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Beyond the EU Constitution

Agenda for a Sustainable Europe

by ARTHUR MITZMAN

In April 2004, some seventy-five friends and colleagues co-signed an appeal for a progressive EU Parliament­ "For A Different Europe — drafted by Joep Leerssen, Michael Krätke and myself.* We are now a year further, and the immediate issue before us is the EU Draft Constitution, on which the French electorate will vote at the end of May and the Dutch one on June 1. Some signers favor it, others do not. Although I am opposed to the draft, for reasons I shall indicate, I am not vehemently so, believing as I do that the proposed constitution will not change a great deal in the ways Europe is developing, nor in the possibilities of the Left for bending those ways in a social and ecological direction. I thus reject the hyperbolic predictions of catastrophe both of the supporters and opponents of the constitution if their position is defeated.

However, whether or not the Constitution is accepted, the Left is in dire need of a program that can appeal to citizens of Europe on the basis of a realistic assessment of our short and medium-term prospects. I shall discuss such a program, an "agenda for a sustainable Europe," after an analysis of the EU’s global context and of the reasons for supporting, or rejecting, the draft constitution.

 

I The global context

The world of the future with which Europeans, united or disunited, will have to cope is now shaped by a global economy based on neoliberal principles of free trade. This economy has been doubly destructive of planetary welfare: It threatens us with the catastrophic ecological consequences of industrial modernity’s fetishizing of growth: global warming and global pollution of air, earth and water. And, celebrating individual freedom, it destroys human solidarities; it augments the economic inequalities and insecurities that enrich the few and impoverish the many


A ruined natural environment

The ecologically disastrous effects of neoliberal globalization have been abundantly documented. Even the Pentagon has accepted the likelihood of a dangerous climate change following on warming as a result of greenhouse gasses. A report issued by a Pentagon think tank last year argued that the anticipated weakening of the gulf stream as a result of melted arctic ice would dramatically reverse the warming, creating a climate 5-6 degrees (fahrenheit) cooler than the present in Europe and North America. The Pentagon report’s scenario for Europe in next two decades includes the following:

Europe 2012: Severe drought and cold push Scandinavian populations southward, push back from EU

2015: Conflict within the EU over food and water supply leads to skirmishes and strained diplomatic relations

2018: Russia joins EU, providing energy resources

2020: Migration from northern countries such as Holland and Germany toward Spain and Italy

2020: Increasing skirmishes over water and immigration

2022: Skirmish between France and Germany over commercial access to
Rhine

2025: EU nears collapse

2027: Increasing migration to Mediterranean countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, and Israel

Even more catastrophic scenarios are emerging from the computer models of climatologists and the research of archaeologists, who see in past climate change the source of the abrupt decline of some ancient civilisations. Extensive drought precipitating continent-wide famines is predicted as one consequence of current climate change and the geopolitical consequences, including nuclear resource wars, are incalculable.

Independently of climate change, within the EU air pollution resulting from the burning of fossile fuels in industry, air transportation and road traffic has become so bad that EU guidelines on permissible carbon dioxide levels are blocking many new road and industrial building projects in Germany and the Netherlands.


Social decay

As to the social and economic effects of the global economy, Günter Grass, in a recent New York Times article commemorating the 60th anniversary of the defeat of "a system of power and terror", wrote on the failure of both reunification and parliamentary democracy in Germany in terms that are relevant for Europe as a whole:

"[O]ur freely elected members of Parliament are no longer free to decide… [T]he ring of lobbyists with their multifarious interests… constricts and influences the Federal Parliament… Parliament is no longer sovereign in its decisions. It is steered by the banks and multinational corporations – which are not subject to any democratic control…. Are our parliamentarians still sufficiently free to make a decision that would bring radical democratic constraint? Or is our freedom now no more than a stock market profit?

"We all are witnesses to the fact that production is being demolished worldwide, that so-called hostile and friendly takeovers are destroying thousands of jobs, that the mere announcement of measures like the dismissal of workers and employees makes share prices rise, and this is regarded unthinkingly as the price to be paid for "living in freedom." The consequences of this development disguised as globalization are clearly coming to light and can be read from the statistics. With the consistently high number of jobless, which in Germany has now reached five million, and the equally constant refusal of industry to create jobs, despite demonstrably higher earnings, especially from exports, the hope of full employment has evaporated. Older employees, who still had years of work left in them, are pushed into early retirement. Young people are denied the skills for entering the world of work. Even worse, with complaints that an aging population is a threat and simultaneous demands, repeated parrot-fashion, to do more for young people and education, the Federal Republic – still a rich country – is permitting, to a shameful extent, the growth of what is called "child poverty."

"All this is now accepted as if divinely ordained, accompanied at most by the customary national grumbles. Worse, those who point to this state of affairs and to the people forced into social oblivion are at best ridiculed by slick young journalists as "social romantics," but usually vilified as "do-gooders." Questions about the reasons for the growing gap between rich and poor are dismissed as "the politics of envy." The desire for justice is ridiculed as utopian. The concept of "solidarity" is relegated to the dictionary’s list of foreign words….

"We can only hope we will be able to cope with today’s risk of a new totalitarianism, backed as it is by the world’s last remaining ideology. As conscious democrats, we should freely resist the power of capital, which sees mankind as nothing more than something which consumes and produces….

Being "conscious democrats" ourselves, we might, In assessing the Constitution, ask ourselves whether this document will or will not enable us better to "freely resist the power of capital."


II The EU Constitution

Rejection of the Constitution will not, as some Social Democrats have menaced, doom European integration ­ that is embodied in earlier treaties, which will remain in force whatever the fate of the draft constitution. Nor will acceptance, as others on the Left have warned, definitively strangle any hope of the social and ecological Europe we all want. For the Constitution is actually misnamed. To gain the support of those opposed to a European federal state, and who would see in a genuine constitution evidence of one, It has become simply a super-treaty, incorporating most of the existing international treaties between the nations of the Union. Its name — "Treaty Establishing A Constitution for Europe" — makes this explicit, as is the stipulation that it, like other EU treaties, must be approved by all member states to be validated.

What this means is that the new "Constitutional" treaty has to be seen in the long line of such treaties that have marked the path of European integration every since the founding Treaty of the European Communities of 1958 (to which a great many articles of the new document — in its penultimate draft of June 2004 — refer, under the initials "TEC"). The new document certainly continues and even solidifies the market-centered economic integration of the continent that has been the principal purpose of those treaties, a phenomenon about which most of those on the Left are bound to have mixed feelings.

