Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold – Costas Panayotakis on Europe’s new ‘extremism’

Costas Panayotakis

Writing in the NY Times Examiner, Costas Panayotakis, author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy, unpicks the polarisation of European politics following the French and Greek elections. Panayotakis challenges the liberal media’s “lumping together” of the far-left and far-right as ‘extremists’:

We are supposed to believe that the rising support in Europe for candidates or parties to the left of social democracy is comparable to the rising support for neo-fascist political formations, such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France and the Golden Dawn in Greece. This is misleading in two ways: not only does it unfairly tarnish the political forces to the left of European social democracy; it also whitewashes the image of the mainstream ‘center-left’ and ‘center-right’ parties, which, we are supposed to believe, represent the respectable and reasonable bulwark against the dangers of political extremism wherever it may come from.

The reality is, of course, very different. The extremists vs the mainstream frame glosses over the fact that Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of the Left front, who successfully rallied a number of different political groups to the left of the socialist candidate (and now President-elect) Francois Hollande was a passionate critic of Marine LePen, by contrast to Hollande and (especially) Sarkozy who pandered to her electorate in order to win the presidential runoff.

Panayotakis considers the electoral advances in Greece of both the radical left Syriza party and the far-right Golden Dawn:

But the simultaneous rise of SYRIZA and Golden Dawn does not, as the extremes vs mainstream frame would suggest, make them birds of a feather. In fact, this frame glosses over the fact that it was the socialists and the conservatives that have provided legitimacy for the racism and xenophobia of the extreme right by entering a coalition a few months ago with another party of the hard right, the Orthodox Popular Rally (Laos). …It also glosses over the fact that the repression, by socialists and conservatives, of popular protests has long relied on the cooperation between Greek riot police and Gold Dawn’s thugs. And it glosses over the embrace, by socialist politicians, of detention camps in which undocumented immigrants are supposed to be held in the future.

Visit the NY Times Examiner to read the article in full.

Remaking Scarcity

From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy

Costas Panayotakis. Foreword by Joel Kovel

Powerful challenge to the current neoliberal economic orthodoxy. Asserts that economic democracy should be the new guiding principle for humanity.

“This book combines theoretical boldness and the determination to extend Marxian theory. It deserves to be read as another impressive product of the global rethinkings of Marxism now engaged in building a Marxism for the twenty-first century.” – Richard D. Wolff, Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

“Capitalist-produced scarcity proves to be an extraordinarily enlightening vantage point from which to analyse both capitalism and its socialist alternatives. Panayotakis’s book provides an extremely scholarly, insightful and well-argued contribution – with ecology and feminism given the attention often denied them – to this crucially important literature. Highly Recommended!” – Bertell Ollman, Department of Politics, New York University, author of Dance of the Dialectic: Marx’s Method and other works

£18.99 only £17.00 on the Pluto site

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