We don’t know if next year France first and then Germany will be able to withstand the rise of Marine Le Pen’s Front national or Frauke Petry’s Alternative für Deutschland, to say nothing of the other national chauvinist parties across Europe. In fact, another date with destiny is coming even sooner. The defeat of the December 4th constitutional referendum called by PM Matteo Renzi could trigger Italexit, the Italian equivalent of Brexit, and the withdrawal of the continent’s third largest economy from the Euro, likely a fatal blow. [Update 5 Dec: Renzi lost the Italian referendum and will be resigning]
What we can say with certainty is that forces are aligning against EU unity. The goal of Donald Trump’s “chief strategist” Stephen Bannon, who will be resigning as CEO of Breitbart, is without question to promote fracture of the post-war European project of unification.
What would Europe look like if Brussels and Berlin lose control and a swarm of xenophobic protectionist governments take over? For one thing, there will be increased inter-national conflict among them. The initial shape these frictions and clashes might take is already visible as the prospect of a hard Brexit grows.
There are many signs that some accomodation between the incoming Trump regime and Putin’s Russia is in the works, a new Yalta. Like the old one, this one will boil down to who gets what (Yalta is, ironically, in Crimea). Let us not make the mistake, however, of taking US isolationists, who now have considerable influence in the Republican Party, at their word. The US will not withdraw from the world stage any more than it did after Yalta. Instead, it is mutating in order to impose itself anew in different ways.
“Making America Great Again” entails the dismemberment of the rival centers of European political power established after WW2. As power vested in European unity dissolves, the antagonism between European law and rights on the one hand and US corporations on the other will be resolved in the favor of the latter, including social media giants like Google and Facebook. That is just the beginning.
Classic European imperialism was defined as the highest stage of capitalism, this as conceived against the background of WW1. Marxists of that time were optimistic. They imagined that capitalism had reached its acme. So let us not call the emergent form of imperialism before us now the “highest” let alone a “late” phase of capitalism. That it is driven by the dynamics of capital accumulation should not be doubted, though.
We have seen before what patriotic but militarily and economically subservient populist nation-states look like. The collapse of France before the onslaught of Germany led to the establishment of Vichy France, which served the interests of the German rulers of Europe but found nationalist ideological salve to justify its submission to them. We can already detect the outlines of this capitulation to US interests in the abject fawning of European Far Right leaders before the new American tyrant.
Is the fate of Western Europe to become a confederation of Vichy-like nationalist regimes allied with and subservient to the US? This is an increasingly real possibility upon which I shall comment in the weeks and months to come.