Mixed, because on the one hand, this integration has given Europe’s capitalist elites an excellent reason to avoid the fratricidal international conflicts that have cost the lives of tens of millions of Europeans and twice turned most of Europe’s cities into rubble; on the other, it has blocked the way to a social and ecological solution to the manifold problems raised by Günter Grass ­ in particular, the outsourcing of manufacturing and service jobs, concomitant unemployment, and wage decline. Nonetheless, to placate the Social Democrats and Greens who participated in its drafting, a number of important progressive items were inserted in the new draft treaty. Let’s examine some of these before looking at the downside of the Constitution.


Fundamental Rights and Participatory Democracy

The forty page "Charter of Fundamental Rights of the Union", which was a fine document to begin with, has been strengthened by its inclusion in the Constitution. Legal proceedings based on appeal to the Charter could until now only be undertaken in the Strassburg "European Court of Human Rights", whose findings, although of moral significance for national courts, are in no way binding or enforceable. If the constitution were to be accepted, such cases could be tried in the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg, whose decisions are binding and which can impose financial penalties on states or other public instances for non-compliance: a major gain.

Article I-47 on the principle of participatory democracy offers unprecedented possibilities for citizen action on a European wide scale including the right of initiative and referendum. It reads as follows:

"1. The Institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action.

"2. The Institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.

"3. The Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union’s actions are coherent and transparent.

"4. Not less than one million citizens coming from a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Constitution. A European law shall determine the provisions for the procedures and conditions required for such a citizens’ initiative, including the minimum number of Member States from which they must come."

A separate paragraph on transparency stipulates that in general the Union’s "Institutions, bodies, offices and agencies shall conduct their work as openly as possible," and in particular that "The European Parliament shall meet in public, as shall the Council when considering and voting on a draft legislative act". This paragraph furthermore ensures all citizens the possibility of obtaining full information on all aspects of EU procedures and actions. For NGOs as well as for the national parliamentary committees authorized to review the actions of the legislative and executive organs of the EU, this permits easier control of and intervention in EU policy-making.


Environment

The environmental paragraph (article III-129) clearly places the EU on the side of the angels. It reproduces article 174 of the Treaty of the European Communities, a 1958 founding document of European integration, which was amended to include environmental matters by the "single act" of 1987, which advanced the principle of preventive action, and by the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, which brought in the "precautionary principle" (if it might be harmful, don’t do it). This paragraph defines the environmental objectives of the Union as follows:

"(a) preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment;

(b) protecting human health;

(c) prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources;

(d) promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems."

It further defines the aim of Union policy on the environment as

"a high level of protection taking into account the diversity of situations in the various regions of the Union. It shall be based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay."

One cannot overestimate the importance of this paragraph: On the basis of it, the European Court of Justice and the highest national courts have enforced environmental safeguards and standards of pollution control that make the EU a beacon for everyone on the planet concerned with creating a sustainable future.

The Constitution, however, only reestablishes in the new unified framework an existing treaty article. And the very Maastricht Treaty that gave us the precautionary principle ­ which puts protection of the environment against possible harm before individual or corporate self-aggrandizement as a Union goal — also gave us the articles on the internal market that advance the neoliberal shibboleths of growth, privatisation and deregulation as the Union’s highest aims. The framework for these shibboleths, mostly taken over unchanged from existing treaties, together with the other institutional elements of a market-driven society, appear as chapters one and two of the Constitution’s Part III, Title III on "Internal Policies and Action" — the same title III that contains, in its chapter III, the environmental paragraph.


Jekyll and Hyde

In other words, after a promising start the Constitution reveals in its ninety pages on internal policies a Jekyll and Hyde personality. This schizophrenia is implicit in the conflict between the environmental and the economic goals. In the promising but nebulous paragraphs on employment and social policies ­ presumably the substitute for the long-delayed "Social Europe" ­ it is explicit: all policies are subordinated to "the need to maintain the competitiveness of the Union Economy." (Article III-209) The same conflict between the neoliberal goal of free trade and the ecological one of sustainability appears in Chapter I Title III of Part V, where we find these contradictory goals in three successive points concerning the external policies of the Union, which is to:

"(d) foster the sustainable economic, social and environmental development of developing countries, with the primary aim of eradicating poverty;

(e) encourage the integration of all countries into the world economy, including through the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade;

(f) help develop international measures to preserve and improve the quality of the environment and the sustainable management of global natural resources, in order to ensure sustainable development.

Only the addition of the word "including" in point (e) prevents the external economic goal from being exclusively neoliberal free trade. (Plausibly, that addition represents a compromise between Left and Right members of the Convention. )


Three Arguments for the Constitution

Many Social Democrats and Greens acknowledge this contradiction but nonetheless make three main arguments:

1) Despite its deficiencies, the constitution has so many excellent articles that it warrants support from progressives. Inasmuch as the internal market strictures have long been Union policy, they are nothing new and we should focus on the real advances embodied in the Constitution ­ the paragraphs on participatory democracy and transparency, the enhanced powers of the European Parliament, and the stronger enforcement of the charter of human rights. As the estimable Pierre Moscovici ­ a French Socialist proponent of the Constitution as well as of the Social Europe concept — said in a debate to his Trotskyist opponent, "Olivier, soyez réformiste". Progress is incremental and more substantial gains can come later. In short, voting down the Constitution would actually be socially degressive, inasmuch as it would lead us back to the existing market-centered treaties, where some of the positive features advanced in the new document are absent.

2) The Left, which has always been pro-European, should not reject this further step toward a federal Europe. A vote against the Constitution would strengthen the vehemently nationalist anti-Europeanism of right-wing opponents like the French Front National and the British National Party. It would weaken the existing Union, and make it more difficult for it to form a united front in opposing the Atlanticism which makes the divided European nations vassals of American geopolitical imperialism.

3) Even with its neoliberal trade emphasis, the Constitution will provide a strengthening of Europe’s global position as a counterbalance to American hegemony. Particularly now, given the metamorphosis of American neoliberalism into neoconservatism, a more united Europe will be better capable of aligning itself with Asian and South American countries opposed to that hegemony.


Arguments for a "non"

I am impressed by this reasoning, but not convinced.

