An Apology of Populism (3): Eurocriticals and the Federalist Leap

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My name is Sebastiano I’m a 24 years old student in Macroeconomics and co-founder of TRAM:E (Theory, Reflection, Action, Movement: Europe). Born Italian, raised Belgian, French, German. Migrant by nature. Boundaries, borders… not my thing. Polyglot.

All Eurosceptic parties considered in the previous two posts (first and second) are – despite their ideological differences and diverging cosmetic choices – right-wing parties in a more or less classic sense.

When counting the Eurosceptic parties I did not consider the leftists, more specifically the European Left led by the Greek Alexis Tsipras. Their opposition to the European project is of a different nature and to be distinguished from opposition coming from parties sitting in the right-half of the hemicycle. While the latter oppose any move towards more European integration – chiefly towards a Federal European Union – on  pure ideological grounds, left-wing opposition to the current state of affairs is rooted in a (rather washed-out) form of neo- or post-Marxist economic analysis.

More specifically, the parties of the Right oppose the European Union so as to preserve ‘national sovereignty’, local cultural identities and independence of the nation-state from supranational bodies’ meddling or a forthcoming ‘invasion of immigrants’. The parties of the Left, on the other hand, oppose what EU integration has achieved in terms of what they qualify as identification with ‘corporate lobbies’, the so-called Europe of the banks that has fostered austerity policies during the crisis and, in general, neo-liberal economic thought.

This has not prevented some of them – few and far between – from mentioning the Ventotene Manifesto by Altiero Spinelli and his colleagues of the European Federalist Movement. As can be shown by means of the Federalist Scorecard developed by the Union of European Federalists, however, they mostly see the federalist option as part of the problem, not as part of the solution. It is short-sighted to forswear a glorious internationalist tradition like that of the socialist Left, but – thankfully! – political blindness is not yet a crime. Thence, a more fitting label for the Left – if absolutely necessary – could be ‘Eurocritical’, as they have called themselves.

Where does the Greens/EFA group come into the picture? Clearly, they do not offer any grounds to claims of being ‘populist’. They could, however, be qualified as somewhat ‘Eurocritical’ insofar as the Green component offers an alternative to the status quo, albeit a very much federalist one. They oppose austerity policies, ’revolving doors’ between the EU institutions and the private sector, excessive meddling by corporate lobbies into EU affairs. All, however, on grounds that this is a betrayal of the European Dream, that ‘no one will be left behind’ on which the European Social Model rests: civil and political rights, socio-economic rights, digital rights, protection of the environment, are all needed together to guarantee a more social, more inclusive, more sustainable Europe.

But what the Greens see as the main solution – one of the many differences with left-wing parties – is a federalist ‘Great Leap Forward’ addressing the yet too strong national vetoes and the democratic deficit affecting the EU. They are not Eurosceptic, they are not Eurocritical. If anything, the Greens are the most ‘Euro-enthusiasts’ of all. (to be continued)

Sebastiano Putoto is a guest on this blog.

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