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Why the neolibs want Belgium to split

by Jerome a Paris Wed Sep 19th, 2007 at 07:50:40 AM EST

There's been near constant chatter in the English language press about the end of Belgium (see for instance in today's FT: Culture clash may break up Belgium), but I've finally found an article (in the opinion pages of this same FT) that explains why some see the prospect with such glee:

It's all about getting rid of socialist parasitism and discrediting pro-European federalists.

If Belgium does go down it will provide only the latest and starkest reminder of the endurance of ethnic nationalism in modern Europe and the corresponding failure of elitist supra-nationalists to forge larger identities holding any real meaning for ordinary people.


Those of us who believe in the vital importance of a functioning EU to the continent's stability and prosperity but who take a pragmatic and national-democratic rather than an elitist and supra-national approach need to wrest control of the agenda once and for all.

The second lesson is that the consequences of anti-reformist economic and social agendas may extend further than had hitherto been assumed. A driving force for separatist sentiment in Belgium's Flemish north has been frustration at having to subsidise a socialist-orientated Walloon south with its attendant problems of mass unemployment and welfare dependency.


In a too deeply integrated EU, countries that have taken their reformist responsibilities seriously - especially looking a decade or two hence when demographic decline and reductions in the working age population begin to bite - may start to ask serious questions about the value of an EU in which they have to bail out the laggards.

We have it here as starkly as it can be said: "reform" is about ending solidarity, and treating the poor and the weak as parasites, unworthy of help and support, to be left to their own devices so that the rich can enjoy the fruit of their "reforms".

And breaking Belgium would be one more nail in the coffin of a truly European spirit of community and solidarity, by showing a model split between supposedly rich and poor. I suppose that it does not do any damage that the poor, weak, socialist, unreformed, massively unemployed Wallonia is French-speaking - that fits wonderfully in the narrative.

Divide and rule the continent - and prevent any meaningful buildup of solidarity at the continental level.

The main change is how this narrow nationalistic and classist agenda is being sold as "reformist" and "pragmatic" and, even more  extravagantly, as anti-elitist.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Sep 19th, 2007 at 09:36:14 AM EST
I can't actually manage to put together a coherent comment on this. It's so amazingly fucking mad that I just can't deal with it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Sep 19th, 2007 at 09:44:04 AM EST
Sounds like a goal for ET - ensuring that we don't have to deal with such amazingly fucking mad stuff in the news all the time...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Sep 19th, 2007 at 10:21:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I like how they castigate the EU for being elitist:
...the corresponding failure of elitist supra-nationalists...
...rather than an elitist and supra-national approach...

Yet, is there anything about this whole screed that doesn't scream elitism? Countries who've taken their responsibilities, bailing out the laggards, qualifying agendas as "anti-reformist", wresting control of the agenda. They don't mind elitism at all, so long as they're part of the elite.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde

by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Wed Sep 19th, 2007 at 10:56:12 AM EST
It's part of their consistent plan to capture words and twist their meaning beyond recognition.

See: freedom, reform, security, compassion, etc...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Sep 19th, 2007 at 11:29:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is almost as if the Anglo-Saxon press had consciously decided to push the issue of the breakup of Belgium as a way to weaken the EU. It makes one wonder where, how, by whom would such a decision be made.

Yesterday at the Lib Dem conference fringe meeting on the EU Committee of the Regions some bloke dropped the line "Belgium is breaking up" as if it were a done deal and I couldn't resists shouting "bullshit!" back. He said "but it is!" and I said "you read The Economist too much".

Oye, vatos, dees English sink todos mi ships, chinga sus madres, so escuche: el fleet es ahora refloated, OK? — The War Nerd

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 19th, 2007 at 11:28:56 AM EST
Neoliberalism is about the shifting of assets and wealth to a small group by cutting off public services and subsidies to others.

That raises the question, of course, of how that gets justified. How do you tell one part of a society to cut off the other? In some cases you just do it - see Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine - but when some measure of voter approval is needed, you instead demonize those you're cutting off, blaming them for everyone's problems.

Some neoliberals make arguments based on individual factors - that those who are wealthy are either better people, smarter, harder working, etc; and those who are poor and cut off are lazy, stupid, incompetent, and therefore undeserving of aid.

But much, MUCH more common are arguments based on various forms of sectarianism. In the US it's usually about race - whites not wanting to provide aid to blacks and Latinos. In Belgium it seems that ethnicity and language are the terms of division.

It's easier to cut off people, to make them the victims of neoliberalism, if you see them as an "other." Instead of seeing them as Belgians they're instead greedy, lazy, French-speaking Walloons. So neoliberalism stokes these divides, and then when individuals take them up, neolibs cheer them on in the service of their wider goals of destroying the public sector and attacking social solidarity.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Wed Sep 19th, 2007 at 11:50:46 AM EST
What an ironic counterpoint to asiegel's diary.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Wed Sep 19th, 2007 at 12:51:53 PM EST
divide et impera

the goal of the neocons is colonial [and I think it has to be because the industrial capitalism from which they spring and which they serve is inherently colonial, a product of colonialism and a colonialist model of resource liquidation, the ruination of one place to accumulate wealth in another]... that goal is always to divide and rule, not unite and share -- to destroy local solidarity and autarky so that there will be no local base of strength to resist their long-reach predation, extraction, accumulation.  to reduce everyone except the financial elite and their protected servant caste to the status of the Ik, fragmented and isolated in a looted landscape devoid of sustenance.  tribe must be pitted against tribe, worker against worker, church against mosque, so that we're all too busy biting and scratching and kicking to notice our overlords enclosing and stealing every last scrap of mineral, biotic, and hydrological wealth on the planet.

of course, our noisy squabbling will be ascribed to our inherent deficiencies of character and not to their clever manipulations.  they did it to India, they did it to the Americas, they did it to Africa, and now having run out of new continents to carve up, they're doing it back home...

what's really depressing is not that there are clever sociopaths among us --that's statistically inevitable -- nor that they gain advantage by being nasty -- cheaters do prosper in the short run, that's why they cheat... but that they fool us again and again and again.  you'd think we'd learn, eventually, the lesson of the Prisoner's Dilemma...

sky blue and leek green...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Sep 19th, 2007 at 04:40:08 PM EST

has a quite detailed and comprehensive analysis and interesting discussion on the topic of Belgium.

by PeWi on Wed Sep 19th, 2007 at 06:53:58 PM EST
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Sep 20th, 2007 at 06:05:24 AM EST
Great post.
by stet on Thu Sep 20th, 2007 at 08:58:29 AM EST

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