John McDonnell shapes Labour case for four-day week

Economist Lord Skidelsky working with shadow chancellor on ‘practical possibilities of reducing the working week’

Dan SabbaghFri 9 Nov 2018 04.32 GMT

John McDonnell, the Labour shadow chancellor, is in discussions with the distinguished economist Lord Skidelsky about an independent inquiry into cutting the working week, possibly from the traditional five days to four.

The academic, who has a longstanding interest in the future of work, confirmed he was talking to the shadow chancellor about “the practical possibilities of reducing the working week”.

Skidelsky said he did not want to “be too exact” about his recommendations, although he added the idea of exploring ways of reducing the traditional five-day week to four was under consideration.

McDonnell has suggested the party could include a pledge to reduce the traditional working week by a day in its manifesto for the next election. Asked directly about this last month in a BBC interview, he said: “We will see how it goes.”

The idea, though, is sensitive in Labour circles with some unsure whether such a commitment would be appropriate. The idea was floated during the Labour conference in September but the party later denied it was being considered – before McDonnell reignited speculation about it in the BBC interview.

Labour insiders say that people work too many long hours but some argue that issues such as zero-hour contracts and other issues faced by gig-economy workers are more pressing.

Skidelsky indicated he did not anticipate holding an official party inquiry, saying that he hoped to produce work that would be “open to anyone to look at the results”. Workers in France and Germany produce more than their British counterparts, despite working shorter weeks.

Further clarity on the topic is expected in around a fortnight. When McDonnell was asked on Tuesday directly about Skidelsky advising him on a four-day week, he said: “I’ll get back to you on that. I’ll let you know in the next couple of weeks”.

The shadow chancellor added that he was reading a new book by Skidelsky, entitled Money and Government, describing it as “terrific”.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said that a four-day week should be “an ambition” at its annual gathering in September. At the time Brandon Lewis, the Conservative party chairman, responded by saying the idea would do “untold damage to our economy”.

Skidelsky, who sits as a crossbencher in the Lords, is an emeritus professor at Warwick University and has previously written a three-volume biography of Lord Keynes as well as on the financial crisis.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/nov/09/john-mcdonnell-shapes-labour-case-for-four-day-week

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Le mythe de la ruée vers l’Europe

https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2018/11/BREVILLE/59238

Immigration, un débat biaisé

En Europe, la population stagne et vieillit ; de l’autre côté de la Méditerranée, elle s’accroît et rajeunit. De ce constat, beaucoup concluent que l’explosion des flux migratoires devient inévitable. Il faudrait par conséquent soit se barricader, soit ouvrir les frontières. Cette analyse n’est-elle pas inutilement fataliste ?

par Benoît Bréville

Les flux migratoires en direction de l’Union européenne ont atteint leur plus bas niveau depuis le début de la « crise des réfugiés » déclenchée par la guerre en Syrie. Le nombre de franchissements illégaux des frontières du continent a été divisé par neuf, passant de 1,8 million en 2015 à 204 219 en 2017, selon l’agence Frontex. Pourtant, on parle toujours autant d’immigration. Le thème risque même de dominer les élections européennes du printemps 2019.

C’est en tout cas le souhait conjoint de MM. Emmanuel Macron et Viktor Orbán. Craignant une « invasion », le premier ministre hongrois explique : « Il y a actuellement deux camps en Europe. Macron est à la tête des forces politiques soutenant l’immigration. De l’autre côté, il y a nous, qui voulons arrêter l’immigration illégale. » Les ténors de l’extrême droite, portés par les sondages et par leurs bons résultats aux dernières élections, s’imaginent désormais majoritaires en Europe. « En Pologne, en Autriche, en Hongrie, nos idées sont au pouvoir », s’est réjouie Mme Marine Le Pen, présidente du Rassemblement national, le 16 septembre. De son côté, M. Macron a désigné ces « nationalistes » qui « prônent un discours de haine » comme ses adversaires prioritaires (29 août).

Faire du président français le « chef d’un parti promigrants », selon les mots de M. Orbán, témoigne d’un aveuglement qu’on peine à croire sincère. Avec la loi pour une immigration maîtrisée, un droit d’asile effectif et une intégration réussie (promulguée le 10 septembre), il a allongé la durée de la rétention administrative jusqu’à quatre-vingt-dix jours (contre quarante-cinq auparavant), y compris pour les familles accompagnées d’enfants ; il a instauré le fichage des mineurs isolés, banalisé les audiences de demande d’asile par visioconférence, durci l’accès à un titre de séjour pour les parents d’enfants français, limité le droit du sol à Mayotte, etc.

Au milieu de ce brouhaha, la gauche radicale semble se déchirer entre les partisans de l’ouverture des frontières et ceux d’une régulation qui s’attaquerait aux causes des déplacements de population (1). Un objectif hors de portée, rétorquent les premiers, car le développement des pays du Sud, loin de diminuer les flux migratoires, contribuera au contraire à les alimenter.

Cette objection connaît un succès grandissant depuis la parution, en février dernier, d’un ouvrage de Stephen Smith qui prophétise une « ruée » de la « jeune Afrique » vers l’Europe et une « africanisation » du Vieux Continent (2). Appuyée sur une multitude de chiffres et de statistiques, la démonstration de cet ancien journaliste passé par Libération, Le Monde et Radio France Internationale (RFI) paraît implacable. L’Afrique serait soumise à un « rouleau compresseur démographique » alimenté par la fécondité très élevée au sud du Sahara. D’après certaines estimations des Nations unies, sa population passera de 1,2 milliard d’habitants en 2017 à 2,5 milliards en 2050, et même à 4,4 milliards en 2100. Pendant ce temps, le continent connaîtra un important développement économique, les revenus des habitants augmenteront, et un nombre croissant d’entre eux disposeront « des moyens nécessaires pour aller chercher fortune ailleurs ». Il faut donc s’attendre à une « levée en masse » du continent, à tel point que, dans trente ans, 20 à 25 % de la population européenne sera d’origine africaine (contre 1,5 à 2 % en 2015).