To begin with, if the constitution is voted down in France, it will not be because of the strength of the anti-Brussels protectionist Right or because of right-wing Islamophobia — for more of the Right will be mobilized to vote for the document than of the Left — but because a large part of the pro-European Left realizes the menace to ordinary citizens of the neoliberal free-market mechanisms enshrined in the document. A French government official trying to sell the Constitution in the provinces told his superiors, according to an account in the Financial Times (FT 2-5-05) that the topics they had expected him to have to debate ­ Turkey and laïcité ­ hardly came up. "Instead, people want to know how the treaty will affect their own lives: unemployment, social protection, and business moving abroad are the subjects he says people most frequently ask about."

Secondly, inasmuch as the Constitution finally gives us the opportunity of voting our approval or disapproval of the neoliberal bases of the European construction, it would be foolish for those who oppose those bases to vote for the document which incorporates them all unchanged. We were not asked to vote on the Maastricht Treaty. Most of us would have voted against it if we’d had the opportunity. Now we are given the chance of doing so, and we should take it. In fact, considering the harmful effects on living standards of neoliberal policies, understood by a large part of the citizenry, their further implementation through a "yes" vote will sour many ordinary people not only on the Union but on the Social Democrats who pushed it through.

Third, the diminution of American global influence is already occurring and will continue, regardless of whether Europe opts for this constitution. Shifts to the Left have occurred in so many South American countries, that the U.S. could not even impose its own man for head of its chosen instrument of imperial control, the O.A.S. Moreover, India, China, Russia and some Latin American states are already finding common ground outside the American hegemony on a number of geopolitical issues, and some believe that it will be easier for European states to join them outside the EU framework than inside.

Fourth point: the fact that European Social Democrats supported the formation of the Union’s common market base from its inception does not mean that it is reasonable for them to continue doing so. The post-war cooperation of Socialists and trade unionists with European capitalism made sense to the extent that the Keynesianism and Fordist production method underlying the post-war capitalist economy became the ideological and material bases of the welfare state, which for decades reduced social inequalities in Europe. It also provided for government controlled public services, widespread health protection, a relatively high level of unemployment compensation, pensions and paid vacations for the ordinary working people of Europe.

But from the 1980′s on, the combination of capitalism’s increasing exploitation of global investment and market resources with job-eliminating computerized technology, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the bureaucratization of the Welfare State fostered the ruthless anti-Keynesian ideology of Thatcherian neoliberalism. The latter, with its virulent attacks on all aspects of state ownership and control of public services, its execration ­ as coddling ­ of the protections given since WW II to working men and women, has eliminated or reduced many welfare state measures on the pretext that they impede European competition in the global market. Ostensibly to eliminate inefficient government monopolies ­ actually to expand the sphere of private investment — neoliberalism has wherever possible privatized and deregulated public services. (The latest example of the attack on public services appeared in the EU Commission’s ­ happily rejected ­ Bolkestein directive.)

In other words, the relatively benign capitalism of the post-war period which was embodied both in the original EU construction and in the welfare state, has given way to a maleficent system which is augmenting inequalities and insecurities and is outsourcing both industrial and service jobs to low wage areas in Eastern Europe and East Asia. The ideological pretence that those who oppose this bitter medicine have nothing more to offer than protectionist xenophobia and a return to the nationalisms that destroyed Europe in two world wars is self-serving nonsense, as is the presumed European idealism which argues that any opposition to it will weaken the economic strength and unity of Europe vis-a-vis the United States.

Finally, for the many on the Left who are against this Constitution from a pro-European and anti-Atlanticist position, there is a social-liberal political argument for rejecting the neoliberal supremacy: A sentiment of European identity and solidarity is indispensable for a democratic Europe, but it can only develop as an extension and reaffirmation of existing national, regional and local identities and solidarities. The existing neoliberal economic framework, however, consistently undermines such subsidiary identities by putting individual destinies and local economies at the mercy of profit-oriented multinational corporations which, in their global competition for cheap labour, never hesitate to close offices and factories in Europe and outsource them to less costly Indian and Chinese sites.

Thus, insofar as the Constitution consolidates a direction proven harmful both to the economic security and the sub-European solidarities of most Europeans, it will turn more and more citizens against the very idea of European integration, unless those in favor of it can come up with a form of it less destructive of their welfare.


Alternatives to the neoliberal emphasis on free trade

Such alternatives exist: Many NGOs have opposed to the "free trade" mantra of the EU and the WTO the idea of Fair Trade, which, without rejecting international trade, would, as a condition of reducing or eliminating import duties, ask of trading partners the basic elements of a European wide system of social and ecological protections: minimum wages, prohibition of child labor, a decent work week, universal schooling, protections for the old and the infirm, environmental protection, etc. Until now, the fair trade concept has largely been maintained by NGOs (or NGO-driven retail outlets like Simon Leyfelt in the Netherlands) that encourage small producers in agricultural products in Asia, Africa and South America, but there is no reason why the idea cannot be expanded to industrial production as well and used as a comprehensive substitute for the free trade idea.

Indeed, although the EU economic structure as it now stands is clearly neoliberal, there is no reason to assume it necessarily has to remain that way. In fact, there are several reasons for assuming that the sea change in European social policy and economic structure that has occurred in the last twenty years is on the point of being undermined by tsunami-sized subterranean shocks.

The source of this coming economic earthquake is three-fold: First, there is the imminent exhaustion of fossile fuels as oil and gas reserves deplete and production declines. Secondly, there are the disastrous results of industrial capitalism’s growth fetishism on the planetary environment and their backlash influence on the economy . We are witness to the dramatic effects of this fetishism in a potentially fatal climatic change as well as in a degree of air pollution that threatens the urban population and the vegetation of many parts of the planet. Finally, there is the inherent instability of a world economic order in which most policies are determined by short-term goals of increasing profit. A number of establishment economists are so worried by the present direction that they predict a prolonged depression on the lines of the 1930s or 1880s.

This leads me to my second main point: that, regardless of the fate of the present draft constitution, the response of the Left to this coming collision between neoliberal utopia and material reality must be a program for a fundamental restructuring of our existing industrial society, one which will involve the tradeoff of a better and sustainable social order against a diminution of the amenities and mobilities currently enjoyed by a minority of humankind.

 

III A green-social agenda for a sustainable Europe.

