Goldman Sachs, Brexit, and the danger of war in Europe


This week the appointment was made public of José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission from 2004 to 2014, to the post of chairman of the board of Goldman Sachs, the international investment bank.That turns him from somebody who executes the neoliberal programme into one of those writing it. The only problem is that this programme (privatisation, liberalisation, flexibilisation) provokes more and more opposition, especially in Europe.


Barroso's predecessor at Goldman Sachs, Peter Sutherland, still in 2012 called on the EU to follow the example of the US, Australia and Great Britain, open up the borders, and ‘make an effort to undermine national homogeneity.’ That has been realised under Barroso to a considerable extent, but finally has run aground amidst popular resitance. Brexit provides the evidence of that. 

Barroso during his EU presidency already made the news frequently, for instance by his statement that democratic institutions often make the wrong decisions. Personally he preferred taking decisions through the back door, such as admitting genetically modified potatoes into the EU, making a cruise on the yacht of the Greek shipowner, Latsis, who then profited from EU permission of state support for his shipping company, and few more such episodes.

The heart of the matter is that Barroso during the ten years of his presidency of the Commission, has worked tirelessly to execute the programme of which his predecessor, Sutherland, formulated a key aspect, viz., an open European labour market in which cheap labour from newly joined member states can freely move to countries where wages and conditions are superior.

Sutherland, who besides Goldman Sachs held many more directorates, including at BP, made his statements to a committee of the British House of Lords and in a lecture at the London School of Economics in 2012.

He warned that the EU was falling behind in the competition with the United States and other countries because in its member states there still existed a strong national homogeneity and the transition towards a multicultural society was not made forcefully enough. He also cautioned countries not to select migrants on their skills, because the migrants themselves choose countries. And that according to Sutherland, is a fundamental freedom that must be respected.

Why then does the European population not go along with this argument?

The thesis is that the EU should follow the example of the US, Australia and New Zealand, and Canada, and to a lesser degree, Great Britain itself; countries which have a more flexible labour market because as immigration countries they are less homogenous.

Yet in that respect there is one major difference between the countries mentioned, and the EU.

For as the British historian, Arnold Toynbee, once argued in his famous Study of History, what is peculiar to the English-speaking world is that the settlement of migrants was always accompanied by ethnic cleansing and genocide.

It is sufficiently well known that the Amerindians in North America were exterminated on a large scale, as were the Aborigines of Australia and the Maoris of New Zealand. In Tasmania all Aborigines were killed; in the other countres and regions mentioned a

remnant survived in often pitiful circumstances. Pauperisation, drink and drugs, violence, everything has been extensively documented, although some countries such as Canada do better than others.
Even the settlement of the Anglo-Saxons on the British Isles was accompanied by the expulsion of the Celts living in England to Wales and the Scottish Highlands, although that of course happened a thousand years before the beginning of overseas emigration to North America.

Now if settlement of an immigrant society takes place on this basis, i.e., ethnic cleansing and genocide, then the relationship between the various groups of immigrants is different from one in which one ethno-cultural groups in a society considers itself the original population. And that is the case in the EU countries.

Of course, in the entire English-speaking world, White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) are culturally dominant. Yet in the final analysis there was more tolerance towards later immigrants, such as Italians aor East European Jews in the United States, because there is always a socially inferior group present, in this case the Amerindians. In the US a second community has been inserted, which also is considered inferior by all, the African slaves.

Whoever wants to transplant the immigration experience of the English-speaking world to the EU does well to realise that in Europe there exists an autochtonous population which in North America, Australia and New Zealand has been large exterminated. That preliminary ethnic cleansing holds the animosity between the various new groups of the population in check because in a sense they share the status of immigrants.

Certainly there is no reason to idealise the autochtonous population of Europe (and the English of course also consider themselves as such because the expulsion of the Celts is buried so deep into the past). Indeed after Brexit, reports from England speak of a sharp rise in overt racism against people perceived as not autochthonous, including physical aggression. That is profoundly deplorable, but the responsibility of it must be attribute to those who think they can treat the European populations as if they were largely exterminated, powerless natives.

Barroso once was a Maoist, and unlike the situation in China, Maoism in Europe was an alien ideology, simply not applicable here. To want to introduce that nevertheless requires an ideological zeal which served him well as president of the European Commission. Because the neoliberal gospel of the market is not applicable here either; in southern Europe even less so than in Britain, the Netherlands or Germany. It has plunged Europe into a crisis which not only led to Brexit but also to a complete subsumption of continental Europe to the English-speaking states which through NATO impose their will on the EU.

In that sense the neoliberalism championed by the large investment banks such as Goldman Sachs is a driving force behind the growing danger of a large war in Europe.

Kees van der Pijl

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