Avec de telles prédictions, Smith redoutait de « soulever passions et polémiques ». Son livre, bientôt traduit en anglais, en allemand, en espagnol et en italien, a au contraire reçu le prix de la Revue des deux mondes, une récompense de l’Académie française et le prix Brienne du livre géopolitique décerné par le ministère des affaires étrangères, ce qui lui vaut d’être désormais assorti en librairies d’un bandeau rouge portant l’estampille du Quai d’Orsay. Tandis que le philosophe Marcel Gauchet voudrait rendre sa lecture « obligatoire pour tous les responsables politiques » (L’Obs, 27 juin), M. Macron considère qu’il a « parfaitement décrit (…) cette démographie africaine qui est une véritable bombe » (15 avril). Pendant six mois, à l’exception de celle de l’anthropologue Michel Agier, dans un entretien croisé (3), aucune voix n’a porté la contradiction à Smith.

La première attaque en règle est finalement venue en septembre, sous la plume de François Héran. Dans une note de l’Institut national d’études démographiques (INED), puis dans un article destiné au grand public (4), ce professeur au Collège de France, titulaire de la chaire migrations et sociétés, rappelle que 70 % des émigrés africains restent sur leur continent, un chiffre stable depuis les années 1990. Mais il conteste surtout la méthode et les données utilisées par Smith. Exploitant la base bilatérale des migrations établie par la Banque mondiale, le Fonds monétaire international (FMI) et l’Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques (OCDE), il calcule que les Africains et leurs descendants constitueront 3 à 4 % de la population européenne vers 2050, « très loin des 25 % redoutés ».

Héran ne discute pas l’idée d’une « levée en masse » de l’Afrique ; il considère simplement qu’elle n’aura pas lieu avant 2050. Pour déterminer l’ampleur des futures migrations africaines, Smith a repris les ordres de grandeur d’anciens mouvements de population, en particulier la grande migration transatlantique — au cours de laquelle, au XIXe siècle, cinquante millions d’Européens se sont installés en Amérique — et l’émigration des Mexicains vers les États-Unis entre 1970 et 2015. Dénonçant cette méthode peu rigoureuse, Héran objecte : « Si l’on place l’indice de développement humain sur une échelle de 1 à 10, la plupart des pays subsahariens se situent en 1, tandis que le Mexique est en 6, la France en 9 et les États-Unis en 10. Autant les migrations du niveau 6 vers le niveau 10 sont massives (25 millions de personnes dans les diasporas concernées), autant celles qui vont du niveau 1 aux niveaux 9 et 10 sont limitées (moins de 2,3 millions). Or qui peut croire qu’à l’échéance de 2050 l’Afrique subsaharienne aura brûlé les étapes du développement pour rejoindre la position relative actuelle du Mexique ? » Autrement dit, dans les trois décennies qui viennent, l’Afrique sera encore trop pauvre pour faire ses valises.

Les jeunes laissés pour compte

Au-delà de leurs divergences, Smith et Héran partagent donc un même diagnostic : les populations des pays très pauvres se déplacent peu et le développement économique, loin de freiner l’émigration, contribue à l’encourager. « Vous faites voler en éclats l’une de nos certitudes les plus ancrées », s’ébahit Alain Finkielkraut en interviewant le premier (5). Le philosophe semble alors découvrir un phénomène solidement établi depuis 1971. Avant cette date prévalait un modèle dit « néoclassique » : on considérait que tout rapprochement du niveau économique entre les pays de départ et d’arrivée engendrait mécaniquement une diminution des flux migratoires. Puis ce schéma fut remis en cause par le géographe Wilbur Zelinsky, qui, pour la première fois, avança l’hypothèse d’une « transition dans la mobilité », désormais plus souvent appelée transition migratoire, dont il distingue plusieurs étapes (6). À mesure que les pays très pauvres se développent, leurs taux de mortalité, notamment infantile, chutent ; la population rajeunit et le taux d’émigration augmente. Une fois atteint un niveau de richesse élevé, les départs d’habitants diminuent et les arrivées d’étrangers s’accroissent — sauf en cas de circonstances exceptionnelles (guerre, effondrement économique, crise politique…) qui peuvent radicalement changer la donne.

Depuis quarante ans, de nombreuses études de cas ont confirmé ce modèle. Jadis pays d’émigration, l’Italie, l’Espagne, la Grèce, l’Irlande, la Corée du Sud, la Malaisie ou encore Taïwan ont achevé ce cycle et sont devenus des pays d’immigration. D’autres, comme la Turquie, l’Inde, la Chine ou le Maroc, pourraient opérer ce basculement dans les décennies qui viennent. Plus généralement, les économistes Michael Clemens et Hannah Postel ont constaté qu’entre 1960 et 2010 le taux d’émigration avait augmenté dans 67 des 71 États qui sont passés du statut de pays à revenu faible à celui de pays à revenu intermédiaire (7). Le phénomène est si récurrent, indépendamment des lieux et des époques, qu’il paraît presque naturel. À moins que l’Afrique ne fasse exception à la règle, la croissance économique pourrait donc y provoquer une hausse spectaculaire de l’émigration, notamment dans la partie subsaharienne. « Avec l’aide au développement, dont on pensait que c’était justement le moyen de fixer les Africains chez eux et qui est souvent invoquée, les pays riches se tirent une balle dans le pied », s’affole Finkielkraut.

Pour expliquer ce phénomène, les chercheurs ont avancé plusieurs raisons. L’une d’elles, la seule que retient Smith et la plus souvent invoquée, concerne l’assouplissement de la contrainte financière. Émigrer coûte cher ; il faut payer le visa, le voyage, les frais d’installation : un frein pour les plus pauvres. L’augmentation des revenus permet mécaniquement à un nombre croissant d’individus de disposer des fonds nécessaires pour se lancer dans l’aventure migratoire, le vivier des candidats au départ étant d’autant plus important que la proportion de jeunes s’accroît.

