Volume , Number 0
There are no articles.Commentary
There are no articles.Culture
There are no articles.Features
Ustan b. Reinart
Law & Order
John M. Laforge
Press The Press
Dru Oja jay
Lee Siu hin
Z Papers on Vision
An interview with Betsy Leondar-Wright
Gay & Lesbian Community Notes
Herbert P. Bix
European Union News
Eleanor J. Bader
There are no articles.
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
France: No To Neo-Liberalism
F rance’s recent repudiation of the proposed European Union constitution is a resounding reminder that the populace still possesses the power to defy political elitism with all of its economic dogmas; neo-liberalism being one of them.
True, there is a prevailing apprehension among the French regarding free market, neo-liberal doctrines, which naturally leads to a decided rejection of corporate globalization altogether, with its undoubted infringement on the political sovereignty, economic independence, and cultural uniqueness of every nation.
But one must also be reminded that it was France that earnestly promoted some form of European unification or another, starting in 1951 with the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community, followed by the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, which in turn, evolved into the Maastricht Treaty (formally the Treaty on European Union) in 1992.
Indeed, France has remained at the forefront of efforts to mold Europe into a truly effective polity. But the May 29, 2005 vote changed much, despite France’s assurances that its commitment to Europe is unmoved.
Several factors contributed to the growing doubts among the French, which culminated into a solid vote against the constitution—signed by European heads of governments on October 29, 2004—a primary concern being the economics of the matter. On May 1, 2004, ten new members, by and large East European countries, were taken into the European fold. Many of these new members suffered shattered economies and rushed to take advantage of the free flow of labor and other economic perks that accompany EU membership. While the move was good news for large businesses, ever eager to reduce overhead costs by employing cheap laborers with meager benefits and little expectations, it was a blow to an already struggling Western European job market.
Traditionally, the French economic system has been one of unconcealed governmental protectionism coupled with socialist ideals regarding the welfare of citizenry, leaving a comprehensible mark on various aspects of French life. The unprecedented one-time expansion of the Union and the proposed EU constitution a few months later was a move, as perceived by many, toward unrestrained neo-liberal free market policy, the antithesis of the aspirations of most French.
But neo-liberalism and globalization not only undercut France’s economic distinctiveness; it also threatened the country’s political prominence and efficacy.
France has long seen itself as the center of a free and independent Europe. It has labored to demonstrate that Europe is no longer an instrument in the U.S. foreign policy agenda, nor is it a middleperson between the U.S. government and its foes, as Britain’s Tony Blair has supposedly suggested. Thus, French President Jacques Chirac has toiled to achieve, not simply a united Europe, but a self-determining Europe.
Initially, the Bush administration sought to engineer a rift in the European camp. Its efforts galvanized before and immediately after its invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It envisaged an old Europe and a newer one, with France at the helm of negligible countries, due to their strong anti-war stance.
But that failed miserably, since France’s position revived confidence in its government. Without question, it was the most critical and far-reaching European stand against U.S. foreign policy since World War II.
Even though the Bush administration has adopted a cautious position on the unfolding European crisis, Washington has steadily supported the expansion of the EU to include those eligible to become part of the new Europe: mostly former communist nations heavily reliant on U.S. aid. By bringing its allies into the fold—with the probable joining of more allies including the ever-willing Romania—the U.S. has aspired to dilute the influence of countries such as France and Germany who, until now, refused to send troops to Iraq to subdue the growing revolt.
Strangely, in a Washington Times article, “No United States of Europe,” Allan Topol mockingly celebrates the French rejection of the EU constitution “for now it’s no longer possible that a United States of Europe would rival our own country economically and even militarily.” This contemptuous and congratulatory tone has dotted the coverage of much of the conservative mainstream media in the U.S.
But what these commentators have failed to appreciate is that a French “no” is not exactly a victory for the U.S. government and its desire to be uncontested, particularly by a supra-national organization. If considered correctly, it can be deduced that France’s rejection is quite disconcerting for U.S. domination. For one, the French populace has reclaimed democracy after it had been hijacked (as in the U.S.) by government, big business, and corporate media. Moreover, neo-liberalism has received its greatest blow as of yet, far surpassing the anti-WTO uprisings in Seattle and elsewhere. Finally, it proved that France remains a consequential member in the determination of the future of Europe, a notion that is sure to make U.S. neo-conservatives think twice before dismissing France’s political prestige and regional import.
But most importantly, a Europe that is not united on the undermining of the political sovereignty of its member states is likely to harden Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s most urgent task of dragging Europe down with it into the costly Iraq calamity. While Europe ponders very important matters about its future aspirations, identity, and so forth, U.S. foreign policy is likely to stagnate in the perpetual quagmire of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the desire to take on Iran.
Following talks with visiting EU Commissioner Benita Ferrero- Waldner, EU High Representative Javier Solana and Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, Rice was blatant in making the link between its need for Europe’s absolute support and its dangerous foreign policy. “It is our view that a strong and united Europe that is able to act as a global partner with the United States will only serve to multiply the forces that are fighting for democracy and freedom and for prosperity across the globe,” Rice preached. “We have a big agenda ahead of us—whether it is in the Middle East or in Iraq or in trying to deal with a potential nuclear breakout in Iran. We have a lot ahead of us and we are going to continue that agenda.”
The clarity of the U.S. agenda was met on May 29 with an equally clear French response, redefining Europe’s priorities as unequivocally European, not U.S.-defined, coupled with a resounding rejection of neo-liberalism and political marginalization. Democracy has, for now, delivered.
Ramzy Baroud is a veteran Arab-American journalist and the author of the upcoming book, A Force to Be Reckoned With: Writings on the Second Palestinian Uprising .
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.