One of the arguments advanced by the European Greens for supporting the new constitution is the possibility for amending it, which they propose to do in the same resolution in which they support it. While they advocate a strengthened parliament and a "European social order" that will be a "social market economy [with] full employment…common social standards and minimum standards in business taxes…", they do not indicate the environmental content of their proposed amendment. The "agenda for a sustainable Europe" proposed here posits a strategic environmental and social perspective within which the tactic of such an amendment might be formulated.

There is an obvious discrepancy between the democratic values of the peoples of the developed world and the advanced industrial economies that provide them with their present high standard of living. As Günter Grass argued in the essay I quoted above, the banks, multinational corporations and lobbyists who actually control our elected parliaments are in no way subject to democratic restraint. Not only are the parliaments often powerless: the dependent workers of our remaining factories and offices have nowhere the possibilities of control over their personal destinies and identities that the early theorists of democratic control ascribed to a pre-industrial society of artisans, shopkeepers and small farmers. And the media control over leisure hours — taking the place of independent newspapers and neighborhood talk circuits –stimulates commodity desires that only put the average householder on the treadmill of an unending work-and-spend routine. More recently, the incompatibility between democracy and corporate industrialism has been enlarged by the economic results of neoliberal globalization: declining wages, increasing precariousness, disappearing jobs, the transformation of life-time factory and office workers into "flex" workers, house cleaners and gardeners ­ none of this corresponds to the will of the governed.

Now conceptualize these existing trends in the light of the planetary future: declining energy supplies, dramatically growing demand for energy and consumer goods in China and India, dangerously rising levels of pollution, and an increasingly shaky world economy. It is not only inconceivable that western standards of an automobile for every family and a protein-rich, high calory diet could be adopted by the 2.5 billion Chinese and Indians whose economy is presently in a take-off phase; it is improbable that Europeans and Americans will be able to continue it very much longer.

Nor is it likely that the grain- and beef-centered agro-industry, on which we depend for a planetary supply of vegetables and meats, will survive the oil crunch and the growing awareness of its real costs to the environment. Those costs, now largely hidden from public view, are spread over three large areas.

To begin with, the transportation of globally-produced food for daily consumption requires a huge fleet of air freighters and trucks that spew the chemical residues of the fuel they consume into the air we breath, causing, together with the other uses of fossile fuels in transportation and industry, the untenable (and, according to EU directives impermissible) levels of urban pollution, so high that a good many road-building and industrial projects have been halted by court order. Global warming and debilitating sound pollution for the growing number of people living in cities with international airports are additional effects.

Secondly, the grain that feeds the livestock we consume daily is grown in huge areas of North America and Europe where a human- rather than profit-oriented agricultural policy might produce vegetables for human consumption. In Europe, according to José Bové, "More than 75% of cereal production is destined for animal feed."

Inasmuch as the evolution of agriculture from small holdings to giant agro-industrial corporations has fostered powerful lobbies in the west’s political centers, both the EU and the U.S. support this system with massive subsidies. Our current policies thus abet the atrocious global imbalance between those with a protein-heavy, high-calory western diet that induces epidemic obesity and the millions in Asia and Africa who often starve to death from malnutrition and periodic famines. It also contributes largely to the surplus exploitation of the natural world by humankind: the exploitation of natural resources beyond their replacement level that threatens the impoverishment of future generations.

Thirdly, the animals produced in the course of the slow march to the slaughterhouse are themselves, through their excrements, a source of immense pollution of earth and water as well as a danger to human health through the mode of their industrial production. The profitability problem of the beef industry becomes the problem of all meat consumers, when we consider that corn-based animal feed is frequently supplemented by three dangerous additives that get into our own bodies: the dead bodies of other animals, which ruminant livestock were not made to consume and which, if diseased, have been known to provoke E. Coli, salmonella and mad cow disease; the doses of antibiotics which, intended to protect livestock from disease, tend to build up resistance to antibiotics in human consumers, and the growth hormones often injected in livestock to accelerate their growth.
Farewell to a life-style

In short, if there is to be any measure of civilised existence for our children and grandchildren, the exhaustion of fossile fuels and the increasing dangers of a polluted environment will impose a surrender of several aspects of the life-style to which many Europeans and Americans have become accustomed ­ the private automobile, the second home, the airborne leisure travel to distant continents, the high-protein meat diet and the wide variety of fruits and vegetables in all seasons from far-off countries. These things will, in any case, become increasingly scarce and expensive, and unless there is a serious return to a saner way of life and a more modest standard of living, our minimally democratic polities will degenerate into a war of all against all for the retention of such amenities. In fact, a growing number of people, "downshifters" in the parlance of Juliet Schor , have already opted out of the consumer treadmill, but the phenomenon will remain marginal until major parties place it on their agendas.

The task of the Left is to transform our bleak future into a challenge and an opportunity: to break out of the cage of unfulfillable desires in which today’s consumer society has placed us. Whatever the future, ecological imperatives alone dictate that it cannot continue to be the unregulated, "free" market society which neoliberal ideology claims to be the best of all possible worlds.

In a sense, that claim was always spurious, since the "free trade" and "democracy" rhetoric were transparent veils for the unfreedom of corporate domination. Indeed, as an economic system, Free Trade was proven an unworkable utopia when its first incarnation under the British commercial hegemony in the middle of the 19th century led to the great depression of the 1870s. Its return in a neoliberal, Thatcherite mold was billed as the ineluctable wave of the future in the 1980s and 90s, but the end of the hi-tech boom in 2000 and the events of September 11, 2001 have signalled the end of that future.

Since the turn of the century and the apparent menace of Islamic terrorism, American neoliberalism has metamorphosed into neoconservatism (free trade plus geopolitically motivated regime change by military means). This new and brutal ideology, underlying the unilateralism of the current American administration, has probably been adopted by the conservative oil barons now in power because of their realization that the continued hegemony of corporate elites over a potentially rebellious populace could be preserved only at the cost of American geopolitical domination of the oil and gas fields of the middle east, and thereby the continued arrogation to American consumer society of the lion’s share of the world’s resources.

This strategy will not work. The discontent of most of the nations of Europe with the American demarche is slowly turning into rage against the European corporate clones of the "American way", as the return of the rhetoric of class conflict in France and Germany makes clear, and even across the Atlantic the Bush administration is encountering increased resistance from senators emboldened by the discontent of their constituents with the president’s reactionary social program. In South America, the hold of pro-American oligarchies has been replaced in one country after another by leftist regimes, now powerful enough to deny the U.S. for the first time its preferred candidate for presidency of the O.A.S. But on both sides of the ocean, the last refuge of those in power will be to manipulate popular fears of Islam to bolster support for military-industrial complexes and authoritarian regimes.

