From the end of national Lefts to subversive movements for Europe

Dossier: The Greek Symptom: Debt, Crisis and the Crisis of the Left

RP 181 () / Article, Dossier, The Greek Symptom

When we speak of the globalization of markets we also speak of a limitation imposed on the sovereignty of nation-states. In Western Europe, the essential error of national left-wing movements and parties [des gauches nationales] has been their failure to understand that globalization is an irreversible phenomenon.

Up until the fall of the Soviet Union, the US leadership succeeded in combining – with prudence, but also with manifest consistency – the national specificities of countries belonging to the Western alliances (and NATO, above all) with the continuity of classical imperialism, marshalling them together against ‘real socialism’. Ever since 1989, with the fall of the Soviet bloc, the ‘hard power’ of the United States has been replaced little by little by the ‘soft power’ of the markets: the freedom of commerce and money have subordinated the old instruments of power (the military and the international police), and financial power and the authoritarian management of public opinion have determined the field in which the new liberal actions that support market policies will be undertaken from now on. Neoliberalism has organized itself powerfully on the global level: today it manipulates the current economic and social crisis to its own advantage and can quite probably look forward to a radiant future… A democratic and peaceful transformation of the political foundations [assises] of neoliberalism is unimaginable on the global level – at least so long as no revolutionary ruptures take place.

Running parallel to all this, since 1989, the rout of the political forces of the Left has been profound. Not only have the dogmatic forces on the Left, in the name of a supposed fidelity to archaic ideological forms, renounced any understanding of the class struggle as it exists in a world profoundly transformed by globalization and the mutation of the mode of production, but a new current of socialist thought and action, attempting to take the novelty of the situation into account, has risked overt alliances with neoliberalism.

The process of unification of the European continent, and the institutions in which the debate on the European constitution has unfolded, have demonstrated in an exemplary way the Left’s hollowness and political impotence – both in Tony Blair’s ‘third way’ version (whose orientations have rapidly come to be identified with the explicit will to politically structure Europe in a neoliberal fashion), and in the form opposed to it; that is, those groups that, behind their refusal of the unity and development of the European institutions, have hidden their inability to construct an alternative to neoliberalism. To do so, the latter would have had to be willing to put the nation-state, international public law and the administrative system of capitalist modernity in question. Taken as a whole, the failure of these forces has been gigantic.

If we wish to revive the debate, then we must ask what theoretical and political conditions might allow us to reopen a perspective of struggle on the realistic terrain of subversively constructing a unified Europe.


In what does financial and/or biopolitical capitalism consist? It consists in the subsumption of society – or, more precisely, of life itself – under the domination of capital. How do the markets exert control over the structure of society? I cannot, of course, linger on this point: I will limit myself to saying that this power operates through the increasingly important use of monetary control, whose aim is the accumulation of financial returns or rents [de la rente financierè]. The latter reorganizes the productive and reproductive relations according to schema for deepening and intensifying the apparatuses of exploitation – sometimes to the extent of becoming a genuinely new form of primitive accumulation, to use Marx’s terms. The financial markets, which seek maximal valorization, on the one hand privilege the industries of ‘the production of man for man’, which is to say welfare, metropolitan productive services, and information services; and, on the other, they privilege resource extraction and energy industries, agribusiness, and everything that, broadly speaking, deals with nature.

A first definition of the ‘commons’ [le commun], which various movements are seeking today, could paradoxically consist in this: the communist reversal of the full extent of capitalist appropriation. What strikes me as interesting is the study …