By Alexis Tsipras
IN THE RADICAL PRESS / MICROMEGA, IL MANIFESTO
February 1953. The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) is crushed by the weight of public debt and threatens to drag other European countries into the vortex. Concerned about their own salvation, FRG’s creditors – including Greece – take note of a phenomenon that may come as a surprise only to neo-liberals: the policy of “internal devaluation”, ie the reduction of wages, does not guarantee the repayment of debts, to the contrary. Meeting in London at an extraordinary summit, 21 countries decide to restructure the debt. They cut by 60% the nominal value of the debt accumulated by FRG, granting a grace period of five years (1953-1958) and a thirty-year debt repayment period.
They also establish a “development clause” that means the country cannot divert for the payment of the debt more than one-twentieth of its export earnings. Europe takes the opposite direction to that inaugurated by the Treaty of Versailles (1919), and so lays the foundations for the development of West Germany after the war.
This is exactly what the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) proposes to do today: to turn on its head the small Treaty of Versailles that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble have imposed on indebted European countries, and take inspiration from one of the greatest episodes of clairvoyance that Europe has witnessed since the end of World War II.
The “rescue” programmes of the countries of the South have been a failure, opening bottomless chasms that taxpayers are called upon to try to fill. The achievement of a comprehensive, collective and final resolution to the debt problem has never been so urgent. And it would be difficult to comprehend how a goal of this magnitude could end up being shelved just to ensure the re-election of the German Chancellor.
For this reason, in the present circumstances, Syriza’s idea of a European conference on debt, modelled on that in London in 1953, is, in our view, the only realistic and positive way forward for all: a global response to the crisis credit and acknowledgment of the failure of the policies pursued in Europe.
Translation/edit by Revolting Europe