In any case, a return to regulation ­ some form of neo-Keynesianism or "war Keynesianism" — is inevitable. If there is no breakthrough by the Left, it will take the form of the corporations regulating themselves at the expense of all of us, further selling out our livelihoods to the contractor offering the lowest bid in the suburbs of Shanghai. Both in labour standards and welfare provisions, the race to the bottom accelerates on both sides of the Atlantic, as social dumping and the lowering of corporate tax rates — driven by national needs to attract or retain large companies ­ become the norm. In Europe, and to an increasing degree in the United States, impoverishment will dictate increasing sobriety on the part of an overworked population.

I would suggest an alternative to this grim scenario: that European progressives begin systematically to work out and explain to the peoples of Europe a different future, in which sobriety, sustainability and social regulation cohere with the elaboration of new democratic identities. The challenge will be to find a democratic construction that will balance, on the one hand, ecologically mandated limits on production and consumption and socially mandated limits on economic concentration with, on the other hand, advances in social solidarity, cultural and political participation and personal rights and identity. The combination of such limits and advances is not utopian. The goal will be to create a European world that lives within its ecological means and can serve as a global model for a successful alternative to today’s wasteful consumer society.

In creating such a new democratic ideal, we shall have to debate and define four kinds of distinctions:

1) between areas of economic life that are best continued at today’s high level of technologically driven productivity and those in which ecological and social considerations mandate a return to small-scale or even pre-industrial production units;

2) between decisions best taken at a continent-wide level and those best left to local or regional authorities ;

3) between areas of production and service which, as necessities, no one should be deprived of because of insufficient funds (for example, energy, food, housing, health care, transportation), and those areas that can be left to profit-oriented non-public producers — production and distribution of necessities should be largely removed from corporate ownership and transferred to democratic public control;

4) between harmful and innocuous forms of advertising.

Energy

Until now, even the Green programs have been nibbling around the edges of the problem, focussing mainly on ways of increasing fossile fuel efficiency, and secondarily on sustainable energy sources. While radical compared with the minimal approach of most other political groupings, they have not confronted the clear need for a major reduction in the amount of power utilized. Such reduction can come only through a shift from private to public modes of transportation, a reduction in ecologically harmful intercontinental transportation of goods, and a scaling back of the unlimited consumption horizons of contemporary society.

Since the private exploitation of energy resources creates vested interests in the retention of harmful and unsustainable fossile fuels, a European energy program should create a public trust for the researching and development of sustainable, non-polluting energy sources: wind, sun, water and biomass. A complete transfer of electric power supplies from fossile fuel sources to renewables should be planned for the coming decade in a detailed program that specifies amounts, modes of research and optimum rates of utilisation in the different states of the EU.

Mobility

Both the coming exhaustion of fossile fuel supplies and the planetary menace of noxious pollutants from internal combustion engines suggest that a sustainable future will depend on severe reductions in long-distance air, truck and auto transport. Most leisure travel as well as commuting will have to adjust to significantly cleaner rail, tram and bicycle networks. There should be a European transportation policy to induce people, through a combination of carrots and sticks, into moving from the more to the less polluting modes of transportation.

It is not merely a question of "greening" the energy supply and the auto industry. George Monbiot has indicated the parameters of the problem in an article on the planned extension of wind power through a major project in England. This project would provide current for 47,000 homes while eliminating 178,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions (that would otherwise come from fossile fuel consumption for their electricity) per year. While this sounds like a major improvement, Monbiot points out that a single jumbo jet flying back and forth daily from London to Miami "releases the climate-change equivalent of 520,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. One daily connection between Britain and Florida costs three giant wind farms." Moreover, the UK government predicts a rise in British air passengers over the coming quarter century from 180 million to 476 million. Similar problems arise with continued and expanded automobile traffic. Hydrogen-powered autos based on a wind-power supplied electricity grid would "require a doubling of the national grid." Monbiot concludes that "there is no sustainable way of meeting current projections for energy demand. The only strategy in any way compatible with environmentalism is one led by a vast reduction in total use."

In response to the oil crunch, caps on CO2 emissions for new cars comparable to those in California have already been advanced by the European Greens , but we will have to go much further to cut back on auto and air travel. Fuel rationing and limits to automobile advertising similar to those imposed on tobacco will have to be discussable. Changing the existing corporate and state travel subsidy systems to a housing subsidy might make it possible for large numbers of workers to live close enough to their places of work that they would not need private autos.

Severe cutbacks to the auto industry of course mean more unemployment. But the European economy ­ and European employment ­ can compensate by a large-scale construction of rail and tram lines to take the place of both the auto and the airliner. While the residual automobile and airplane production might be left in private hands, the construction of a more extensive rail and tram network could be considered a matter of such public importance that it should be undertaken as a public trust. In both areas, of course, the existing levels of technological and informational prowess should be utilized, artisanal production being non-existent.

In any case, rapid rail transport can bring Europeans faster to most continental destinations than the auto and almost as quickly as air travel, when we calculate the amount of time needed to reach airports, check in, then check our luggage out again and reach cities 20 kilometers away. Given the reduction of flying, most airports near major cities could probably be replaced by a few mainports for essential intercontinental traffic constructed in the North Sea and the Mediterranean and connected to the mainland either by rail tunnels or high speed ferries. Intra-European air routes can be scrapped, replaced by high speed rail lines. This, together with the sharp reduction in auto travel would go far to clean Europe’s air and eliminate much of the noise pollution currently fraying nerves in most of our large cities.

Housing and social organization

Since adequate housing is a human necessity, one of the goals of the EU should be to ensure that everyone has it. As to how it might be provided, there are large gains in productivity possible from the design and production of pre-fabricated units. There should be a production trust at the European level, supported by public subsidies, with a wide variety of choices suitable to different climates and cultural possibilities. Nonetheless, the proliferation of small local private contractors in housing is one of the few areas not taken over by corporate capitalism, and, with a degree of regulation as well as subsidy, this area of work should remain, as far as possible, in private hands.

In any case, changes in the transportation matrix from plane and car to train, tram and bus will also necessitate major changes in urban housing configurations, particularly in areas where suburban development has presupposed car ownership. While this will require the complete rebuilding of many American urban agglomerates, Europe too will have to cope with this problem. European guidelines on such rebuilding will of course, as the Greens have long proposed, include mandatory energy-saving insulation, it might also include a maximum of solar-energy roofing.

