. From reading Kampagiannis’s article I feel I have a much better grasp of some of the forces at work within the Left in Greece, but I have a lot of questions about his anti-euro, anti-EU, argument.
For what possible reason would it be necessary to take Greece out of the euro and the EU? What is it about the euro that is an obstacle either to ending austerity or imposing a working class agenda? Is it necessary to leave the euro and go back to the drachma in order to end austerity? Why? Give me one reason why Grexit is necessary either to end austerity or to support a pro-working class agenda?
Like a lot of things on the Left, it seems to me people just make shit up like this and no one ever asks them to substantiate their position. There is nothing about belonging to the common currency that forms any obstacle to the fight against austerity. You can fight austerity inside the euro or outside it. Am I right about this or is there some way the euro prevents such a fight?
On the larger question of a “pro-working class agenda, it is obvious that the conflict between proletarians and bourgeoisie has nothing whatsoever to do with what serves as the currency of any nation. At least this is my understanding. Perhaps Callinicos or Kampagiannis can cite some other authority than Marx on this. Perhaps, Trotsky said, “Avoid the euro, guys! It sucks!”
Marxists Flirting with Farage’s Fascism
Somehow, so much bullshit has become invested in this question, when commonsense argues it is entirely meaningless. You are not more likely to be revolutionary because you favor leaving the euro — in fact, chances are that you are less revolutionary for wanting to leave the common currency. Is this not the position of Farage’s UKIP in the UK and Le Pen’s National Front in France?
Moreover, who in their right mind thinks it’s revolutionary for society to retreat to an earlier stage of development of the forces of production? Perhaps clarity on this would be aided once people realize money is a force of production just like machines and factories. No one wants to go back to the age of the steam engine, so why should we want to go back to an already outmoded stage of money — valueless, inconvertible, national fiat currencies?
Society has progressed to the point where most national currencies only circulate within their borders, while the dollar or euro serve internationally. Some national currencies, fail to even circulate within the home nation’s borders, like the Zimbabwe dollar. The citizens of Zimbabwe, overthrew the national currency and adopted the euro and the dollar in their private commercial transactions. If Greece were to retreat to the drachma, it would essentially face the same limitations as the Zim dollar. Its currency would be recognized nowhere but within its borders and even there the citizens would likely prefer dollars and euros. They would hoard these currencies against proposals to boost economic growth by devaluing the national currency.
(We can ignore, for the moment, that whatever devalues the national currency also devalues the wages paid in this currency.)
I am certain neither Callinicos nor Kampagiannis have given this a minute’s worth of consideration. Instead we get this nonsense about the European Union being a neoliberal institution — of course it is. But what does this have to do with anything? Neoliberalism is just another stage of capitalist movement. There is nothing about this particular form that makes its less preferable than the previous fascist stage.
The collapse of underconsumptionism
But let me give a much more important reason for not going back to the drachma: the euro absolutely prevents application of underconsumptionist theory based policy solutions to capitalist crises. The underconsumptionist reading of labor theory, as well as Keynesianian economics, are both based on the delusion that the fascist state can simply print up a shit load of currency and abolish poverty.
Even Marxists who ostensibly hate underconsumptionist theories like Keynesianism or Kaleckian-Marxism, fall into underconsumptionist thinking because they are weak minded. For instance, much of the support for Universal Basic Income, a growing fad, is based on the idea the fascist state can counterfeit currency necessary for this if it has sovereign control of its currency. This is why the Left want Grexit — they have no solution to the crisis but Keynesian money printing.
Well, inside the EU and the euro-zone, the Left can no longer just dream of running the printing press until poverty is eliminated. You open and covert underconsumptionists are fucked and I cannot help myself, but I find this fucking hilarious. When you were told these sorts of underconsumption theory solutions to the capitalist mode of production would not solve the problem, you did not listen. Your entire strategy was based on the promise of food stamp socialism. Well, now in Greece you can’t fucking fix the crisis by printing fiat and will just have to figure out a Plan B.
Europe today is finally in a crisis that printing fiat cannot fix. Marxists will have to learn how to be revolutionaries without the crutch of the fascist state.