Mais, si le manque de ressources peut assurément contrecarrer un projet migratoire, encore faut-il se demander pourquoi certains veulent quitter un pays en pleine croissance. La réponse apportée par les chercheurs est simple : dans les États les plus pauvres, le développement économique n’est pas synonyme de prospérité pour tout le monde. La hausse de la productivité agricole transforme le monde rural et laisse sur le carreau une main-d’œuvre abondante, souvent jeune, de plus en plus formée, que l’économie industrielle et urbaine émergente ne parvient pas à absorber, notamment en lui offrant des emplois qualifiés en nombre suffisant. Bloqués dans les campagnes ou aux marges des villes, les laissés-pour-compte sont distancés par ceux qui tirent leur épingle du jeu et peuvent profiter des bienfaits de la consommation. Dans un contexte de meilleur accès à l’information, cet écart alimente le désir de tenter sa chance ailleurs, que l’augmentation des revenus permet d’assouvir.

Marie-Laure Vareilles. – De la série « Tous pareils, tous pas pareils » , 2016

© Marie-Laure Vareilles – www.artphotomailo.com

Dans bien des cas, désormais, le développement économique se conjugue en outre avec l’instauration du libre-échange, dont les effets sur les mouvements de population ont été largement démontrés. Le Mexique constitue à ce titre un cas d’école. Signé en 1992, l’Accord de libre-échange nord-américain (Alena) fut présenté à la population comme un moyen de réduire les flux migratoires. « Les Mexicains n’auront plus besoin d’émigrer au nord pour trouver un emploi : ils pourront en trouver un ici », promettait alors le président Carlos Salinas de Gortari (8). De son côté, l’économiste Philip L. Martin prédisait déjà l’effet inverse (9), et la suite lui a donné raison. Délivrés des barrières douanières, les États-Unis ont inondé leur voisin de maïs subventionné et issu de l’agriculture intensive. La baisse des prix a déstabilisé l’économie rurale, jetant sur les routes des millions de campesinos qui ne trouvaient à s’employer ni sur place ni dans les nouvelles usines installées à la frontière. En moins de dix ans, le nombre de clandestins mexicains aux États-Unis a augmenté de 144 %, passant de 4,8 millions en 1993 à 11,7 millions en 2002. En signant, en 2014, des accords de libre-échange avec une trentaine de pays africains, l’Union européenne pourrait ainsi alimenter l’immigration qu’elle prétend combattre.

À aucun moment Smith n’évoque le caractère inégalitaire de la croissance, les effets des logiques de marché, les processus d’accumulation du capital et d’accaparement des terres par de gros propriétaires qui détruisent l’économie paysanne en y introduisant le salariat (10). Si les études sur la transition migratoire aboutissent toutes aux mêmes résultats, c’est sans doute parce qu’elles observent le même type de développement, fondé non pas sur la recherche du plein-emploi et la réduction des inégalités, mais sur le libre-échange, les privatisations, la flexibilité du marché du travail, la maximisation des « avantages comparatifs » pour attirer les investissements directs étrangers.

En réalité, ce n’est pas le développement qui provoque l’émigration, mais l’inadéquation entre l’offre et la demande d’emploi, en particulier pour les jeunes. « Toutes les données indiquent qu’un marché de l’emploi tendu dans les pays d’origine décourage les départs (11)  », souligne l’économiste Robert Lucas, tandis que Clemens et Postel précisent : « Il y a indubitablement une relation négative entre le taux d’emploi des jeunes et l’émigration. Le taux d’émigration dans les pays dont le taux d’emploi des jeunes dépasse 90 % est inférieur de moitié à celui des pays où seulement 70 % des jeunes ont un emploi (12).  » Invitant à ne pas confondre corrélation et causalité, le professeur Hein de Haas souligne enfin qu’une démographie dynamique n’engendre pas mécaniquement une forte émigration. « Les gens ne migrent pas à cause de la croissance démographique, rappelle-t-il. Ils migrent seulement si la croissance de la population s’accompagne d’une croissance économique lente et d’un fort taux de chômage. (…) Quand une forte croissance démographique coïncide avec une croissance économique forte, comme dans la plupart des monarchies pétrolières du Golfe, l’émigration est faible (13).  »

Division des classes populaires

L’idée que des dizaines de millions d’Africains, poussés par l’absence de perspectives, les guerres ou le changement climatique, prendront le chemin de l’exil est aujourd’hui largement partagée sur le Vieux Continent. Les artificiers des paniques identitaires s’en saisissent pour réclamer plus de restrictions — « L’Europe n’a pas vocation à devenir africaine », justifie Finkielkraut. D’autres exigent, mais à partir d’un constat fataliste, la liberté de circulation et l’ouverture des frontières. « Il est illusoire de penser que l’on va pouvoir contenir et a fortiori interrompre les flux migratoires. (…) Dans les décennies qui viennent, les migrations s’étendront, volontaires ou contraintes. Elles toucheront nos rivages, et notre propre pays, comme aujourd’hui, aura ses expatriés. Les réfugiés poussés par les guerres et les catastrophes climatiques seront plus nombreux », détaille par exemple le « Manifeste pour l’accueil des migrants » lancé par Politis, Regards et Mediapart.

Une autre voie serait possible, qu’ils n’explorent pas. Plus escarpée, elle partirait d’une remise en cause du modèle économique dominant afin de rendre leurs sociétés désirables aux populations souhaitant les quitter. Postuler pour le Sud un destin tissé de crises et de misère ne manifeste-t-il pas un certain pessimisme ?