Apart from the technical environmental prudence, a European-sponsored housing program could also advance, in cooperation with city councils and citizen groups at the local level, experimental forms of social housing in cooperative and collective organization.

Agriculture

Several years have passed since Renate Künast, minister of agriculture in the red-green administration of Gerhard Schröder, proposed a major reorganization of Germany’s agricultural policy to encourage small holdings and organic farming. Ms Künast’s plan represented a breakthrough at a national level for a return to agricultural sanity. It was hailed by the tens of millions of Europeans alert to the health dangers of industrial farming, as well as by those who, like the adherents of the Confédération Paysanne and Via Campesina, saw in small farm holdings a relationship between man and nature that was being sacrificed to the multinational enterprises of industrial agriculture. Moreover, the organic farming advocated by Via Campesino, is not much less efficient than factory farming: a long-term study in Switzerland a couple of years ago showed that crops were generally around 80% as good as non-organic methods.

Unfortunately, despite that promising beginning, food production continues to be monopolized by large enterprises that work together with giant chemical corporations to push factory-farm produce, genetically manipulated crops and unwanted hormones into the world’s diet. The EU is following the direction taken by the USA, where, according to a NY Times article of December 2003 on the decline of rural America, barely 1 percent of American workers now earn their income from a farm, as opposed to 30% a hundred years ago. The article decries "the collapse of the family farm and the subsequent rise of agribusiness…The big farms are getting richer, fattened by federal subsidies, and the small farms are disappearing."
If there is one area of production where both producers and consumers stand to benefit by a return to artisanal production, it is agriculture. The advance of industrial production at the expense of pre-industrial traditional modes of production was in the 19th and early 20th centuries largely restricted to non-agricultural production: clothing, mining, transportation infrastructure and vehicles, and household appliances. While the meat-packing industry in the United States early in the last century depended on very large livestock farms and rationalized and centralized slaughter and distribution techniques, most farming remained everywhere in the hands of small farmers until the last half century, during which the rise of supermarkets, the interest of chemical corporations in selling taste and "freshness" additives and the proliferation of fast food outlets encouraged the development of factory farming. In the same period, the growth of inexpensive air freight and the possibility of easy instantaneous global communication encouraged large-scale food plantations in many areas of Latin America and Asia.

The result has been two-sided: on the one hand, more and cheaper food in the developed countries; on the other, the elimination of 80 to 90% of the farmers who earlier worked the land and a food supply that is increasingly endangered by pesticides, additives of all sorts, diseased animals and a genetic manipulation of foods whose consequences, for us as well as for the earth’s food chain, are incalculable. Large scale agriculture and global marketing has also had ruinous effects on the agriculture of a number of third world countries, where centralized export monocultures monopolize land use, force small farmers into rural peonage and urban slums, and destroy agricultural self-sufficiency.

While the elimination of traditional small farming in the urbanized West is not regretted by many, it’s consequences for public health are serious. Moreover, in a century in which the twisted relation between humankind and the natural world threatens the future of all civilization, the rupture between society and its source of nutrition, a rupture exemplified by factory farming, is ominous.

In the less-developed countries of Asia and Latin America, the growth of the agro business has an added social aspect. In India, China and Brazil, for example, a large part of the population continues to work the land in a traditional way, and ­ in different ways in each country ­ hundreds of millions of peasants are struggling for survival. In China, over 150 million have already been thrown off the land by the introduction of rationalized methods and machinery; they supply a low-wage industrial reserve army for the burgeoning export industries of the People’s Republic. Meanwhile, many of those remaining are faced with the submersion of their farm land under the flood waters of the huge dam projects encouraged by the government to supply power and water to large-scale agricultural and industrial projects. And there are large environmental risks A similar danger confronts both the Indian ecology and the indigenous villagers and outcaste peasants in the way of the Narmada River Valley dam project. In Brazil, a country where 47% of the land is owned by 1% of the population, destitute peasants, organized in a militant "Movement of the Landless", regularly squat and farm the many large deserted plantations of the northeast. The left-leaning government of Lula da Silva has been slow to live up to its promises to help them.

There are, then, several good arguments for including a major subsidization of small organic farms and an emphasis on vegetable cultivation in a "new limits" agenda of the EU Left.

The global economy that is the source of most of our present food production has hidden social and economic costs. Apart from the peonage this economy encourages globally, the cost of bringing its cheap products to us has until now never included the incalculable danger of global warming caused by the CO2 emissions of long-distance transportation by air or freighter. Even when summer produce is grown out of season in local greenhouses, there are major hidden costs in the CO2 emissions from the energy used. When we consider that our enjoyment of tropical fruits or strawberries in the winter occurs at the peril to the health of our children and grandchildren, a switch to local, small-scale agriculture and the seasonable edibles consumed by our parents may appear reasonable.

Another argument is that the food thus produced will be a good deal healthier than the chemical and pesticide-stuffed goods that now prevail on supermarket shelves.

A third is that organic farming will add to the number of independent producers, a traditional bedrock of any kind of democracy.

A fourth is that a shift away from the high-protein agroindustry-based meat diet currently propagated as ideal will spare us, apart from its health hasards, a great amount of pollution of earth and water by animal wastes, and free up land for vegetable cultivation.

Finally, it will give meaningful work to many people. The environmentally mandated reconstruction of Europe’s economy will considerably reduce the numbers of those involved in producing, selling and servicing the throw-away products of our present consumer society; a return to small farming can absorb a great deal of unemployment.

Implications for a European Foreign Policy and World Trade Program

The 2004 appeal for a progressive parliament — "For A Different Europe"* — ended with the following paragraph:

"Instead of closing itself off from the rest of humankind, a Social Europe could openly confront neoliberal trade policies on a world scale, offering the countries of the global South an alternative to corporate domination by the global North. It could use the wealth and creative idealism of Europe to help the peoples of Asia, Africa and South America develop their economies on their own terms, not on those of multinational investors."

The transformation of Europe’s social and ecological practices has strongly positive implications both for world peace and for development of a sustainable and socially justifiable global order.

