IN THE RADICAL PRESS / IL MANIFESTO
In Germany there’s not only the Merkel government. There’s actually an opposition. Die Linke is offering alternative proposals to the logic of stability and balanced budgets, even if this in not easy in the country of rigor.
‘The idea of Europe is something completely different from the currency,’ stated the document from the conference that brought together on 17 February in Kiel, north Germany, the elected representatives of the German left in the European Parliament, the federal Bundestag and the regional parliaments (Länder). Also present were invited representatives of the French, Danish, Spanish and, for Italy, the mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris.
All were united in denouncing the austerity policies for their disastrous impact on Europe’s welfare states, which have been knocked out by the financial diktat that has decreed the end of the social compromise accepted in the past by European capitalism. A capitalism that, instead of paying for the crisis that it caused, sees in it an opportunity to impose uncontrolled domination of economic and financial power. ‘The focus on debt,’ is a ‘pretext to cash in’, according to Linke and other parties of the European left at the conference.
The public misery is instead a result of a contraction in revenues. These have been eroded not only by tax evasion but also cuts to corporate taxes and the lack of a wealth tax in the context of a huge redistribution of wealth towards the rich that has emptied the coffers of governments, including the German government.
What is to be done?
The European Central Bank should offer credit at 1% interest rate directly to member states, freeing them from the blackmail of the spread. There must be a Tobin tax and a rigorous control of financial markets. There must wealth taxes across Europe. This is what Linke proposes. As for the German export surplus, due in no small part to the policy of wage restraint, Die Linke argues that it should be reduced through guaranteed salary minima and a generalised increase in wages. As well as rebalancing Europe’s balance of payments, it would stimulate domestic demand.
For Die Linke, solidarity, at the foundation of the European Community after the Second World War, remains an important value to contrast nationalism and xenophobia. The party is organising initiatives together with the Greek left. And it thinks that Germany has a debt to pay: ‘The economic boom of the 1960s wasn’t only down to the Germans but also the work of immigrants from southern Europe, and the renouncing of demands for reparations for the Nazi war.’ Now Greece needs a Marshall plan, like that which Germany enjoyed, and more investment to create jobs, which are instead being destroyed by austerity measures.
The ‘renewal of democracy’ was also at the centre of the debate, because ‘the financial crisis is also a crisis of democracy’. On this theme Di Magistris intervened; the new interest of Italian citizens for ‘common goods’ offers lessons for Germany that are completely new, which Linke intends to study. The experience of participatory democracy in Naples, according to the mayor, is an antidote to the disaffection with politics, and is a concrete way to fight privatisation and liberalisation, imposed by the troika of the EU, European Central Bank and IMF. For Die Linke, fighting against privatisation and active citizenship are at the centre of the exchange and common analysis with other forces of the European left.
The hope is that they manage to work together against the crisis, and against those who want to make the weakest pay.