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Daniel Cohn-Bendit's comfortable illusions

by JakeS Thu Apr 12th, 2012 at 04:10:32 AM EST

Another comment rescue (original comment here), this time with a fuller deconstruction of the three most pernicious right-wing talking points parroted by Daniel Cohen-Bendit in the interview redstar deconstructed here.

First, the offending talking points:

If you want to begin the energy transition, there is one thing to do: break the monopoly of EDF.
[...]
If you enacted a 0.1% tax on every phone call happened in Europe, in addition to the tax on financial transactions, these could generate, according to calculations, between 50 and 80 billion euros per year that would go into Europe's coffers. There it is, the necessary room for maneuver - at the European level, not impoverished states which compose it!
[...]
Yes of course! When you hear Jean-Luc Melenchon castigate American imperialism, do not you hear the speech the hollow Communist Party diatribes against NATO in the 1950s?

This is all pernicious nonsense.

front-paged by afew


In order:

  • Breaking the vertically integrated utilities is a subsidy to GazProm and a jobs program for the City of London, as has been explained in great and well-illustrated detail on this blog over the years.

  • Treating the financial transaction tax as a revenue-generating measure is a fundamentally right-wing narrative on two levels:
    1. It sets up the financial transaction tax for failure, because a successful FTT would minimise revenues, by selecting the local revenue minimum where it renders the greatest volume of spurious transactions unprofitable while imposing the lowest burden on legitimate transactions. And attempting to maximise revenues will not only miss the whole point of a FTT, it will likely prove far more difficult than a proper implementation.

    2. It feeds the right-wing narrative that the sovereign has to "finance" its outlays either through borrowing or taxation. This is flatly untrue, and propagates the very hard-money quackery which has lead us into this crisis and which, if perpetuated, will destroy the European Union, and very possibly the whole of the European democratic tradition.

  • Asserting that questioning the wisdom of European NATO membership is inherently Unserious is a pernicious Atlanticist talking point. It is, in fact, not at all obvious what benefit Europe accrues from NATO membership and it is even less obvious why this question should be met with shrill rebuke. Unless it is because those who refuse to entertain the question do so to avoid revealing that they have no convincing answer.
Then eurogreen's defense of DCB, which I found unconvincing:
What is clear is that DCB is arguing in favour of the European and infra-state levels, and that Mélenchon and Redstar are arguing for abandoning both and retrenching to the nation-state.

What is clear is that the European inter-state level is fundamentally broken and that key parts - chiefly the monetary union and the inner market in services - need to be rolled back and their rebuilding put on hold pending much more activist federal fiscal and industrial policy. Actual fiscal and industrial policy, not the neoliberal la-la-land fiscal and industrial non-policy we have been treated to since Maastrict.

Forging ahead on the current institutional foundations will not further the cause of European integration. It will blow Europe apart (perhaps literally as well as metaphorically). We've passed the point where that train wreck could be avoided, now it's a search, rescue and salvage operation to preserve as many parts of the European federal structure as we can. And the first step in any salvage operation is triage: To identify which parts can be salvaged, which parts are irretrievably damaged, and which parts must be jettisoned because they present a clear and present danger. The common currency belong firmly and obviously in the last group.

What is also obvious is that DCB does not understand any of this.

- Jake

Display:
You are very well expressing my position (and that of the party to which I belong) on the point of Europe and the state of the EU-as-it-actually-exists, and the necessary role of the State.

Thank you for that.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Apr 11th, 2012 at 09:42:44 AM EST
The really sad thing is that on the technical details of macroeconomics, I differ from the Fordists only in placing a greater weight on sustainability concerns. (Their social policy is repulsive, of course, and their productivist ethos an anachronism. But I can't fault their macroeconomic analysis.)

That you and I even have a common language in which to discuss politics, let alone a common political home, is a sad comment on the state of contemporary political discourse.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Apr 11th, 2012 at 10:15:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
were also great admirers of Fordism and Taylorism. Here's Stalin:

"American efficiency is that indomitable force which neither knows nor recognises obstacles; which continues on a task once started until it is finished, even if it is a minor task; and without which serious constructive work is inconceivable.... The combination of the Russian revolutionary sweep with American efficiency is the essence of Leninism."