The current attitude to the "developing nations" of hegemonic neoliberal powers ­ in Europe and Japan as well as in North America ­ is both exploitative and defensive/aggressive. Given economies based on limited energy resources and giant multinational corporations that must expand or die, the world is viewed by the governments representing the interests of those corporations in one or more of four ways: as sources of indispensable natural resources for their own industries and consumers; as sources of inexpensive labour; as markets for dumping products that cannot be sold in domestic markets; and as areas for exporting capital investment. All the major institutions concerned with global commerce and "development" ­ the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank ­ have been shaped by European and American governments to serve these interests.

The beggar-my-neighbor policies thinly veiled by neoliberal free trade rhetoric foster the mutual paranoia that infects much of current international reliations, creating militant hatred of the West in a Middle East that has long been viewed by the U.S. and Europe as a geopolitical prize, Islamophobic chauvinism in the West, and mutual suspicions and aggressive/defensive postures in many other parts of the world. Without these policies, most of the national spending on prospective mutual slaughter, particularly in the U.S., but also in the EU, Russia and China, would be superfluous, releasing vast sums for school, health and social support systems.

Such policies have their sources in two things. One is the incapacity of corporate capitalism to reach stasis, the dependence of multinational companies on "growth" in order to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of planetary competition. The other, symbiotic with this need for growth, is the obsession of western consumers for more and more commodities: a mental deformation, nurtured by ubiquitous corporate advertising, that dictates possession of more and larger cars, homes and gadgets, and the consumption of more exotic and expensive foods. This universal fetishizing of growth determines (and in the miinds of many, justifies) the exploitative trade policies of the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank.

These institutions thus impose the doctrine of free trade on states of the global South whose nascent industries cannot survive in free competition with the West, with the result that a considerable number of such countries have seen their new industrial sectors bankrupted and their economies limited to supplying raw materials and cheap, plantation-produced food for the West. China and India, for different reasons, have largely escaped that trap and have instead served as areas where an inexpensive labour force, swollen by the expulsion of peasants from an increadingly rationalized agriculture, supplies products and services to Western consumers at a price that permits the rapid accumulation of domestic capital. An emerging power such as China then displays the same impulses and tends to play the same game as the dominant powers, given the "free trade" frame set by the West for its development.

China, for example, quarrels with Japan over the gas deposits in the China Sea and establishes energy pipe lines from the rich gas and oil fields of Iran. It also pushes its way into Uncle Sam’s Latin American back yard, buying up energy futures in Venezuela, Brazil and other countries, and it tries to sell the cheap textile goods of its enormous labour market in the West, provoking resistance from the U.S. and the EU. Chinese concern with securing crucial geopolitical energy and marketing bases collides with American ambitions in the same areas. US aspirations to military control of the Middle East ­ a geopolitical imperialism deemed necessary for the securing of America’s energy supply ­ may never find a parallel in the behavior of the Chinese or other powers, but US economic aggression is only an extreme form of the Hobbesian anarchy fostered by neoliberal "free trade" doctrines. All powers playing this game will be lured to similar kinds of economic machismo, with attendant dangers to world peace and of exploitation of weaker nations.

A European shift from "free" to "fair trade" could be the cutting edge of a major shift in global social and economic development. An ecologically sustainable and socially just European construction would create an alternative model. It could work together with new powers of the global South that are not yet fully controlled by neoliberal policies and that, as many in China, India and Brazil seem to be, are aware of the social and ecological dangers of uncontrolled "growth" on a Western model. On condition of sufficient environmental and social protections, It could offer favorable trade terms as well as the technological fruits of its rapid development of sustainable energy sources and of a rail (rather than auto- and air-) based transportation system to the rest of the world. It could share experiences in organic farming and on a better tie between urban and rural social development with the global South. Ultimately, if United States governments and corporate powers continue to pursue their unilateralist, hegemonic course, they could be compelled, by their isolation and by the lack of a future for neoliberal consumer society, to adapt themselves to the new world paradigm.

Changing mentalities

Many readers will agree with the reasonability of the "new limits" agenda but nonetheless protest that it is utterly impractical, since, they will argue, the public at large will reject any infringement on its current standard of living as a return to medieval standards of penury. Convincing the traditional constituencies of the Left that this is the direction we must go if we are to survive will require a different kind of activity than the usual politics of the Left, including the far Left.

The broad strategic objectives of the "New Limits" Agenda presuppose an alliance of all responsible groupings of the Social Democratic, Green and militant Left in the European Parliament ­ a popular front for a social and ecological Europe ­ that would run on some version of the "limits" agenda in the next elections. It would also require a three-fold tactical approach.

In the first place, we shall have to define a list of practical proposals that go in the desired direction and have some chance of winning support ­ if not immediately, then after the next elections ­ at both the EU and the national levels.

Secondly, the political alliance should be broadened to include as many invidividuals and groupings as possible outside the normal parameters of the Left parties:

a) within the European Parliament, those in the centrist blocs who are also dissatisfied with the neoliberal tilt of the EU;

b) NGOs such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Milieudefensie, ATTAC and Via Campesino;

c) trade unions and socially sensitive foundations (e.g. the Soros foundation);

d) local ecological movements, think tanks (like the TransNational Institute) and neighborhood organizations in as many countries as possible. A link to the somewhat amorphous "Other-globalization" movement would also be helpful.

Finally, the necessary shift in mentalities can only be accomplished through imaginative publicity — everything from the kinds of spectacular stunts now carried out by groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, to serious statements of purpose signed by statesmen, scientists, artists and academics and circulated to the world press, to advertising aimed at provoking popular concern for the future of children and grandchildren on a planet dying in its own waste products. A comparable combination of methods helped to shift American public opinion on crucial issues, in the 1950′s on nuclear testing, and in the 1960′s and 70′s on the Vietnam War.

Conclusion

Europe can and must define a different future than the grim one promised by the now ubiquitous American economic model. It has the resources, the intelligence, the universalist-revolutionary traditions and the necessary infrastructure of civil society ­ parties, trade unions, ngos and a free press ­ to do so. As a first step, I would propose a discussion of the agenda for a sustainable Europe among concerned citizens from a wide spectrum of such groups and sympathetic members of the European Parliament to explore the strategy and tactics of a shift to social and environmental sanity.

 

* * *

FOR A DIFFERENT EUROPE

In June 2004, all member-states of the European Union will hold elections to the European Parliament. Popular disgust at the arrogance of American power offers the Left a major chance to begin the reconquest of Europe from corporate neoliberalism, a free market utopia linked to the global economic and military dominance of the United States.