Le ressentiment observé dans les pays d’accueil n’est pas non plus écrit d’avance. Il naît dans l’austérité généralisée, la déstabilisation de la protection sociale, l’affaiblissement des services publics, le choix politique de mettre en concurrence des pauvres avec de plus pauvres, public et privé, actifs et retraités, smicards et chômeurs, pour l’obtention d’une aide, d’un logement social ou d’une place en crèche. L’arrivée de migrants apparaît alors comme une pression supplémentaire sur des ressources devenues rares, permettant à l’extrême droite de jouer sa stratégie de division des classes populaires. « Moi, je fais le choix de privilégier les Français parce que je pense que c’est vers eux que nous devons diriger notre solidarité nationale, et l’idée que l’on accueille de manière inconséquente et irresponsable des milliers de migrants pour laisser des sans-domicile-fixe dans la rue me révulse », s’exclame Mme Le Pen (14). Là encore, une autre voie est possible. Elle implique non pas de signer des manifestes et de réclamer l’ouverture des frontières tout en sachant qu’elle n’interviendra pas, mais de s’astreindre au patient travail politique qui propulserait au pouvoir une force réellement capable de changer le cours des choses.

Benoît Bréville

(1) Lire « Embarras de la gauche sur l’immigration », Le Monde diplomatique, avril 2017.

(2) Stephen Smith, La Ruée vers l’Europe. La jeune Afrique en route pour le Vieux Continent, Grasset, Paris, 2018. Sauf mention contraire, les citations sont tirées de cet ouvrage.

(3) « La jeunesse africaine est-elle un danger pour l’Europe ? », L’Obs, Paris, 18 février 2018.

(4) François Héran, « L’Europe et le spectre des migrations subsahariennes », Population et Sociétés, n° 558, Paris, septembre 2018 ; « Comment se fabrique un oracle », La vie des idées, 18 septembre 2018.

(5) « Migrations : faut-il avoir peur de l’Afrique ? », « Répliques », France Culture, 17 mars 2018.

(6) Wilbur Zelinsky, « The hypothesis of the mobility transition », Geographical Review, vol. 61, n° 2, New York, avril 1971.

(7) Michael A. Clemens et Hannah M. Postel, « Can development assistance deter emigration ? », Center for Global Development, Washington, DC, février 2018.

(8) Carlos Salinas de Gortari, discours au Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, 28 mai 1993.

(9) Philip L. Martin, « Trade and migration : the case of Nafta », Asian Pacific Migration Journal, vol. 2, n° 3, Thousand Oaks (Californie), septembre 1993.

(10) Douglas S. Massey, « Economic development and international migration in comparative perspective », Population and Development Review, vol. 14, no 3, New York, septembre 1988.

(11) Robert E. B. Lucas, International Migration and Economic Development : Lessons from Low-Income Countries, Edward Elgar Publishing, Northampton, 2005.

(12) Michael A. Clemens et Hannah M. Postel, « Can development assistance deter emigration ? », op. cit.

(13) Hein de Haas, « Migration transitions : A theoretical and empirical inquiry into the developmental drivers of internation migration », International Migration Institute, université d’Oxford, janvier 2010.

(14) RTL, 16 janvier 2017.

https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/audio/2018-11-Immigration_un_debat_biaise.mp3?cle=rBiuwsiP8w0hjYGFWd626saJTw%3D%3D

Who won Britain’s culture wars? The urban left’s mixed success

Although often ridiculed in the 1980s, the left’s social policies were on the winning side when it came to gender, sexuality, and environmentalism, writes James Curran. However, the same cannot be said for their politics of race, and certainly not for their economic policies.

During the 1980s, the urban left was rendered toxic. It was reviled by the press, demonised by Conservative government minsters, and denounced by Labour’s leadership. The phrase ‘loony left’ entered the English language to denote a deluded socialism that warranted only ridicule. Nothing more needed to be said, no additional arguments needed to be mustered: the ‘loony left’ stood for all that was absurd about an unhinged, zealous, politically correct strand of social radicalism.

However, since the 1980s, the once derided policies of the urban left have gained increased support, and in some instances become part of the new consensus. This is especially true in relation to the urban left’s stand on homosexuality. It championed Gay Liberation and argued that gay relationships should be normalised – a deeply unpopular position during the AIDS moral panic. But a sea change of public attitudes took place in the subsequent period. Whereas 74% said that same-sex relationships were always or mostly wrong in 1987, only 16% took this view in 2016. In 1983, only 41% thought it was right for a homosexual to teach in a school, compared with 83% in 2012. Similarly, a bare majority (53%) in 1983 thought that it was acceptable for a homosexual ‘to hold a responsible position in public life’ whereas 90% was comfortable with this in 2012. Against this background of changing attitudes, gay marriage was legalised in 2013 – symbolically affirming the normality of gay relationships.

Something similar happened in the case of gender relations. In the 1980s, the urban left were mocked for championing feminism, and ridiculed for seeking to ‘subvert’ traditional gender norms. But what seemed to some ridiculous in the 1980s appeared less so some 25 years later. Whereas in 1987 48% of the population agreed that ‘a man’s job is to earn money’ and ‘the woman’s job is to look after the home and family’, only 13% took this view in 2012. This reflected a generational shift. Younger people were much more inclined than the older generation to say that it was acceptable for women with young children to go out to work.

Admittedly, the traditional stigma attached to feminism lingered on. In 2015, only 7% of British adults (and 9% of women) defined themselves as feminists, principally because feminism was associated with being extreme, polarising and ‘political’. But the movement became stronger from the 1980s onwards partly because it gained increased support from the right, and also among men. By 2015, large majorities in Britain agreed that gender equality was desirable; that it had not been achieved; and that more needed to be done to rectify this. Indeed, 67% said that they were sympathetic to feminism. Feminism-lite became mainstream.

