IN THE RADICAL PRESS / IL MANIFESTO
It is plain to all: monetary union is dividing Europe. The divide is political, social, economic in particular. The euro was designed as a tool to cement European political union and to anchor German prosperity to the rest the Continent. Instead, it has served to highlight the gap between town and country, led to economic collapse and exacerbated nationalism and xenophobia. A collateral by product, but no less devastating, is that the euro is undermining democracy, thwarting universal suffrage, cancelling two centuries of popular gains, erasing with a stroke of the pen essential elements of civilization. In the name of the common currency unbridgeable chasms are dug between one European country and another, and borders more impassable than the Berlin Wall are erected. It is no accident that, in the first round of French presidential elections Marine Le Pen received 18% of the vote with a campaign that was centred on opposing the ‘European Soviet Union.’ A spot-on slogan, even if indigestible. The common currency functions like a Warsaw Pact and the debt burden overwhelms like the armoured divisions of “brother countries”.
Nor could it be otherwise: very different economies have been forced to squeeze under the umbrella of a single currency without any means of harmonization. Spain will be subject to the same level of interest rates in Germany but with four times as many unemployed, unable to devalue to gain export competitiveness and unable to loosen credit to alleviate a banking system on the brink of collapse. The euro is paying for its original sin: having built a common currency without founding it on a common economic policy. Neither was it possible without a common decision-making centre, democratically elected and democratically controlled. Result: we found ourselves at the mercy of an imposed but highly unbalanced and divided Franco-German duumvirate. That the economic crisis of the European Union is due to a lack of political democracy is only lucidity stated, apart from Il Manifesto, by Barbara Spinelli**, whose voice echoes in the wilderness of the Italian press.
In this situation it is pointless (and unfair) to ask the German taxpayers to shell out money to an entity that is not their own (nor is it ours). The only solution would be to initiate a process of political unification, launch a common governing body to which much of national sovereignty in economic policy is given up, a government responsible to a truly federal (or confederal) elected parliament, not the parody of the Central Bank without key powers, first of which is lending to banks in their [Eurozone] area and buying government debt (as the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan do). This would be the only solution to save the euro and European economies. But this would require a European left or, rather, the emergence of a supranational European dimension of the left. Instead, these first ten years of the single currency have confined the left to their narrow national territories and horizons, making everyone deaf and blind to the worries of their neighbours.
We have been asking for months: what leader of the European left has gone to Athens or invited, at his time, of George Papandreou (when he proposed a referendum on austerity and was threatened with a military coup) and now Alexis Tsipras? In these ten years of the euro the European Left has soaked up, without realizing it, nationalism and Euroskeptiscism that the dictatorship of the spread has fuelled.
Maybe it would have been possible in 2001, but then nobody was ready to cede an ounce of its sovereignty. So now this solution – the only reasonably conceivable – is precluded. We cannot save both the single European currency and the various European economies.
There thus remains only one choice: save the Euro or save our economies.
This we all more or less recognize: yesterday a headline in the New York Times read: ‘A Tempting Rationale For Leaving The Euro’. We know that the choice is not between bad and worse, but between worse and disastrous, and that both dilemmas promise a scary near future.
It is very fashionable these days to recall when in 2001 Argentina abandoned parity of its currency with the US dollar (parity, which it had maintained with great pain for ten years). This virtually wiped out the savings of its citizens, real wages fell and social spending was decimated: in 2002 GDP fell by 11%.
But since then growth has been swift and uninterrupted for a decade. While we know with certainty that the austerity imposed on us from Brussels and Berlin promises us only a decade of recession, impoverishment and barbarism.
Ps. What short memories we have. No one seems to remember that the diktat of the ECB and the European Commission seem borrowed from the recipes that the International Monetary Fund and World Bank prescribed “sick” economies of Third World. And nobody wants to remember the outcomes of those treatments that cured the diseases, but killed the patients.
* Our headline; ** Veteran journalist currently reporting for La Repubblica newspaper
Translation: Revolting Europe