Perry Anderson, Britain's most respected Marxist intellectual, has embraced Eurosceptic populismby Andrew Moravcsik / December 22, 2007 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2007 issue of Prospect Magazine
The sad saga of European institutional reform continues. Having initially spun the reform treaty as a “constitution,” many of Europe’s leaders have been obliged to re-spin—telling the public that they have fundamentally revised the document, transforming it into a mere treaty amendment. The Eurosceptics are correct to insist that the document remains largely unchanged. But the deeper truth is that the reforms are modest and pragmatic. Euro-spin has piled up so thick over the past six years, however, that no one believes ministers when they say this.
Even smart guys are confused. Take Perry Anderson, one of the most creative of British Marxists in recent decades, who recently tossed a tubful of Euroscepticism out the window of his ivory tower on to the pages of the London Review of Books. His critique is aimed at those—among them Mark Leonard, Tony Judt, Jeremy Rifkin, Jürgen Habermas, Marcel Gauchet and myself—who argue that Europe is emerging as a model of world-historical significance. Despite our differences, all of us believe that the old continent strikes the most admirable balance to be found in today’s world—superior to the US, Japan, Russia or China—among the three fundamental elements of modern democracy: market economics, social democracy and multilateral institutions.
Anderson’s response reveals a bit that’s wrong with Europe, but a lot more that’s wrong with leftist thinking about Europe. To be sure, he displays some of the virtues of old-fashioned Marxist history—a hard-headed, fact-based focus on material interests. He shows, for example, how the single market, the single currency and even enlargement, while important achievements, are often oversold. He exposes the distributional conflicts that underlie the EU: Europe is about national interests, and the bargaining is tough. Just ask German car workers about Slovak competition, or Poles why their subsidies are smaller than Spaniards’.