Although the urban left’s environmentalism was not reviled in the 1980s, it was viewed by many as a ‘fringe’ interest. This ceased to be the case, with the dawning realisation that climate change was a reality. By 2014, a mere 6% disputed that the planet was warming; and a further 6% disagreed that human activity was contributing to climate change. Against this background, only a handful of MPs opposed in 2008 the Labour government’s Climate Change Act, setting out a detailed plan for reducing carbon admissions. Britain’s support for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2016, under a Conservative government, had all-party backing.

The 1980s London left (in which the Labour triumvirate of Corbyn, McDonnell, and Abbott were all prominent ) were also outriders of change in relation to race. Their stand in favour of positive action to redress racial inequality was attacked as a form of ‘inverted racism’. However, their stand became mainstream by the 2000s. Organisations like the BBC, Football Association, and Metropolitan Police deliberately sought to recruit and promote members of racial minorities, urged on by both Labour and Conservative governments.

However, this shift was not underwritten to the same degree by a change of public attitudes. On the one hand, racism in much of Britain declined. Whereas over 50% expressed hostility to inter-racial marriage in their family in the late 1980s, this dropped to 35% in 1996 and to 20% in 2013. But if one part of society became less racist, another part dug in its heels. The percentage of people saying that they were prejudiced against other races fell from 36% to 26% between 1983 and 2017. But the decline was not linear, and those saying that they were racially prejudiced never dropped below a quarter of the population during this period. Overt racism was anchored by tenacious beliefs about racial inferiority; fuelled by the rise of Islamophobia (in 2013, twice as many people said that they would mind a family member marrying a Muslim as said the same of a black person); and strengthened by growing opposition to the increase of immigration into the United Kingdom.

So, if the urban left of the 1980s were on the winning side in relation to gender, sexuality and environmentalism, they encountered strong headwinds in the politics of race. Furthermore they got absolutely nowhere when they argued that the state should play an activist role in the creation of good jobs to counteract de-industrialisation. If the left won the battle more or less on social issues, it was comprehensively defeated in the area of the economy. Neoliberalism reigned supreme under both New Labour and Conservative governments. This created the conditions in which a resurgent social conservatism in ‘Brexitannia’ took wing. One of the causes of the EU Referendum result was economic resentment in the declining regions of the country, unalleviated by government action. The left’s failure to prevail in one area (economic policy) – until the emergence of Corbyn – may yet undo its success in another (social policy). Social democracy needs to make a firm break with neo-liberalism if its social liberalism is to flourish in the future.

___________

Note: The above draws on Chapter 12 of James Curran, Ivor Gaber, and Julian Petley, Culture Wars: the Media and the British Left (2nd edition, Routledge, 2018).

NEW DEAL EUROPÉEN La synthèse

L’idée de l’Europe est en déclin, et l’Union Européenne est dans un état avancé de désintégration. Avec le Brexit, un pilier capital de l’Union Européenne s’est déjà effondré. D’autres pourraient suivre – si ce n’est pas au cours des cycles électoraux de cette année, alors ce sera pour les suivants.

“ Peu importe le coût. Nous avons repris les rênes de notre pays ! ” clament èrement ceux qui ont soutenu le Brexit. Quitter l’Union Européenne, c’est une aspiration qu’on commence à rencontrer aux quatre coins de l’Europe, même au sein de partis de gauche qui défendent un retour à l’état-nation.

L’Europe est-elle une cause perdue ? Peut-elle être sauvée ? Doit-elle être sauvée ?

DiEM25 est convaincu que nous, les peuples d’Europe, devons reprendre les rênes de nos pays. Nous devons même reprendre les rênes de nos régions. De nos villes et cantons. Mais pour cela, nous devons retrouver un but commun entre peuples souverains. C’est ce que nous apportera un projet Européen internationaliste, commun, transnational. C’est ce que nous apportera un New Deal Européen. Ce document vise à le démontrer.Partie 1 – INTRODUCTION

TIME TO ELECT A EUROPEAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY (WITHOUT ASKING ANYONE’S PERMISSION)

Rather than putting all their hopes in top-down democratic reforms that never come, progressives should themselves assume responsibility for building a truly democratic Europe. The 2019 elections could be the best chance to engage citizens in radical, participatory processes and end years of statis in the European institutions.

Waiting for European democratic reform is more frustrating than waiting for Godot. In the Beckett play, Godot is clearly never coming, and at least in the eternal wait we can meditate on the absurdity of human existence (and anyway the play will finish at some point). In the European Union, democratic reforms are coming at some point, but are seemingly endlessly deferred. When they do come, as a result of political compromise and national obstructionism, they are rarely what is needed. In the meantime, for lack of ambitious European democracy, the forces of reaction and nationalism grow so that on the one hand democratic reform becomes less likely, and on the other any such reform is less likely to be satisfactory or ambitious. A perfectly vicious circle.

It is time to stop waiting for others. Godot isn’t coming, and he is not called ‘Emmanuel’ or ‘Angela’. The 2019 European elections can be an important moment to mobilise citizens around the request for democratic change. But change will not come through the official ballot boxes alone. Whatever welcome progress may be made by having spitzenkandidaten or transnational lists or even genuine transnational parties will not be sufficient to drive through an ambitious democratic transformation. And so, in addition to fighting in the official elections and getting votes in the official ballot boxes, citizens need to set up their own ballot boxes, and even their own elections.

Turning back the technocratic tide

The intergovernmental and technocratic system of the EU increasingly frustrates any meaningful space for the expression of European citizenship. For as much as the Parliament has gained powers of co-decision, decision-making has moved to informal groups like the Eurogroup, intergovernmental agreements outside of the Community method (such as the Fiscal Compact or the scandalous EU-Turkey agreement), and into secretive ‘trialogue’ negotiations. The structure of the Parliament itself prevents the emergence of real transnational parties. By consequence, European citizens are deprived of political agency at precisely the time when they demand it and need it the most.

