Deglobalization, or finding a way forward backwards

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So differences were bound to arise within the ranks of the ‘deglobalizers'. Setting priorities is the first bone of contention: "Which lever do we pull first? This is a very political question, and not everyone agrees," points out Cédric Durand, a lecturer at the University of Paris and a leading member of the ‘appalled' economists. "Some feel we need to begin by attacking offshoring. Others, by dismantling the power of the financial markets." Everyone is drawing up their own dream roadmap for transitioning out of the crisis, and the upshot is a compound headache.

Above all, certain points remain highly sensitive, and the strategy of the French far-right Front National (FN) party, which, more or less faithfully, has co-opted many of these issues into its economic programme, makes for an even more explosive powder-keg of a debate on the left. In a recent op-ed piece in the French independent weekly Politis, Thomas Coutrot, co-president of Attac France, takes aim at Jacques Sapir's brand of French protectionism: "Advocating national isolationism at a time when the planet is catching fire is downright irresponsible," seethed Coutrot, who refuses to "set nations against one another in the name of national interest" and play into the hands of populism in Europe.

To drive the point home, the economist equates Sapir-style deglobalization with what he calls a "Dany Boon policy", alluding to the comedian whose film Rien à Déclarer (Nothing to Declare), portrays the antics of customs officers on the Franco-Belgian border (poster above-right). Rather than taxing German products to protect French industry, Coutrot calls for a pay rise in Germany, which would automatically up the price of German goods.

"This piece is vile," retorts Jacques Sapir. "It's all well and good to wait around for wages to go up abroad, but we have no leverage on these matters. How are we to make the Germans increase their wages?" Jacques Nikonoff is equally irked: "This piece is pathetic and wishful thinking on Thomas Coutrot's part." In a word, they argue that the ‘left-wing separatists' are realists, whereas those pushing for international cooperation are woefully naïve.

For some weeks now, moreover, the selfsame Jacques Sapir has been wrangling with economist Jean-Marie Harribey, former co-president of Attac France, on the question of the euro. Their war of words can be perused in French here (Sapir) and here (Harribey). In particular, Harribey argues that, even if the French were to devalue their national currency by 25% and levy customs duties of between 15% and 30%, as Sapir recommends, Chinese industry would still be far more competitive than French industry, given the enduring production cost spread between the two.

So it looks as though deglobalization has generated rifts to the left of the left that haven't been seen since the referendum on the EU Constitution back in 2005. Jean-Marie Harribey agrees: "In 2005, we naysayers didn't take enough time out to analyze certain weaknesses in our victory. Beyond our rejection of the legislation, we'd never really debated what sort of Europe we wanted. That's what we're doing at present, and it's more complicated, given that the political space for broaching these issues in an acceptable manner is very narrow." In plain language, on the borders of that slim space, lurking in the shadows of deglobalization, is the far right.

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English version: Eric Rosencrantz

(Editing by Graham Tearse)

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