Emiliano Brancaccio

Ricerca, didattica e divulgazione
Research, teaching and media

Pro-euro extremism is favouring the “Gattopardi”

Revolting Europe – February 28, 2014

Would Euro-break up trigger an economic catastrophe so violent as to lead Europe to the brink of war? This is just scaremongering according Emiliano Brancaccio, who argues that defenders of monetary union on the Left are encouraging the growth of the most reactionary and xenophobic forms nationalism.

A proper discussion on the eurozone crisis requires first of all to eliminate from the debate the errors and falsifications from both the pro euro and anti- euro camp. I quote here a few examples among many.

The defenders of the eurozone continuously say that a disintegration of the single currency would lead to an economic catastrophe so violent as to lead the whole of Europe to the brink of a war. Their argument is that  economic and monetary union represents a necessary condition for  peace among the peoples of Europe. Anyone who dares to evoke the possibility of an exit from the euro is then immediately considered an irresponsible adventurer, potentially a warmonger. But those in the pro-euro camp do not provide clear evidence in support of their anathemas. The argument that the economic and monetary union – and , more generally, free trade – would ensure peace among nations is not adequate historical evidence.

Suffice to recall that in 1914, on the eve of the First World War, there was complete freedom of movement of capital and there was the international gold standard, a rigid system of fixed exchange rates that is very similar to the euro. Also, the current eurozone crisis has similarities with the historical period after the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, which forced Germany to pursue draconian deflationary policies in a vain attempt to pay off debts and war reparations.

The collapse that followed created the conditions for the rise of Nazism and the Second World War. According, therefore, to the historical evidence, there seems to be no relationship between staying in the euro and maintaining the peace. Indeed, a cursory examination of past events suggests that the apologists of the euro area who justify their stance “in the name of peace” would do well to consider the possibility that they are encouraging the growth of the most reactionary and xenophobic forms of nationalism.

The unsubstantiated opinions of the euro area fundamentalists are predominant in the political debate. However, even supporters of Euro exit often commit errors and omissions. Some, for example, gloss over the alternative ways of managing a possible exit from the euro, each of which would have very different impacts on different social groups. Proof of this lies in the growing popularity of what I have called a gattopardesca crisis management, in which you change everything, even ending the single currency, while not questioning the neoliberal policies and austerity in recent years, despite the growth in inequalities and unemployment that have resulted.

The fact that pro-euro extremism is widespread especially among the heirs of the twentieth-century labour movement automatically implies that a “gattopardesca” exit from the euro is now the most likely possibility. This would be a fatal short circuit, and it is hard to say if there is still time and opportunity to avoid it.

                                                                Emiliano Brancaccio


Italian version published on il manifesto. Translation by Revolting Europe.