The question ‘what Europe is going to do?’ – about the banks, about Greece, about the euro, about the migrants, about Brexit, about Catalonia, about TTIP, about tax evasion… – has been discussed every day in almost every bar and café up and down the continent for nearly a decade of crisis. The idea that there is no European public sphere is no longer tenable. And it is not just discussion. Millions of Europeans have mobilised on the streets in protest or solidarity over the past years. The alleged apathy of citizens is a myth actively fostered by governing elites: it provides the ideological justification for keeping the EU a technocratic, intergovernmental, backroom affair. The distance of citizens from ‘formal Europe’ is fully understandable. They have no seat at the table and few avenues of meaningful political participation. But Europe has a meaning beyond the grey corridors of the European Council, and citizens have been reclaiming it.

It is now time to go the extra mile. People deprived of political agency have little to gain by crafting common positions in the hope that the ‘powers that be’ will take them up. In the 20th century, both the Indian Congress and the South African Congress realised that, rather than expect the imperial elites to change, they needed to construct bottom-up political power in order to transform a system that structurally deprived colonial subjects of citizenship rights. This required a movement that politically enfranchised its members through organised struggle in order to legally and socially enfranchise the majority that was being denied a voice. Today in Europe, most people are not subject to state violence – although migrants and Roma very often are – but like in colonial contexts, institutions increasingly impervious to democratic control need to be resisted and citizens need to politically enfranchise themselves as citizens of the European Union against repeated attempts to relegate them to mere subjects of undemocratic, intergovernmental governance.

Hacking the 2019 elections as an act of civil disobedience could be the way to open up fresh alternatives. We propose using the occasion to elect a Constituent Assembly for Europe.

A democratic strategy for a citizens’ Europe

This political and performative act would work as follows. All candidates in the official European parliamentary elections, as well as all citizens and any individual who declares an interest in the future of Europe, would be able to stand for the constituent assembly.

These candidates may organise themselves in transnational lists, and European parties would be asked to field candidates for election, so as to create an immediate link between the emerging assembly and the European Parliament. Taking part in the assembly process would represent a stupendous opportunity to show commitment to the idea of citizens-led democratic renewal. Civil society and social movements would be encouraged to propose their own lists. Ideas, programmes and values for a future European constitution would come forward. The communication campaign and the performative act of organising the election of such an assembly would provide a powerful push for getting the debate on European democratic reform on the agenda for the 2019 election campaign.

Preparing the ground for the election of a constituent assembly will take time and money. The whole exercise could be carried by NGOs interested in democratic renewal coming together before the election to organise it. A network of organisations could secure the necessary funding and human resources to start the process and see the election through. New transnational parties could also play an important role. Clearly, depending how large the elections get and how many places hold them, the process might get very expensive. But as a performative act there is no need for a complete coverage of the European territory, only for enough participation to create awareness around the idea and a sense of legitimacy.

So here is how it would work: on the day of the elections, in as many cities, towns and villages as possible across Europe, just outside the official polling stations, voters would be able to physically elect members of the constituent assembly. At the same time, online elections would be held. These elections, which should be accompanied by as much publicity as possible, would choose a group of, say, 200 elected representatives.

The constituent assembly itself would not have the legitimacy to decide on a new democratic constitution.  ‘Elections’ self-organised citizens across Europe would not be formally adequate for that. Rather, the assembly would serve as a new civic power to inject ideas for democratic renewal into the European institutions, show that citizens are full of ideas and energy for such a project, and ensure that they cannot be ignored or side-lined in any future convention or treaty change. The assembly could be accompanied by a secretariat and would operate as a new kind of organisation: a cross between a citizen-led NGO and a democratically elected congress.

Following the elections, the assembly would meet as the elected representatives together with randomly selected citizens, representatives of non-European countries (because Europe’s actions impact the whole world and the whole world needs to have a say – and this is what real transnationalism should ultimately be about), representatives of municipalities and local authorities as well as interested NGOs and social movements to elaborate ideas for the values and content of a democratic European constitution. Online, a wiki-constitution would be discussed and collaboratively drafted. Indeed, the assembly would be a significant actor to initiate a wider process of citizens’ assemblies, through a cycle of meetings, discussions and debates organised in town-halls, schools, universities, cultural spaces and other venues throughout Europe, with coordination and exchange between these different cities and citizens.

The process could focus on three questions:

How to ensure democratic decision–making at a European level in which the interests of people throughout the continent, and the consequences of European decisions for other people affected, are taken into account and the common interest is guaranteed through a just, accountable and transparent process?

 How to ensure the maximum possibilities for direct citizen involvement in political decision–making, as an expression of European citizenship and the best guarantee of common interest?

 Which economic, political, and social issues are best approached at European level and what legislative competences should democratic transnational institutions have in these areas?

This process could run in parallel to ‘official’ processes at a European level, but would be more effective if it could fully infiltrate and initiate the formal processes and possibly lead to the participatory drafting of a new constitution to be approved by European citizens by transnational referendum. Beyond just a drafting of a new constitutional proposal, such process would itself be an experiment in transnational participation and a testament of the possibility of practicing European democracy in a new way. The recent process of participatory constitutional redrafting in Iceland is an important precedent in the development of empowering processes where citizens commonly decide their rules for living together. The scale of the task is enormous, but that is no reason not to start.

Doing nothing is not an option

Many of the changes proposed by such a participative process may require EU treaty change, and therefore unanimity between Member States. Treaty requirements should not prevent European citizens from initiating processes of change and adopting various strategies for enacting those changes. The important first step would be to establish transnational movements of citizens for a democratic infrastructure for Europe. The second step would be to adopt strategies, depending on legal procedures, for forcing institutional changes to be adopted. Leaving all initiative for treaty change to Member States, or worse, just some powerful Member States, is no longer an acceptable option. Doing so just reinforces the impression that the only options available are either to submit to the authority of the leaders of the most powerful countries or to abandon all European integration. However, a third alternative is available: citizens themselves proposing a genuine European democracy.

