Spain has a future but it means breaking with the Eurozone and EU institutions, argue Hector Illueca and Adoración Guamán
The economic crisis affecting our country and the austerity policies imposed by the troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) are leading to an increasingly evident social fracture. Astonished citizens observe the degradation of everyday life and the tolerance of abuses of power by the most privileged in the country. The deterioration of the material conditions of an increasingly wide social majority comes accompanied by grave corruption scandals that have infected the political and economic elites, shining a light on a society in which injustice and inequality are ever more entrenched.
In this context, the dream of European integration has become a nightmare of a brutal present and a bleak future. Citizens have been quite deliberately served up a false, ideological and idyllic image of the European Union, with the media projecting a mythical vision quite removed from reality: the truth is that the European Union completely alien to the principles of cohesion and solidarity collaborative solidarity and has become a sort of German hunting ground where strong economies exploit their economic and commercial advantages to crush the weak economies. This is a European Union governed by the law of the jungle .
However, the severity of the economic situation and declining well-being has cast aside the veil and the inhabitants of the periphery are starting to understand that they are victims of a new settlement. It is increasingly difficult to hide that the introduction of the euro has led to a centre-periphery relationship within the European Union, where the North dominates the South. It is no longer possible to deny that the single currency has benefited Germany and the other rich countries of Europe, strengthening their position in the European scheme as net exporters of capital goods and consumption, and net importers of overall demand.
To put it plainly and simply: economic and monetary union has allowed the core countries, especially Germany, to accumulate growing trade surpluses in Europe, blocking any possibility of competitive devaluation and fuelling a radical redistribution of work to the detriment of the less powerful economies of the Mediterranean basin. Strong core countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Finland, increase their competitiveness, retain their national sovereignty and finance their welfare states due to loss of competitiveness and the destruction of sovereignty and welfare in the European periphery.
The new European division of labour
Spanish workers, along with workers in other peripheral economies, have become a reservoir of low cost labour. As noted by others, the process of European integration has created a new international division of labour, fuelling colonialist dynamics characterized by German hegemony and the subordination of peripheral [1 ] economies. This is what explains why state control over the market and the protection of social rights are being dismantled according to the dictates of economic and monetary union.
When this process clashes with state provisions in social policy, peripheral states adapt their welfare systems, always, to be clear, reducing the protection of labour and social rights. Social dumping has not only not been challenged, but it has been fostered, placing labour regulation as a competitive factor and triggering a fierce regulatory Darwinism to reduce labour standards and social protection.
The new European division of labour explains and promotes the progressive destruction of state -sponsored social models desired by the Troika and which is immediately apparent in two key areas: the flexibility of labour markets (in particular, lowering the protection for stabile employment and cutting the cost of labour) and the reduction of welfare, in particular social security systems (reducing pensions, health care reforms, etc. . ) .
Its influence is also evident in the education reform in Spain pursued by Minister Wert, reforms which are also sponsored by European institutions, which guide the educational system towards the formation of cheap labour and providing the knowledge needed to deal appropriately with the garbage that characterizes the labour market in underdeveloped countries. The dependent and peripheral position of our economy in the European scheme is radically incompatible with the existence of public pensions, education and public health and a fair and decent job market.
By accepting the dictates of the Troika, the ruling classes of the peripheral countries show their inability to take an independent path for their respective countries and seal a relationship of subordination and dependence similar to that which occurs in the process of classic colonization, characterized by the systematic dispossession of peripheral economies and the exploitation of its workers. We must not forget that they are the ruling classes of the Member States which have built and paid for this European Union model, under whose untouchable legitimacy the most unpopular and tough reforms have sheltered. The undermining of the bargaining position of the unions is the price of the treacherous collusion of the elites of the deficit countries in forging a strong and stable alliance with the German bourgeoisie to impose a new political and social order throughout Europe.
In this context, it is surprising that certain sectors of the Spanish and European left insist on reforming the eurozone as a solution to the current social and economic emergency. With something of a Panglossian air, they invoke the need for “more Europe” , denounce the fragmentation of fiscal policy and the criticise the ECB for providing ample liquidity to banks while abandoning indebted member states to face speculative attacks.
They propose the abolition of the Stability Pact, the creation of a fiscal authority and amendments to the statutes of the ECB to enable loans to governments experiencing difficulties. In a burst of ingenuity, they even speak of a “good euro” in which one could establish a European minimum wage to reduce the competitiveness differentials between countries.
This is an illusion that for decades has paralyzed much of the left and the labour movement and blocked the construction of an alternative at the service of the masses of our country. The euro area lacks a single European state and there is no expectation that one will be created in the near future. The unification of fiscal policy would mean a complete restructuring of sovereignty throughout the European Union, constructed from a strict hierarchy of states and a careful calculation of national interests, and would require a consensus that will not occur.
Any possible reform would follow the existing hierarchy of power, characterized by the dominance of the countries of the centre and especially Germany. To be exact, the euro has been the means to build the hegemony of German capital, which has inexorably imposed itself on the European stage and prevents the possibility of implementing a programme that meets the needs of the social majority.
Time for a break
In our opinion, any political agenda that seeks to actually break with neoliberalism, even in a reformist direction, should seriously consider euro exit. As noted by Costas Lapavitsas [2 ] , the only progressive answer for our people is to leave the euro zone and regain control of sovereignty in the context of a radical shift in economic and social power to labour.
This strategy must start with the default on sovereign debt and extends to a euro exit to allow our country to escape the cataclysm of internal devaluation imposed by the European Union. Our country has a future, but a decent future will necessarily mean breaking with this Europe and the European institutions.
[1 ] Napoleoni , L. Democrazia Vendesi (Democracy for sale) http://lorettanapoleoni.net/
[2 ] Lapavitsas, Crisis in the Eurozone (Sep 11, 2012) http://www.versobooks.com/books/1155-crisis-in-the-eurozone
Hector Illueca is doctor of law and a labour and social security inspector
Adoración Guamán is doctor of law and professor in labour law and welfare
Translation by Revolting Europe