We need a different approach to tackle the economic crisis, and a different Europe, says the German Association for Critical Social Research.
Spring 2012. Merkel and Sarkozy rush from summit meeting to summit meeting, in order to save the euro.
The yellow press smears the people of Greece. The struggle over a solution to the crisis is intensifying dramatically: by early 2013, an authoritarian-neoliberal alliance of business lobby groups, the financial industry, the EU Commission, the German government and other exporting countries hopes to rush the Fiscal Treaty that has just been concluded in Brussels through the national parliaments. The Fiscal Treaty prescribes an antisocial policy of cuts and includes penalties for countries that oppose this policy. Thus the Fiscal Treaty restricts democratic self-determination even further. It is the momentary climax of an authoritarian trend in Europe.
We are fed up with these unsocial and antidemocratic policies, and with the racist slander campaign against the people of Greece. Instead, we should talk about the inhuman consequences of these policies. We should talk about Europe’s authoritarian turn, and low German wages as a cause of the crisis. We should talk about the untouched fortunes of the few, and the sufferings of the many. We should talk about our admiration for the resistance and solidarity among the Greek people.
Let us demand what should go without saying: real democracy and a good life in dignity for everybody – in Europe and elsewhere.
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The crisis in Europe is only the tip of an iceberg. Underneath it lies a deep structural crisis of capitalism. Too much capital is chasing profits. But the returns on investment are low: there is too much competition, and wages are too low. Debt-financed growth and speculative bubbles have only delayed the outbreak of the major crisis.
Now the authoritarian-neoliberal alliance is advocating a radicalised more-of-the-same: socialise losses from speculation – through permanent debt-servicing by the wage earners. They want to increase returns on investment – by means of precarious employment, cuts in wages and pensions, cutbacks of the welfare state, and privatisation. The consequences are drastic, and what is happening in Greece is looming in the rest of Europe: mass unemployment, impoverishment of broad swathes of the population, collapsing health systems, increases in mental illness, and a declining life expectancy.
Measures such as this can only be implemented by authoritarian means. Pinochet’s putsch in Chile in 1973, the IMF’ programmes in African states in the Eighties, and the transformation in eastern Europe in the early Nineties are historical forerunners of the Fiscal Treaty & Co: “shock therapies”. Social and democratic principles that were won by struggles with many victims will be eliminated at breathless speed by the Fiscal Treaty, in order to ensure that debts are serviced and rates of profit increase. In Italy and Greece, unelected governments of technocrats are using truncheons, tear-gas, and water cannons to impose the cuts dictated by male-dominated groups of “experts” in Brussels, Frankfurt, and Berlin.
The Fiscal Treaty and the set of edicts on “economic governance” give more and more power to bodies such as the EU Commission, the European Court of Justice, and the European Central Bank, which act beyond democratic controls. To prevent democratic decision-making contrary to neoliberal orthodoxy, the Fiscal Treaty perfidiously strengthens the dictatorship of the financial markets by fines to be paid to the EU. As in the Great Depression of the 1930s, chauvinist and fascist forces are gaining influence in Hungary, Austria, Finland, and elsewhere. Blind to the lessons of history, the German government, with its uncompromising austerity policy, is making reactionary solutions to the crisis more and more likely.
Throughout the world, people are fighting back against these policies, from the Syntagma Square in Athens, via the Tahrir Square in Cairo and the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, to Zucotti Park in New York. The movements of refugees and migrant workers across Europe’s outer frontiers are part of these struggles for a good life. These struggles must be carried out across borders and in the centres of the authoritarian-neoliberal alliance, in Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Berlin.
Therefore, we call on people to join in the coming protests, including the European Day of Action on 31 March, the Global Day of Action on 12 May and the international mobilisation to Frankfurt am Main on 17-19 May.
We are relying on an alternative solution to the crisis:
- no ratification of the Fiscal Treaty, and dropping the set of EU laws on “Economic Governance”;
- cancelling public debts, introducing controls on capital flows, and converting banks into public service providers;
- redistributing social wealth from the top downwards by a new tax system;
- expanding the social infrastructure and starting to transform the economy with a programme of social and environmental investment;
- shortening working hours;
- democratising politics and the economy radically at all levels;
- ending the racist policy of Fortress Europe – residence permits and legal status for all.
To the authoritarian-neoliberal EU of the few, we propose a democratic, social and ecological EU of the many!
German Association for Critical Social Research
Assoziation für kritische Gesellschaftsforschung (AkG), March 2012
www.demokratie-statt-fiskalpakt.org / www.akg-online.org