Leverage at the European level is indispensable for changing the neoliberal drift emanating from Brussels: Most of the national economic legislation for pro-business "reforms" — deregulation, privatisation and diminution of social welfare, promoted by both center-right and center-left governments — is based on EU law that leads to the subordination of government to corporate interests.

Breaking the corporate strangle-hold on European social policy requires a strengthened and environmentally aware Left in a purposeful European Parliament, a Parliament capable of demanding a larger role for the only democratically elected institution in the European scheme and willing to reverse the current priorities of deregulation and privatisation. A Europe based on democracy and solidarity is all the more necessary in the light of the current expansion of the EU to 25 member nations.

A progressive European Parliament could implement a European social program revitalizing protections for health, old age and unemployment currently menaced everywhere. It could reduce the work week rather than the work force, control outsourcing of jobs and financial speculation, and accelerate EU investment in public transportation, public education and public health.

Such a Europe could unite the social goals of the left to the imperatives of environmental wisdom, thus creating a breakthrough for the critical forces that have been germinating in Europe ever since the collapse of the Soviet empire ended the Cold War. It could increase European funding for sustainable energy sources, sharpen anti-pollution legislation, end the continent-wide menaces of nuclear power and genetically manipulated foods, and mandate an ecologically responsible agriculture.

These programs are essential since without visible, effective policies for a social and green Europe, Europeans will be trapped between the protectionist populism of the Far Right and an opportunistic Atlanticist bellicism. Where guarantees for a decent and sustainable existence break down, social insecurity breeds xenophobic hostility, undermining and dishonoring Europe’s commitment to universal human rights. The Left must articulate the desire of the peoples of Europe not to exchange their welfare states for warfare states.

Instead of closing itself off from the rest of humankind, a Social Europe could openly confront neoliberal trade policies on a world scale, offering the countries of the global South an alternative to corporate domination by the global North. It could use the wealth and creative idealism of Europe to help the peoples of Asia, Africa and South America develop their economies on their own terms, not on those of multinational investors.

We believe that an alliance between an informed European electorate and an empowered European Parliament can and must reshape Europe for the welfare of its peoples and as a model for the global future.

Co-signers of "For A Different Europe" as of June 13, 2004:

NETHERLANDS: Farouk Achour (author), Kiki Amsberg (documentary film maker), Chris&Ton van Asseldonk, Wim Bartels (Interchurch Peace Council [IKV]), Lily van den Bergh (filmmaker), Alexander von Bormann (Professor of German Literature [emeritus], University of Amsterdam [UvA]), Jesse Bos (Wethouder (alderman), Amsterdam-North), Brid Brennan (Trans National Insitute [TNI]), Daniel Chavez (TNI), Hinde Chergui (jurist), René Danen (Coordinator, Keer het Tij), Fiona Dove (TNI), Roel van Duijn (Groen Links [Green Left Party]), Frances Gouda (History and Gender Studies, UvA), Myrtille Hellendoorn (Social Sciences, Vrije Universiteit), Godelieve van Heteren (MP, PvdA), Olivier Hoedeman (Corporate Europe Observatory), James Paul Kahan (professor of psychology and policy analyst), Gabriel Kolko (historian), Joyce Kolko (historian), Rudi Künzel (History, UvA), Solange Leibovici (Comparative Literature, UvA), Machteld Löwenstein (art historian), Denise Martinez (visual artist), Huub Oosterhuis (De Rode Hoed), Jan Nederveen Pieterse (sociologist), Luciano Pitzalis (Globalization Festival), Rachel Ploem, Anke Polak (Humanistisch Vredesberaad), Gary Price (retired consultant), Jan Pronk (former cabinet minister, PvdA), Inez Schreurs (coaching practice), Rob Simons (journalist), Joost Smiers (Professor, Utrecht School of the Arts), David Sogge (TNI), Aafke Steenhuis (writer and artist), Henri L.J.A. van de Vall (Stop de Bezetting [Stop The Occupation]), Mr. Berend C. Vis (Faculty of Law, University of Groningen), Anne-Ruth Wertheim (publiciste), Marleen Wessel (historian and law student, UvA), Paul van der Wilt (artist), Karel van Wolferen (Political Science, UvA).

BELGIUM: Albena Azmanova (political scientist, Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Luc Herman (American Studies, University of Antwerp), Philippe van Parijs (philosoper and economist, Université Catholique de Louvain), Riccardo Petrella (economist, Université Catholique de Louvain), Myriam Vander Stichele (historian).

GERMANY: Elizabeth Abendroth (writer and translator), Konrad Boehmer, (composer), Claus Offe (sociologist, Humboldt Universität), Peter Schöttler (historian, CNRS and Free University Berlin), Margareta Steinrücke (sociologist, Arbeitnehmerkammer, Hamburg), Heiner Stück (sociologist, Arbeitnehmerkammer, Hamburg), Frieder Otto Wolf (philosopher)

FRANCE: Francis McCollum Feeley (Professeur d’Etudes américaines, Université de Grenoble3), Susan George (writer), Laurent Gerbaud, (Health Policy Research, Auvergne University), Michael Löwy (sociologist, CNRS), Thomas Perrin (Assistant ingénieur/recherche et formation, Paris), Kapil Raj (Historian of science, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris), Michel Rocard (former Socialist Prime Minister of France).

ENGLAND: Peter Gowan (editorial board, New Left Review), Bob Jessop (political scientist, Lancaster University), Hilary Wainwright (editor, Red Pepper).

SPAIN: Francisco Fernández Buey (sociologist, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona), Jordi Morrós Ribera (Universitat de Barcelona).

ITALY: Marco Berlinguer (Transform! European Network for Alternative Thinking and Political Dialogue), Luciana Castellina (former MEP), Malcolm Sylvers (historian, University of Venice).

IRELAND: Seamus Deane (historian of literature). GREECE: Gregor Kritidis (journalist), Nicolas Karayannis (Parliamentary Assistant, European Parliament).

SWITZERLAND: Bernard Walpen (NGO researcher on international poverty).

ARTHUR MITZMAN is emeritus professor of modern history at the University of Amsterdam. He is the author of The Iron Cage: An Historical Interpretation of Max Weber and Michelet, Historian: Rebirth and Romanticism in Nineteenth-Century France and, most recently, the excellent Prometheus Revisited: The Quest for Global Justice in the 21st Century. He can be reached at: mitzman@counterpunch.org