reached what I think is this wrong political conclusion by applying the analysis
of Empire, laid out in a book he co-wrote with Michael Hardt in 2001 . This
analysis is certainly attractive, but this shows its inadequacies and limits.
reasoning can seem pragmatic and concrete. That’s why it has been praised by the
French intelligentsia, who fear a No vote in the referendum. Negri says he is a
"realistic revolutionary". This realism is dictated by his determination to
prevent the rejection of the European Constitution.
rejection, he believes, would allow the interests of Empire to win. Empire, for
Negri, is the new globalised, capitalistic society. He thinks of Europe as being
a “brake on the ideology of economic unilateralism which is capitalist,
conservative and reactionary. So Europe can become a counterweight against US
unilateralism, its imperialist domination, its crusade in Iraq to dominate oil
must not be that of what Negri calls "the shitty nation state that is destined
to disappear". Instead, Europe is the political space in which the state can
disappear, despite the fact that the constitution is, as Negri admits,
neo-liberal and cannot be an alternative model for society.
isn’t the point," says Negri, because the constitution is a "passage" towards a
supranational state, “a new step towards a bit more federalism although this
Constitution is not federalist enough.” It is just an instrument therefore, “you
have to be stupid,” says Negri, “to think that you can build equality of the
basis of a constitution.” He explains that if France defeats the constitution
the whole edifice will collapse, leaving the nation state as the only
counterweight to Empire. If the No wins it is a return to mediaeval times, if
the Yes wins, we have a chance to compare two models-the European and the
voter is conservative and obscurantist. The yes voter is "realistically
revolutionary". A French Yes will strengthen the drive for Europe to become a
political, economic and military power, as we have known it since before
Maastricht in 1992.
It is the
slow, contradictory construction of a supranational entity, which would be a
more functional instrument for navigating modern globalisation and therefore,
and thus to be a political, economic, (military) counterweight to the US
If that is
so, Negri’s analysis of Empire has problems. This states that the planet is
governed by multinational networks of power that transcend nation-states and
other institutional spaces that exist such as the UN. Opposition to it cannot be
based on states, but by an "exodus" of the multitude of people who are held down
by this power.
is criss-crossed by a thick network of links, but this is only one part of
reality. The war on Iraq demonstrated the limits of claiming there is an
undifferentiated Empire. The US fell back on its traditional instruments of
imperialist rule. The war split Europe, especially the French-German alliance.
This could not be explained by Empire.
argued that the US had performed a U-turn and had executed a "coup" against
Empire in order to push its particular interests.
faces contradicting himself again. Europe should have been a component of the
problem, but now it is a brake on Empire. Empire becomes the US again,
downplaying the capitalist nature of the European Union. What this doesn’t take
account of is that approval of the constitution would indeed be a counterweight
to US power-but only because it would boost the European neo-liberal project.
up mirroring something that was an option available to the workers’ movement of
the 20th century, and which the movement often fell for. This ideology leads you
to support the most progressive element of capitalism. Then you realise that the
workers’ movement has been sacrificed to the interests of the strongest
what is at stake in Europe today. A victory for European capitalism is not
better than a victory for US capitalism. It is the anti-capitalist and anti-war
movements that have created the supranational networks that we need to build up.
workers’ movement will imagine an alternative to both British and US models,
without having to look to nationalism. The victory of the no campaign in France
would open up the possibility of driving forward a process of solidarity.
doesn’t like the word socialism, so let’s put that to one side. But don’t make
us out to be conservatives, because he is the conservative.