After "Brexit": A Social-Democratic Re-Founding of Europe?

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Critical remarks on the new post-"Brexit" strategy paper by Sigmar Gabriel and Martin Schulz

By Ingar Solty

 

In light of "Brexit" and within 24 hours after the publication of the final results in the British referendum on EU membership, Sigmar Gabriel, Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) chairman, German vice-chancellor and Minister of Economic Affairs in the Merkel government, and Martin Schulz, EU Parliament President, published a new strategy paper analysing the origins of the deep legitimacy crisis of the European Union amid the Europe-wide rise of the nationalist Right and outlining political pathways to overcome this legitimacy crisis in order to prevent the EU's disintegration.

 

In the context of hopes and fears of a weakening of the market-liberal forces within the EU as well as numerous calls by EU leaders and mainstream media figures of a need for renewal, Gabriel and Schulz have adopted -- some might even say: stolen -- the left-wing demand of a "re-foundation of Europe" and they have connected it to a vision of a united Europe that "belongs to its citizens." Could this be a Gramscian kind of "passive revolution," i.e. the absorption of the (left-wing) opposition to the status quo and its ideas as a means to stabilizing a weakened power bloc? Or is it maybe the clarion call for the SPD's re-social-democratization and thus revitalization -- prompted perhaps by the international rise and success of the (class) conflict-oriented, anti-Third Way social democrats Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Bernie Sanders in the United States?

 

This would, of course, amount to quite a remarkable political shift given that in October 2015 Gabriel himself initiated the founding of the notorious "Gang of Five," which consists of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann (who resigned in May), theSwedish Prime Minister and social democratic party leader Stefan Löfven, and Gabriel and Schulz themselves, and whose sole purpose has been to curtail the influence of Corbynism (and, to a lesser extent, Sanderism) and sympathies for other left-wing forces such as Podemos and Syriza within continental European social democracy.

 

Read Solty’s analysis of what the second in command of Chancellor Merkel’s reactionary government and the breathtakingly anti-democratic European Parliament president are really up to.