Of course, this without the distastefully regressive social policies and justifications of exploitation and inequality (at least as far as went the ideal).

There's more in common than you think.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Apr 11th, 2012 at 10:40:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 12th, 2012 at 04:04:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
James C Scott in "Seeing like a State" (a great social sciences book) points out that, in accordance with the times, Lenin was very much a fan of Fordist centralisation, applying the separation of tasks of the factory to the Worker's Party too...

And then Scott points out the failures of this mode of thought...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Apr 12th, 2012 at 07:40:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As did the post-Stalin communists in the SU.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 03:11:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Engels had a wonderful (horrible) line about how a factory must be under the complete authority of management, like a ship under a captain.
by rootless2 on Sun Apr 22nd, 2012 at 04:22:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem with ANY federalist approach (DCB or the one you are exposing) is that we then have a single point that can be appropriated by special interests. Be it the banks and their "neo-liberals" or the soviet bureaucracy or any theocratic group or whatever.

A confederacy precludes this. Of course the diversity of a confederal arrangement will assure that some parts will be really dreadful (think south of US of A). But the way this is going then the WHOLE is dreadful anyways.

by cagatacos on Wed Apr 11th, 2012 at 11:34:13 AM EST
From the point of view of the individual citizen, whatever entity holds sovereignty over their jurisdiction is going to be the single point of failure.

That sucks, but nobody ever promised that the world would be fair.

The main differences between a federal and a confederal approach are that (a) a federal approach can better handle problems of a continental scope and scale, and (b) hostile foreign interests (including transnational corporations) can't play all sides against the middle.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Apr 11th, 2012 at 12:39:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"The problem with ANY federalist approach ... is that we then have a single point that can be appropriated by special interests. Be it the banks and their "neo-liberals" or the soviet bureaucracy or any theocratic group or whatever."

Divide and conquer appeals to lobbyists, doesn't it?

There are just too many humans, and too few analysts with balls.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Tue Apr 17th, 2012 at 06:57:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It sets up the financial transaction tax for failure, because a successful FTT would minimise revenues, by selecting the local revenue minimum where it renders the greatest volume of spurious transactions unprofitable while imposing the lowest burden on legitimate transactions.

There's the more general point that taxation is political. The point of taxation isn't to collect money to pay for state services, it's twofold:

  1. To redistribute wealth. (Which can mean from poor to rich, as well as vice versa.)
  2. To reward certain activities and un-reward others.

Now, it's true - more or less - that sovereign states are definitionally solvent. But there are only certain circumstances in which printing money is a good idea.

So using taxation as a tool for policy is by no means a bad thing, if it's done intelligently.

And the issue about FTTs is that there is so much money passing through the financial industries, and they're such reliable sources of political and financial instability, that taming them with taxation isn't a bad plan at all.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Apr 12th, 2012 at 07:32:06 AM EST
They won't be tamed (maybe squeak a little) - but, like at the Bookies, the financial industries should be able to pay tax up front on the bet (FFT), or pay tax on the winnings. Can this be so hard to do?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Apr 12th, 2012 at 07:42:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is why the FTT, as implemented (if and when it finally is), will be done in such an ass-backwards way as not to work as intended by Tobin. And then Tobin the Keynesian will be blamed for the failure of the policy.

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 06:15:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Care to expand?

res humà m'és aliè
by Antoni Jaume on Sun Apr 15th, 2012 at 05:25:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They will set up the tax to great fanfare about collecting revenue, and then declare it a failure when noise trading goes away and it therefore fails to collect revenue. Rather than hailing it as a brilliant success because it made the noise traders go away.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Apr 16th, 2012 at 02:24:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In addition, there was already great fanfare about a tax on shares and bonds transactions, leaving the foreign exchange and commodities markets untaxed.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 16th, 2012 at 03:39:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a great reluctance here to name financiers as the parasites they truly are, and it really muddies the discussion.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Tue Apr 17th, 2012 at 07:00:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That could also be because not all financiers are parasites.