Etienne Balibar has recently powerfully argued that we need to be more nuanced in the way we talk about the EU and its history. It is important to distinguish between the philosophical prehistory of Europe as a utopian idea of perpetual peace, the political origins of the federalist project particularly in the anti-fascist resistance, and the historical beginnings of the supranational institutions in the Cold War. Only by reclaiming Europe in the first two senses, taking Europe into hands of the citizens as an act of resistance and invention, and through recovering a sense of utopian energy that can transform the apparently insolvable contradictions of political power, will projecting a positive European future become possible. This is no play, and citizens are not spectators in a theatre. Let’s stop waiting and let’s start acting.

https://www.greeneuropeanjournal.eu/time-to-elect-a-european-constituent-assembly-without-asking-anyones-permission/

The first transnational European list – a DiEM25 initiative

PAOLA PIETRANDREA 19 March 2018

On 7 February in Brussels, the European Parliament rejected the idea of creating transnational European lists for the 2019 Elections. Nevertheless, the first transnational European list of candidates for the 2019 Elections was created on 10 March, in Naples.

On the initiative of the Democracy in Europe Movement, DiEM25, founded in 2016 by the former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, several national, regional and municipal political organisations from all over Europe met in the Domus Ars in Naples:

Génération-s, the left-wing French environmental movement led by Benoît Hamon;

DeMA, Democrazia e Autonomia,  a citizen platform, led by the mayor of the “rebel city” of Naples, Luigi De Magistris

Razem, the Polish feminist, pro-labour, anti-austerity movement, represented by, among others, Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk

Livre , the pro-European, left-wing libertarian, ecological, Portuguese movement, represented by its co-founder Rui Tavares

Alternativet, the Danish, progressive, European, environmentalist party represented by Rasmus Nordqvist

Bündnis – DiEM25, the electoral wing of DiEM25 in Germany

Open to the public with its press conference livestreamed, the meeting took place under the benevolent regard of a great lady of the European left, Susan George, and was observed by representatives of the Romanian DEMOS movement, the German DiB party, the French Communist Party, the Croatian parties Nova ljevica and Zagreb Je NAŠ! the Slovenian Levica Party, as well as the Party of European Greens and the Party of the European Left.

In the context of the European Elections of 2019, the organisations gathered at the Naples meeting decided to present:

–  a common policy programme,

–  a single spitzenkandidate (a candidate for the head of the commission),

–  a common coordination,

–  a list of candidates (corresponding to the sum of the lists presented in each country by each party and movement member of the list). This list, which will be agreed upon and democratically voted on by the members of the various movements and parties, may provide for the swapping of candidates across countries.

An act of constructive disobedience

This initiative is put forward, explicitly and deliberately, as an act of constructive disobedience, that is, an act of concerted, manifest disobedience capable of accelerating change.

The technocrats in Brussels don’t want transnational lists? In reality, it only takes a little imagination and political creativity to simulate them within the framework of existing laws.

A rebellion is developing

This act of disobedience announced by the organisations gathered in Naples is only the first in a long series.

The European New Deal, for example, i.e. the economic policy developed within DiEM25, around which the list will build its programme, recommends disobeying the status quo by using existing European institutions in order to simulate federal functionality within the framework of the current treaties – thus without providing a pretext for ruinous and unrealistic exits from the European Union.

This federal simulation will ensure the creation of an economic, ecological, feminist and social policy framework capable of addressing under-investment, poverty and inequalities in Europe, tackling public and private debt crises, promoting public and common goods, and implementing a massive green investment programme representing at least 4.5% of the European Union’s GDP in direct cooperation with European cities.

In the same spirit, the forces gathered in Naples plan to launch a citizens’ assembly process, beginning in villages and cities all over Europe. This process will enable European citizens to implement, at least symbolically, the constitutional process that Europe needs and that the European institutions do not have the strength to ensure. This process of participatory democracy will initiate the creation of a democratic Constitution written by the peoples of Europe for the peoples of Europe, capable of putting citizens, local communities and municipalities at the centre of decision-making processes, eventually leading to a Constituent Assembly which, together with the European Parliament, will draw up the future European democratic Constitution by 2025.

A European liberation movement

Far from being a simple electoral cartel, therefore, this newly created list represents the electoral expression of a common vision now beginning to spread among the peoples of Europe.

Aware of the fact that European problems can only be solved at the European level, and firmly opposed to any compromise with the existing European institutions, the groups gathered in Naples have set themselves the objective, not only of participating in the 2019 elections, but more generally of launching a movement that Rui Tavares has proposed calling a European liberation movement.

As well stated by Luigi De Magistris, for years the forces of national, local, civil society have been resisting Brussels’s institutional violence – the time has come to strike back.

An open call

The organisations gathered in Naples intend to broaden the scope of this movement well beyond its first members. A call has been extended to other political and civil society movements throughout Europe to participate in the political elaboration and electoral expression of the programme.

We stress that the process is wide open to civil society.

For too many years, professional politicians have had an interest in deepening an artificial distinction between grassroots politics and institutional politics, thus separating citizen action from power.

DiEM25, together with all the protagonists in Naples, invites civil society movements, local authorities and citizens’ initiatives to respond to the call and to bring their know-how, experience and demands into the institutional game. We believe that it is only through their contributions that together through the struggle against European institutions, we can forge the European people.

How useful are the estimates of the economic consequences of Brexit?

blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2018/03/13/how-useful-are-the-estimates-of-the-economic-consequences-of-brexit/

March 13, 2018

In this blog, Josh De Lyon (LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance) discusses some of the concerns with the economic forecasts of the effects of Brexit and suggests that the available reports are informative of the likely consequences of Brexit. He also provides an insight into how such research should be interpreted, beyond the headline-grabbing figures reported in the news.

