Saturday, 20 February 2016

An economy to build another Europe?

Costas Lapavitsas at the conference "Plan B: Against austerity, for a democratic Europe" in Madrid.


The demand for sovereignty in Europe

1. The European left must oppose the economic and social policies of the EU and EMU, rejecting austerity. But to do so successfully it needs clarity about what rejection of austerity means.

2. The world economy today is in a deeply problematic state. The financialised capitalism of our time seems to be heading towards a new crisis, following that of 2007-9:
  • The economies of large developing countries (BRICS), including China, are stagnating or in recession.
  • The US economy exhibits slow growth, little dynamism and enormous inequality problems.
  • The policy of "quantitative easing" has reached its limits and the central banks are considering "unorthodox" measures, such as negative interest rates.
  • Banks are once again in a precarious position, especially in Europe.
  • The European economy, particularly the EMU, is stagnating, without any significant growth prospects.
In this context the European Left should propose an ambitious programme of social and economic recovery. The pressures are now historic and an ambitious "alternative plan" is needed.

3. The first step in developing an alternative plan is to analyse the failure of SYRIZA. There are three key reasons for this failure:
  • SYRIZA had the wrong strategy. There can be no lifting of austerity and pro-labour policies within the EMU and without direct conflict with the EU mechanisms.
  • Intra-party democracy has been abolished as the Tsipras group became autonomous and made its own choices.
  • Greece accepted a great loss of sovereignty at home and internationally. The SYRIZA / ANEL government acts under the constant surveillance of the Troika/Quartet.
4. Europe in 2016 has nothing to do with the myths about a "Europe of the movements and the people" which the Left accepted for decades. It is a Europe of big business, big banks and German domination. There is no perspective for reform, particularly "from the inside". The triumph of big business has also brought the loss of sovereignty in Greece and elsewhere.

5. In this context, the radical programme that the European Left needs requires the strengthening of popular and national sovereignty. Six sectors are paramount:
  • Debt. The management of public debt, its write-off and repayment must be done in a sovereign way for the countries of the periphery and more generally.
  • Monetary field. Regaining control of liquidity from the hands of the ECB and M. Draghi is essential. To this purpose, social ownership and control of the banks is necessary, as well as control of capital flows.
  • Fiscal field. Rejection of the austerity framework and recovery of sovereignty in public spending and taxation is required.
  • Trade. Europe needs a transnational mechanism to manage external surpluses and deficits on the basis of solidarity.
  • Employment. Strengthening of sovereignty in the labour market in favour of labour to boost employment is required.
  • Productive sector. Popular and national sovereignty is indispensable in shaping agricultural and industrial policy. Large areas of Europe at present approximate developing countries.

6. For the alternative plan of the Left to become a reality it is necessary to have a new new political discourse. The capitalism of our times is in deep crisis and the response of the Left must be both proportionate and subversive. Popular and national sovereignty is essential to restrain the dominance of big business and big banks in Europe.

7. Popular and national sovereignty is not nationalism. On the contrary, it is the way to attack the nationalism cultivated today by the extreme Right. The supranational EU and EMU mechanisms operate against labour and cannot be reformed. We do not need "more Europe", and nor do we "love Europe". We seek true solidarity among the peoples of Europe.

8. Popular and national sovereignty are essential for democracy. Democracy recedes under the domination of EU and EMU supranational mechanisms. We need more democratic control of our countries and emancipatory democracy with direct popular participation.

9. Popular and national sovereignty are essential for genuine internationalism in Europe. The refugee/migration crisis has demonstrated the deep deficit of internationalism and solidarity of the EU mechanisms. Civil society has found itself in the vanguard of solidarity. States with strong sovereignty have had a better attitude toward refugees and migrants than the supranational EU mechanisms. The refugee/migration pressure has exacerbated the loss of national sovereignty in Greece.