Sorry to interject some nuance into your naive and simplistic analysis. I know it's annoying how the world is more complicated than you'd initially think.

But it is.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Apr 18th, 2012 at 04:30:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also because it would get us nowhere, for instance, to say for instance that Soros is a parasite.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 18th, 2012 at 04:34:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...where it renders the greatest volume of spurious transactions unprofitable while imposing the lowest burden on legitimate transactions. And attempting to maximise revenues will not only miss the whole point of a FTT, it will likely prove far more difficult than a proper implementation.

Neoclassicals hardly understand anything about this. To them there are no "free lunches." All payments are payments of value. Any tax is wrong. The details don't matter.

by kjr63 on Thu Apr 12th, 2012 at 12:33:58 PM EST
as related in today's Huma (no linkie, go and buy it!), get's it exactly right, explaining why she is voting Front de Gauche:

"We have to stop this opposition of ecology and industry in our political discourse. That is what ecological planning sets out to do. Ecology is inherently anti-liberal, and inherently pro-solidarity."

Exactly so. Mr Cohn-Bandit would do well to listen to his rank and file before spouting nonesense next time.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 03:04:28 PM EST
Ecological planification is the one point of the FdG proposals that I find absolutely not clear nor necessarily a good thing.

I'm convinced that you cannot organise from above something as complex as nowadays society. I also think that mosts ecological issues are best if locally treated.

Nevertheless, I believe that the center may have a big influence if forcing the economic actors (citizens and companies) to price adequately the cost of ecological destruction, through natural reserves constitution, or taxation of negative effects (like the carbon tax). Even the carbon market could work if the European states had not tried to favorise their national companies by allowing them free credits (which sum up and lead to a too low price overall).

by Xavier in Paris on Mon Apr 16th, 2012 at 06:17:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No local initiative has ever built a railway or a multi-megawatt wind farm.

And none ever will.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Apr 17th, 2012 at 02:26:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I still can't understand why you people so obsess over NATO. It is still the only credible security organisation in Europe. The common European defence policy stuff is an utter joke, and everyone knows it is. Nor do NATO-membership mean being conscripted as a US colonial auxilia: lots of non-NATO states enjoy serving that role, while not all NATO states do.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Apr 17th, 2012 at 06:59:09 AM EST
I'm not the one who's obsessing over NATO. Cohen-Bendit is.

I'm just saying that if people deride the question of what's in it for Europe as inherently Unserious, it sounds a lot like they're trying to avoid revealing that they lack a convincing answer.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Apr 17th, 2012 at 08:31:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Whether to stay in NATO or not is also being discussed in Scotland, in case they become independent.
Yet the SNP is assuming that this English state would desire to maintain the present defence posture of the old United Kingdom. For instance, they are hoping that the nuclear weapons now based in Faslane would be claimed by England and transferred down south. However there is no guarantee that England alone would wish to be one of the world's nuclear powers. Not only would England's claim to a UN Security council veto, one of the reasons that the UK has continued to maintain a nuclear force, become slightly ludicrous, there has periodically been large domestic pressures internally in England to get rid of these weapons.

An England in this present state of austerity and budget cuts and angered by a Scotland that has broken up the union, might not claim the weapons. For Scotland to become non-nuclear, it needs to have a cooperative relationship with England. Staying in Nato would be one way to reassure England that Scotland was serious about its European defence responsibilities.

Oh no! Scotland may be stuck with the nuclear weapons. Maybe they can find someone who is interested in buying them.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Apr 17th, 2012 at 08:43:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL. They can ask Iran. A win-win situation.
by Katrin on Tue Apr 17th, 2012 at 03:21:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does Scotland even possess the knowhow to make those things go boom?

Not that I can honestly see England failing to recover their boomers. Leaving aside the staggering irresponsibility, which I could perfectly well ascribe to Little Englanders, it's still the wrong sort of stupidity for the Tories.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Apr 18th, 2012 at 04:32:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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