On 29 January, a new government impact assessment on the economic effects of Brexit was leaked to Buzzfeed. The report predicted that a “soft” Brexit would restrict economic growth by 2 per cent, while a “hard” Brexit or “no deal” scenario would reduce growth by 8 per cent over a 15-year period. This is broadly in line with almost all other economic predictions of the economic consequences of Brexit. Following the leak of the report, some politicians and commentators were quick to discredit the integrity of such predictions. For example, Steve Baker, an MP and a minister in the Department for Exiting the EU, claimed that these predictions are “always wrong”.

The evidence on the effect of Brexit on the economy is almost unanimous: it predicts that Brexit will cost the UK economy in the region of 1 to 10 per cent of GDP in the long run, with greater costs for a hard Brexit relative to a soft Brexit. The mechanism driving these results is straightforward. The EU currently receives around 43 per cent of UK exports (House of Commons Briefing Paper, 2017). When the UK leaves the EU, barriers to trade will rise, causing trade and therefore GDP to fall. These findings come from HM Treasury (2016), OECD (2016), PWC (2017), NIESR (2016) and Dhingra et al. (2017) among others, in addition to the recently-leaked internal government report. These estimates often account for the benefits of new trade deals with non-EU countries such as the United States, China, and Australia. On top of this, other studies show that Brexit will cause a fall in inward foreign direct investment (FDI) of around 28%, leading to a 3.4% decline in real income (Dhingra et al., 2016).

The exception to these predictions is the study by the group “Economists for Free Trade”, who predict that Brexit will benefit the UK economy (Minford et al., 2018). However, the methodology used in this study has been heavily criticised by many economists and commentators for making wildly unrealistic assumptions, the details of which are discussed in a previous blog post by Dhingra et al. (2017).

So where do the numbers produced in the government impact assessment and other studies come from? The fundamental concept underlying these predictions is known as the “Gravity” model of trade, which predicts that the amount of trade in goods and services that flows between countries will depend on the economic size of each country and the distance between them. Gravity models have been very successful in predicting actual trade flows and are often regarded as one of the great successes of empirical economics (Anderson, 2011). In relation to the UK and the EU, gravity models accurately predict that there should be a high volume of trade between the two bodies. When barriers to trade are wedged in between the UK and EU, as is inevitable with Brexit, trade between the two will become costlier. The volume of trade between the UK and EU is likely to fall and, in some cases, the UK will switch to second-best trade partners. These costs then filter through the economy. This is the simplified mechanism driving the results of the reports discussed above.

It is good practice to critically analyse economic research. Economists themselves spend much of their time providing feedback on the research of others with the aim of improving the quality of the overall body of research. Every study is revised many times to ensure that the conclusions are solid. There are of course limitations with the literature on the economic effects of Brexit. For example, no sovereign country has ever left the EU, so there is no historical evidence to benchmark against the forecasts. Also, it can be difficult to translate the predicted trade effects into an overall welfare effect without adding more economic structure to the model. However, the strength of the prediction that Brexit will, on average, be harmful to the economy comes from the near-unanimous consensus of negative predictions from different types of models based on varying assumptions. Across all scientific fields, results that are reproduced multiple times are considered most reliable and economics is no different in this respect. That being said, economists are often guilty of producing academic research that is not accessible to the public. In the case of Brexit, the methodology of these studies is perhaps still somewhat of a “black box” to those outside of the field, given the relative complexity of the analyses. But the findings of these reports are clear and should be taken seriously: Brexit will reduce trade and investment, therefore directly harming the economy.

What is perhaps less clear is precisely how these estimates should be interpreted. Each analysis considers a pair of hypothetical situations. The first is where the UK leaves the EU and terms of the agreement are explicitly stated as the assumptions of the model. For example, a hard Brexit scenario might assume that the UK leaves the Single Market and Customs Union and trades according to WTO terms. Importantly, each analysis is very open about the type of agreement that is being estimated. The second situation is the counterfactual, whereby the UK does not leave the EU and the economy evolves as it would have done in the absence of Brexit. By estimating the economic differences between the two situations, the causal effect of Brexit can be isolated. That is, the estimates do not predict the future level of GDP in the economy. Instead, they isolate the causal effect of Brexit on the economy. In other words, it does not say “the UK economy will grow by x per cent after Brexit” but instead “as a direct result of Brexit, the growth of the UK economy will be x per cent different to how it would otherwise have been”.

Public Domain

It is impossible to predict the exact economic effect of a change as complex as Brexit. We will never directly observe the economic effect of Brexit because the economy is shaped by a wide variety of factors, many of which are unrelated to Brexit. In fact, further economic analysis will be necessary in years to come to identify the impact of Brexit after the event.

But this certainly does not mean that the forecasts are useless – they can, and should, be used to guide policy. There are many cases where the work of economists has helped to shape government policy for the better. A good example is the introduction of the national minimum wage in April 1999, which has been shown to have successfully raised wages without significantly harming employment. The Institute for Government reported in 2010 that the minimum wage was most frequently cited among members of the UK Political Studies Association as the most successful policy intervention since 1980. The introduction of the minimum wage followed the recommendation of many economists, including those on the Low Pay Commission, who recommend the level of the minimum wage.

One of the key policy prescriptions from the research on the economic effects of Brexit is that a hard Brexit scenario is considerably costlier to the economy than a soft Brexit scenario. Another example comes from the work of Dhingra, Machin and Overman (2017) who show how the economic effect of Brexit will vary across the UK, with some areas to be hit significantly harder than others.

Governments must consider a whole set of objectives when setting policy, of which the economy is just one. Likewise, voters will have considered many factors that go beyond economic issues when casting their vote in the referendum on June 23rd, 2016. But given the magnitude of the decision of the UK to exit the EU, it is essential to have a solid idea of how this will affect the economy and UK citizens. Hopefully, the research agenda discussed here is being considered as part of the overall policy-setting process for the UK’s separation from the EU.

This post represents the views of the authors and not those of the Brexit blog, nor of the LSE. 

Josh De Lyon is a research assistant in CEP’s trade programme.