Toward European unity 20?? .. what are the politics of fixing the economy?

Sep 25th, 2011 | By | Category: Countries of the World

Summer tour architecture students in Rome, 2011.

It is not entirely clear that Europe ought to get most of the blame for the latest bout of international financial neurosis – all too reflected in such other places as the Toronto Stock Exchange this past week. But the once mighty continent is certainly playing that role in the eyes of the concerned global village.

Even Canada is getting into the act. See, eg, such headlines from this weekend’s meetings in Washington as “Canada presses for one-trillion euro bailout fund at IMF” ; “Canadian officials encouraged plans to fix European crisis in place, urge action” ; “Carney Says Europe Making Progress as Canada Growth to Resume” ; “Can global economies dodge another recession?” ; “Europe aims to leverage bailout fund, unsure how” ; and “World Powers Seek to Contain Europe Debt Crisis.”

The last item on this list is an ABC news report from the USA, which actually does also note that “Mark Carney, the head of Canada’s central bank, called for ‘overwhelming’ the problem by more than doubling the current 400 billion euro rescue fund to 1 trillion euros, an amount that would equal $1.35 trillion.” But according to John Lanchester, back in the September 8 issue of the London Review of Books, even Mark Carney’s $1.35 trillion may still be a bit too shy of what is needed: “Everybody and his cat knows that the eurobond is the only way out of the crisis for the eurozone in the medium term; as for the necessary size of the short-term bailout facility, Gordon Brown’s guesstimate was €2 trillion.”

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, site of the 2011 EuroMedLab Congress.

As Mr. Lanchester’s urgings suggest as well, even if the short-term bailout facility is finally big enough to work, in the so-called “medium term … the eurobond is the only way out of the crisis for the eurozone.” And one still big problem here, it would seem, is that eurobonds presuppose a  greater degree of European political unity than is now extant.

All this can remind you of an in some respects prescient George Orwell essay, that first appeared in the July-August 1947 issue of the New York-based  Partisan Review. Its original title was apparently “The Future of Socialism : Toward European Unity.” But it was republished in the fourth volume of the 1968 collection of Orwell’s Essays, Journalism and Letters as just “Toward European Unity” (and the most visited version of the essay on the world wide web at the moment uses this simpler title too).

Scene from 2011 Woody Allen movie, “Midnight in Paris.”

It may be some sign of the continuing allure of this 1947 Orwell article that you can currently purchase the Partisan Review issue in which it first appeared, on the net in 2011, for $8 (US) + $3.99 shipping and handling, or for $25, or even $30 (presumably for a copy in especially good condition?). Whether you buy the 1947 issue or not, however, the piece still makes interesting reading today – even if we are no longer quite so troubled by the threat of nuclear war as the generation in the immediate wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The crux of Orwell’s argument is summarized toward the end of his piece – in the last few sentences of his fourth-last paragraph, where he writes: “It may be that Europe is finished and that in the long run some better form of society will arise in India or China. But I believe that it is only in Europe, if anywhere, that democratic Socialism could be made a reality.” This Orwellian political insight  from some 64 years ago may also still point to one crucial problem with moving into “eurobonds,” as a midterm anchor of European financial security in 2011 and beyond.

A Europe united enough to float such debt instruments just may have to be more into something that approximates at least George Orwell’s concept of “democratic Socialism” (where Orwell was, in the words of his biographer Bernard Crick, “an English Socialist of the classic kind … left-wing, but also libertarian, egalitarian and …  quite un-theoretical, almost anti-theoretical”). And while the Europe of David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, and Silvio Berlusconi is not quite the same as the Texas of Rick Perry (say), it is still a long way from the kind of democratic socialist ideals that just might do the trick. “Socialism” as a saviour of “capitalism” is in fact a cunning irony of 20th century world history, in various senses – if only we hadn’t already forgotten most of the history involved.

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